Just the Facts: An ugly foul fest where both defenses smothered any attempt at offense and stifled all stars on the court until a late bench surge by St. John's provided the difference in this 54-45 historic victory for the Red Storm.
Your intrepid blogger was not able to attend, but that doesn't stop the GNoD. We are legion. Edited for spelling and grammar, but not for content.
For putting double standards on blast, hard fouls, tough defense, guts, glory, and help from truly unexpected sources, join your dashing and fortunate reporter after the jump.
Before we get to any poor qualities of McDonough Gym, or complaints about lack of support that gets Terri Williams-Flournoy rumored to be going everywhere from Virginia to Oregon and everywhere in between that has a BCS coaching vacancy, let me start with the good news. The staff who supports the women's team are some of the nicest, most aware and knowledgeable that I have seen in my travels. One look at me and they check availability. Of course paranoid me thinks they trucked in 2,500 schoolkids and are near sold out. No, they were checking availability behind the St. John's bench. Without me asking, or thinking of asking. I was an hour before the gates opened because I was on hot transfer so I was sitting outside (glorious day, but I've already made the normal intrepid blogger jealous so I will stop there) and the director in charge of the marketing of the women's team chatted me up for a good 30 minutes and did try to defend the team. Some I agreed with, some I did not but the fact that he did that goes a very long way.
I will now move on to the point that I disagreed with the most. This game had no business being played at McDonough. At least the staff was smart enough to have Senior Day ceremonies on the 18th against Providence. But what would be better? A true final day for seven seniors as part of a doubleheader at Verizon Center with the men, regardless on how few stick around? Or playing at 4pm on a Monday where the game ends an hour before the men begin so you have the band leaving early, the C squad cheerleaders, and some fans even leaving early to the phone booth? I would rather have the former personally. At least I should feel good they didn't play directly against the men, but still, despite it creating the loophole for myself and other St. John's fans to attend, I do not think it was fair to a team with 7 seniors- including 3 starters- to play their last home game on campus (which is the point of having a senior day) to play at an odd hour with no one there (and 35% of that in red).
The other point of this and why I'm harping on it is that I was told that McDonough was the home of the women, and the men don't play there, and therefore that's why the game was there. That would be fine. I've been to practice facilities that have been converted into women's facilities. Walsh Gym is a shrine to the women's team, with promotional curtains, and banners honoring the women's players. McDonough is not like that. Both side walls are men's tournament banners, side to side, both sides of the arena. The center wall is the men's Final Four banners. Yes the men's Legacy Honors are at Carnesecca but the men's tournament banners are a single banner, the women's tournament banners are a single banner, and then they share with other sports. At McDonough, the women's accomplishments are stuck in a small corner, and aren't even the same quality. As for the arena itself, the name McDumpugh is well earned. The seats are plastic bleachers that slide out and are older than most HS facilities. The men's pro jerseys are proudly shown on the back wall (Brunson's jersey is on the front wall but as hidden by the concession shack as it could be). There were treadmills on the second deck. Treadmills. I went to school at a Division III school and even they stowed the treadmills during games. In short, McDonough would be ok if the St. John's women played at Taffner, or the Rutgers women played at College Ave. Gym. But as it is, it's unacceptable, and abhorrent when you consider the fine quality of the Women's team. How any recruits ever went to Georgetown is a testament to the hard work of the Georgetown staff, which was evident from the beginning. They do compensate, but it's clear that the university on the whole just doesn't care, and that is not acceptable and makes me sad there are still BCS schools and ranked schools who treat women's basketball so poorly. At least if the women are going to play there, make the arena the women's.
Now on to the game. The game itself was very rough. It is no secret that the Hoyas play very physical and wear down opponents. The few times the chippiness overshadowed the play on the court are well marked and documented throughout the Flournoy era. Any one who doubts that men's basketball rivalries do not carry over to the women's game do not know what they are talking about. I have seen St. John's and Georgetown twice. Both were rough, defensive contests that came down to the final minutes. While the games I would not condone putting on television with their many missed shots and turnovers, it was entertaining in its own way. It was obvious neither team wanted to lose, and while there were runs on both sides, you knew the other team was plotting a comeback. It wasn't great basketball but it was good sports and that had something to say for it.
Defensively both teams were in a slugfest. Close guarding, many fouls and very, very physical play. The officials alternated between letting them play and calling EVERYTHING which led to the chaos, but it was organized chaos, which gave unsung heroes a chance to shine on both teams. Three foulouts and lackluster performances from most of the top billed players on both sides should tell you this was a game of containment and whoever stepped up when no one was looking would win.
Sugar Rodgers was #1 in the boxscore, but rule #1: Stats lie. 13 points yes, but 6-25 shooting and anything that was contested, missed. She hit when she was open and that was not enough for the Hoyas to win. There was a spurt where she got open twice, and 5 points later it was a 9 point Hoya lead. By the time it ended, St. John's was only down 2 at the half.
The real heroes for the Hoyas were Adria Crawford and Alexa Roche. Roche hit three big field goals, if she hit something it would be to take or extend the lead. 7 Points, but they were important points. Meanwhile Crawford got to the line. In a game that was all about defense the one who got to the line the most would be imperative. When Georgetown was getting the lead, it was with Crawford at the line 1-2 from the field but 5 important free throws.
As for St. Johns, Nadirah McKenith did not do anything and the Red Storm still found a way to win. Most of her struggles were through the first 30 minutes of the contest, 5 points all from the line and 2 assists to 3 turnovers while 0-7 from the field. Worse, she had 4 fouls for most of the second half and ended up shifting over for defensive purposes to avoid fouling out. She did get to the line late to ice the game, and that was a product of good positioning. 8 boards were important but overshadowed by an overall lousy day.
Da'Shena Stevens was top dog on the court for most of the game despite fouling out on an iffy charge call that, given the rest of the game, was not warranted for someone's 5th and final foul. 12 points off of 4-6 shooting from the field and 4-5 from the line. Defensively she was keeping Rodgers from exploding in the lane and her 7 boards were key to the victory.
Mary Nwachukwu was not with the team with a broken nose. Amber Thompson got the start this time and made the most of it. When she started in the non conference season, I had said that she reminded me of Coco Hart as a senior while Amber is a freshman. She slumped and failed to adjust to her benching for a while but she came back with a vengeance. 15 boards and while she needs to work on putbacks to turn boards into points, she was a rebounding machine. The Red Storm were +13 on the boards, Amber had 15 of those 44 boards and was there whenever it looked like the Hoyas were going to get an O board and hit two gift points. I will state again that Amber will be a name to remember in three years. She has that mentality and can flat out board.
What made the game for both teams truthfully was the bench play on both sides. 18 bench points for the Hoyas, and I already discussed Roche. St. Johns had 14 bench points, and only 3 players came off the bench on a short handed team. Twelve of those points came from my game MVP, Briana Brown. Yes, I just said Briana Brown and MVP in the same sentence. She was that good and easily the best I've seen her ever. 3-8 shooting but her three fresh off the bench is what turned the game. It was a 4 point Hoya lead when Briana hit that three, by the end St. John's won by 9. Her 19 minutes were forced by Nadirah on the bench with 4 fouls. In the past that would have ended the game. Today, it ended the game...for Georgetown.
It was one of the guttier performances I've seen from a St. John's team that in the past got deflated. This is why I think this could be an Elite Eight or even better team. It's not the wins. It's not even the ability to go out and beat a UConn team that's showing its issues. It's the intangibles. I saw it first in a loss to Notre Dame when they refused to let them get above 15 points despite being outclassed and I've seen it time and time again since. Be it not caving to a late Rutgers run in the RAC, or matching UConn punch for punch and certainly finding a way to never trail despite being exhausted against a vicious WVU squad that themselves had beaten Notre Dame at home. But for Briana Brown who started the year 11th on the depth chart, to come out and hit 12 points that were the difference maker, when Nadirah was on the bench, that was the key. The unknown winner is the winner that makes teams champions. I know I would not want to face St. Johns in the tournaments. Truthfully it has as much with the bench stepping up (and I'll include Amber Thompson for this game since that's where she's been) than I has been any one player. That is what makes great teams special, and that is a factor I haven't seen in a while anywhere.
In short it was one of those games that make men's fans point and laugh at the women's game. But the low shooting percentages are eclipsed by the passionate and unrelenting defense on both sides. It got nasty, for sure, and I never seen so much tripping and slew footing as I did during this game. Easily the nastiest game I've attended since the Southern Miss debacle last season. This is to be expected in a rivalry contest, but it went too far at times. But both teams survived without any injuries so it will continue. Certainly, some of the sloppiness could be attributed to the start time, but sometimes the ugly games are the most memorable.