I love this team, but much like the New York Liberty, they're going to kill me one of these days. I'm just not sure if it's going to be a heart condition or a head injury. I know it. My family has a history of heart trouble, St. John's! My mother has a stent! Don't kill me!
Too many Delaware fans for my liking. Or at least people in Delaware colors. While a fair number of them were there for sophomore center Stephanie Leon (who's from Northport) I recognized a couple of UConn fans of my acquaintance. Something tells me they don't stalk Samarie Walker when Kentucky comes to town. If there are fans who've found Delaware because of Elena Delle Donne and decide to stick with the team through thick and thin, great. Welcome to the party, and if you want tips on how to be crazy, ask! But I doubt most of those people will be cheering for Delaware when Delle Donne graduates, and that bothers me. It more than bothers me, but I don't want to turn this into a rant about starwatchers and fair-weather fans.
The Mighty Sound of the Red Storm was back in action- perhaps a bit too enthusiastic after some timeouts, but I love these guys. (Well, except maybe for one musical choice. Y U NO PLAY "The Pretender"? Perfect game for it.)
Props to the dance team, too. I give them a lot of grief because shapely young women shaking their bodies in tight sparkly outfits don't do much for me, but their routines tonight were much more impressive and acrobatic than usual. Very impressive.
I honestly don't even remember Stephanie Leon and Kelsey Buchanan being in the game. Our PA guy was a bit spotty on announcing subs, and they may have entered the game when I was in a haze of "out-scream the bleeping Delaware fans who are making more noise than everyone else". (Seriously, I am so disappointed in the St. John's people who showed up tonight. Make some noise! Show some pride! Seriously, guys, New York has a reputation for being loud, can we please live up to it? But here I am ranting again. Do you guys read these for the rants?)
Anyway. Little memory of Stephanie Leon and Kelsey Buchanan. Trumae Lucas found a way to be in the right place at the right time on defense. She's tough. I have to respect that. Jaquetta May, on the other hand, always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She fouled out in the overtime, and that's after having a foul passed from her. She played starter's minutes. But Delaware didn't really rely on their bench except for May, and I don't know if she's regularly a starter or if she got pressed into being a key player because of Akeema Richards.
I don't know what happened to Akeema Richards, either, but she was announced as a starter, she played five minutes, and then she was never seen again. She's the transfer from West Virginia, right? Not sure what happened there. I love Danielle Parker's socks. The first basket of the overtime was hers. She got in position well on the boards. Lauren Carra did not endear herself to the crowd, such as it was, when she got Briana Brown in the head with a forearm without a call. Or when her hands got a bit too close to Nadirah McKenith's chest. She hit the three I was fearing she would hit in the first half, but she didn't get a lot of good looks from beyond the arc. I was expecting more from her, so I was disappointed. I also thought Kayla Miller would be more of a factor. On general principles, I expected more from Delaware's supporting cast- but then, I thought we were going to go with the "let Delle Donne get hers, bear down on everyone else" strategy. Heck, I think Delle Donne wanted them to step up more. She gave up the ball a lot more than I was expecting.
So, the paragraph you're all waiting for: Elena Delle Donne, who had a couple of scouts in the house for her tonight. I spotted Pokey Chatman, someone else saw Mike Thibault (aww, Coach T, you couldn't say hi?), though I think Mike might have been looking for lower picks, if you know what I mean. Delle Donne's free throw stroke is a thing of beauty. I gave up trying to disconcert her. But if I were Pokey Chatman, I'd be worried about Delle Donne's endurance. She started throwing up some really bad, really stupid shots in the lane, like she didn't have her legs under her, and I'm surprised that she didn't go to the three earlier in the game. She can be a good defensive player when she puts her mind to it and uses her size appropriately, but she didn't always. Her footwork needs a lot of work. I mean, a lot of work. I mean, decent refs would probably have called three or four travels on her work. Don't get me wrong, she's a very good player on a bad night and a great player when she's on. But she's not perfect, and she does need work, and I will not hail her as the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Sandra Udobi got a few minutes of work and could have used a few more. Yes, she missed her shots badly, but she brought a physical presence and a little bit of height that we sorely needed. She could have been a lot worse for a freshman. I'd like to see a lot more of her. Keylantra Langley came in for her defensive presence, and hit a big shot in the second half (of course, when the biggest lead in the fourth quarter is four, all shots are big). The pass that she threw right to Delle Donne, on the other hand, was not the brightest thing I've ever seen her do.
I never thought we'd miss Mary Nwachukwu. I get it. I was wrong. Please get healthy, Mary!
The less I say about Amber Thompson's deplorable shooting and general inability to hold on to the ball, the better for all parties concerned. I love Amber to pieces, but she does have a tendency to make me want to throw things sometimes. And I'm not sure how she managed to snag 11 rebounds. But seriously, the less said the better.
Briana Brown's metaphorical cojones grow brasser and tougher with every game. You're five-eight and not exactly stocky, and you're successfully defending Delle Donne, you might be a boss. She wasn't always on Delle Donne, though. Pretty much everyone took a shot at one point or another. Shenneika Smith got the bulk of that duty, and she did all right. I'm surprised her hands weren't up more than they were, given that much of her size advantage lies in those go-go-Gadget arms. She looked awful in the first half, but someone gave her a swift kick up the tush in the second half, and she looked a lot more energized. Maybe it was the three she hit to end the first half. Metaphorically speaking. I'm not sure you could get a three-pointer... yeah, okay, it's 12:30 in the morning, clearly my metaphors are getting away from me.
Aliyyah Handford's stretch of free throw bricks drove me up the wall, but I can't complain about anything else she did. She was solid in the lane, hitting the boards, finding her teammates... she definitely didn't look like a freshman. Nadirah McKenith was Nadirah. I think she let the game get to her a little bit and tried to rush things, but I'll always stick with Nadirah as my PG in the clutch.
The defense on both sides was good; honestly, I think St. John's played the better defense, except in a couple of crucial situations. There were three or four times when Delaware would get multiple offensive rebounds, or St. John's would start to pull down a rebound and then Delaware would get on it. St. John's got low on the ball a lot, which was both good (steals) and bad (fewer deflections).
Officiating, as always, drove me nuts, but that's part of the game and you have to learn to deal with it. You have to know that a game will not be decided on a block/charge call- especially against a favorite. That's the one thing that surprised me about Nadirah- you're a senior coming up on your last semester, you should have a sense of how exactly the refs work. I guess she had faith in them to make the call. I wouldn't.
I gotta give credit to the kids from St. Nicholas. They really got into the game and even shamed the Delaware fans into ceasing to disconcert the St. John's shooters. (That's my berserk button as a fan. I learned how to disconcert shooters from fans who do it on the road, but that's one line I try not to cross. There's a difference between being a visitor and cheering for your team, and being a visitor and cheering against the home team. Do I break your dishes when I go to your house? Not unless you're hosting a Greek wedding.)
A few former Johnnies in the house: Da'Shena Stevens sat behind the bench, along with Tesia Harris (who might have been a wee bit conflicted, since she transferred from Delaware). I think Mercedes Dukes, who was on the 2006 tournament team, was sitting behind us, but I'm not sure. If she was: hi, Dukes! Nana's taking good care of your number, don't worry!
My enjoyment of the game was rather diminished by the alter kocker behind me who decided to start cheering for Delaware more loudly once my husband and I got more into the game. I don't appreciate being condescended to, and yes, I know my stuff when it comes to the women's game, so don't try to tell me Delle Donne stories. I know 'em all and I don't care.
I love the heart, I love the hustle, I love the defense, I love the passion, I love the never-say-die attitude. But I don't know if it can survive being crushed like this again and again. I don't know if I can.