And we're back in the saddle again! I know you missed my walls of text, meandering asides, and the strange people I meet on my travels. I know it's been a rough two months, but I'm here for you. At the moment, "here" is a backwards-facing seat on an overheated NJ Transit car, with a rather inconvenient angle to my monitor and my purse perched on my bosom.
The MTA did not help our cause; we left the house before twelve and were barely in time to make the connection. I imagine the Knicks City Dancer across from us on the E train was somewhat more perturbed by the constant delays. (I assumed she was a Knicks City Dancer from her striking good looks, Knicks jacket, dancer's physique, large bag of clothes, and orange-and-blue eye shadow. I swear, it was the eye shadow that clinched it for me.)
We're off to South Orange today for a preseason game at Walsh Gym against Philadelphia. Being garbed in blue, with a Seton Hall foam finger in tow (we've been poking each other with it periodically during our trip) is a strange sensation. Large parts of me are screaming that this is wrong, that I'm wearing the wrong color, that this is not how I'm supposed to go to a game. I'm going to have to get used to it, though. Kick me if I'm still whinging in February.
And I managed to forget my clipboard, because I'm a genius, so if these notes are short it's because I had to run the computer to get the scorecard up. Don't worry, I'm not going to make a mistake that elementary in the regular season. Isn't that what the preseason is for?
Someone bought a basketball onesie for their kid. I don't plan on having kids, but if I did, that's what they would be wearing.
At halftime, Philadelphia is up four on Seton Hall, and yes, for the honor of the Big East, I'm embarrassed that Seton Hall is down four to a D-II team. They look really disorganized. I don't know if Coach Bozzella's gotten through to them yet. Really dumb passes to places where no one or a Philadelphia player is standing, lots of overshooting, lousy free throw shooting. Philadelphia's doing a lot of shooting from the outside, and unlike Seton Hall, they're converting those free throws.
It was all but over. And suddenly they flared to life, making huge defensive stances and getting rapid steals.
Awkward moment: between the second half and the overtime, we got a visit from Amber Thompson's mother, who was a bit confused as to what we were doing at Seton Hall (she's got an excuse; Amber's friends with Ka-Deidre Simmons). We assured her that we had not abandoned St. John's and we would still be coming to games, but that was exceedingly awkward and will hopefully not lead to trouble.
Philadelphia got very good bench minutes from Mary Newell, who actually started the second half because one of the starters was in foul trouble. She was a presence inside- good height, good footwork, rebounded well, finished well. Jackie McCarron's time came at the end of the OT, when fouls were catching up to the Rams and their coach had to start going deep into his bench to put bodies on the floor. Samantha Morris seemed to react well to having to change her number (there was blood on her #20 jersey, so in the second half she was #34). She got a little more aggressive going to the basket and scoring in the second half.
We just could not, or did not, get on Monica Schacker. She almost sent the game to double OT with two late threes back to back. She knew her spot- corner across from the bench- and she got there. Bria Young was extremely quick with her hands and feet- she broke up passes and really did a good job of getting to the basket. I can't put my finger on what I liked about Alex Heck, but there's something I like about her. It might just be that she has the same surname as a player who did well for me in my fantasy league last year. But she seemed to be in the right place at the right time a lot of the time. Tori Arnao hit the boards hard, which got her in foul trouble early in the game and eventually fouled her out of the game early in the overtime. She had a beautiful touch with the glass- I think her last two baskets were kisses off the backboard. (Morris, too- one of her shots glanced very high off the backboard.) Megan Finn was very quick- used her lack of size surprisingly well.
Overall, Philadelphia had great ball movement. They started to get flustered at the end of the game, when they were dealing with foul trouble and an increasingly involved crowd, and throwing backcourt pressure at them late really messed them up. But they impressed me for a Division II team. And I don't think they were at full strength, either; one of their co-captains didn't even play.
Janee Johnson reminds me of someone, but I can't put my finger on it. There's a little Michelle Snow there, but not much. That might have been the complaints to the officials, but she had a good case a couple of times. She turned it up in the second half, with high-arcing shots going down with a splash of nylon instead of hard off the back of the rim. She also worked on keeping the team emotionally in the game- she and Brittany Webb were the ones leading the defense chants on the bench. Breanna Jones gave a few good defensive minutes when the Pirates were juggling foul trouble with their forwards. Tara Inman has a nice shot from the corner, but plays defense as one would expect a freshman to do in her first collegiate game- she got burned on a Philadelphia drive so badly that I winced. Jasmine McCall shoots fairly well, which I would expect from a player surnamed McCall. Brittany Webb got good position on the block, but failed to do anything with it. Defensively, she didn't do nearly enough to get in position and fouled instead of getting her hands up.
Tabatha Richardson-Smith couldn't hit the broad side of a barn in the first half, whether it was from the perimeter or on offensive rebounds. But she went and got her cape in overtime. Suddenly those tips were going in, she was getting and-1s, she was getting her threes to go down- it was beautiful. She's still got to get her act together and focus on defense, though, and she needs to finish more consistently. I really liked Sidney Cook's hustle- it was her burst late in the second half that helped spur the game-tying rally. It might be the big blonde hair, but she always caught my eye on the boards. Bra'Shey Ali also did well on the boards and took excellent advantage of her opportunities. I like her. Ka-Deidre Simmons's shot selection, both in the taking and the passing up of shots, left much to be desired, but she found her teammates well. Couple of real pretty passes. I'm not sure if she's still questioning her knee, or if she's still rusty because it's the preseason, or if she's not sure about the play selection, but something's off about her game. Chizoba Ekedigwe is a good anchor for a zone defense, and when she keeps her hands up, nothing is getting past her. I'd like to see her be more assertive on offense, though. That might not be her strength, but she should be able to get something going at her height. I'm blaming Anne Donovan; Ekedigwe is her kind of post player.
Speaking of AD, she was at the game. Wasn't sure at the time if that was her or her sister, as we were in the opposite corner and all I could make out was the long face and ridiculous height.
Not pleased with the officiating. A lot of contact that wasn't called, some questionable procedural calls, one very bad out of bounds (just because the shot was so horrible that it went off the side of the backboard support, that doesn't mean it was deflected).
Band didn't show up 'til late. No dance team. Of course, they were all preparing for the men's game that was to follow. (Didn't stay for that. My butt hurt. Must remember to bring cushions for those wooden Walsh Gym bleachers.)
If Seton Hall can get its act together, and if they can provide some upsets in the non-conference to build on, I think they can make Walsh Gym the second-best homecourt advantage in the Big East, behind only DePaul. The acoustics are great, and it's the right size for the crowd they're likely to draw. You can make a little bit of noise echo off that ceiling.
Free throws. Dear Lord, Seton Hall, they're free. My Johnnie girls could give you lessons, and regular readers of the GNoD know my laments regarding the Red Storm's free throw shooting. Take Simmons out of the equation and it gets worse.
There's a lot of work to be done, but there's potential to work with. Seton Hall might be rough to watch this year, but I think they'll make a ruckus in two years.