ALL THE BASKETBALL.
On to game 2, LSU and Rutgers. To be fair to the Rutgers fans, a fair amount of them got here for the first game. Lots more of them arrived in the middle. It's confusing to see lots of people in red for a team I no longer cheer for.
There were entrance videos for both teams, but no stats. I'll take that as a fair exchange, because I was starting to get a very strong feeling of having been an afterthought, and if you're going to schedule a tournament double-header, it's uncouth to make one game seem like the undercard.
Essence Carson is in the house, in an extremely dashing black longcoat.
Oh, hey, we have stats now. So Michigan and Texas Tech get entrance videos tomorrow, right?
This was not a pretty game, to put it mildly. Entirely too many turnovers, many of them unforced passes to the third row or fumbles (I'm pretty sure Kahleah Copper committed a buttfumble, but with her own butt, not her teammate's). A distinct lack of court awareness from both teams.
Jasmine Rhodes impressed me off the bench for LSU. For a guard of her size, she's not afraid to drive the lane and hit the boards. She had a good eye for going after her teammates' missed shots (and dear lord were there a lot of missed shots). Derreyal Youngblood was plenty happy to throw her weight around down low- she got lucky she didn't get called for an elbow on one play. She could stand to trim down a bit, but she's tough. Shanece McKinney came in to clean up lots of missed shots and get rebounds late in the game, as part of the offense/defense substitution. Anne Pedersen, I think, was supposed to be a shooter, but that didn't go well. She looked out of place on a lot of the plays.
Jeanne Kenney has no fear of anything. I think she hit the deck hard four times and got up ready for more. If the ball was loose, she tracked it down, even if it was in the third row. She's a steady hand, both with the ball and with her teammates. There was a point late in the game where Raigyne Moncrief had missed two crucial free throws and looked like the pressure of the Rutgers fans and the closeness of the game were getting to her. As soon as she was on her way back from missing the second free throw, Kenney came over and talked to her, as if to tell her to brush it off (at least I assume that was the meaning of the hand across the headband). Theresa Plaisance missed entirely too many easy shots for a player of her size. A 6-5 post player should not be throwing hooks over the basket. When she got her shot, it was beautiful, and she had spectacular speed on her first step spin move. But she needs to be consistent if she's going to be a serious prospect. (Really, though the daughter of a coach should know better than to bring the ball down when there are guards around.) Rina Hill got point guard duties a lot, and I don't know if she's ready yet. Maybe there was some miscommunication on the plays, but her passes were not going where they were supposed to be going.) Sheila Boykin either didn't play a lot or was really unmemorable when she did. I think Caldwell felt she needed to bring more size with McKinney and Youngblood against the big Rutgers posts. Raigyne Moncrief put on a show. She's still very raw and needs some mechanics on her jump shot (as in, any, at all, in some variety, because oh my God she looks like a spider when she leaps on the jumper) but she moves like someone took Allison Hightower and plugged Marie Ferdinand's speed into her. Her vertical is spectacular, her reflexes like lightning. She slices to the lane beautifully- if she can get a mechanically sound, or at least reliable, jumper, she'll be unstoppable. She'll need to bulk up a little if she wants to survive in the pro game, though. And yes, the fact that I'm saying this about a freshman this far ahead says a lot.
Tyler Scaife has the fancy moves- the wraparound pass to Briyona Canty for the lay-up was a thing of beauty- but I don't know if she has her coach's confidence yet.. I mean, she's only a freshman and it's only November, so maybe that'll come with a little more time, but it still seems odd that someone else is bringing the ball up if she's on the floor. Precious Person gave decent minutes in the first half, though she didn't play much in the second, part of a questionable series of coaching decisions by Coach Stringer. Christa Evans got first half minutes as well, picking up a basket and some picks. Ariel Butts is very, very loud. I think she's the only person in the arena who actually screams louder than my dashing reporter. She most definitely did not approve of her fouls. Alexis Burke missed two free throws, was pulled, and that was the last that was ever seen of her.
Betnijah Laney rebounds spectacularly well, which is probably why she's listed as a forward, but her shot is all kinds of funky. I like her hustle, but shes' got to work on her aim. Rachel Hollivay brought some resounding blocks, especially in the second half, but Coach Stringer seems to be riding herd on her by pulling back her minutes when she gets fouls- I think she sat the entire rest of the first half after picking up her second foul. Kahleah Copper has one reliable move in he paint, and she'll keep going to it as long as she can. It worked very well today- it seemed like she was always heading for the offensive glass. Briyona Canty seemed to be the focus of much of the offense- it looked like more plays were designed for her than for Copper, though Copper ended up with as many shots. Syessence Davis was very active on defense, even for a Scarlet Knight (and you know that's saying a lot with Rutgers's defense and ability to generate steals). Quick hands and fast feet- she made a lot of LSU turnovers happen.
Offensively, this game was a clunker, even in the second half when things loosened up a little and people actually started hitting lay-ups. It wasn't just good defense, except in the most abstract sense. There were a lot of bad passes and bad mechanics- I don't think more than half the players in that game had proper form on their jump shots. If you want to blame the bad offense on the good defense in the sense that both teams were in each other's heads and therefore they were rushing everything to get the ball up before someone else got their hands on it, that's a fair argument, but I think it's more likely that these are two defensive-minded teams that don't place a high priority on offensive flow. Not quite North Carolina, but right up there. Down there. Whatever.
I was impressed with the way Rutgers came back at the end of the game. They relied on what's always been their bread and butter. The one thing I didn't get was the last foul. All five Scarlet Knights on the floor had four fouls- why didn't Stringer sub in someone, anyone, to take the foul? If you're trying to force OT, I'd think you'd want all your starters available, and especially not have your best scorer on the night foul out.
Neither team was happy with the officials, and given the number of fouls called in this game, I can't say I'm surprised. It got very physical out there. I can't be sure any of those fouls were unearned, to be honest.
Rutgers fans were very loud. They didn't even wait for musical cues before starting the fight song. At least we waited.
Points to Nikki Caldwell for not going the obvious route in wearing team colors- her dress was tiger-striped. Also, points to Coach Stringer for her imposing longcoat- not quite as impressive as Essence's, but still extremely cool.
For the sake of everyone who has to watch basketball tomorrow, I hope both teams got the ugly out of their systems today.