There's no such thing as too much basketball, though I'm starting to hit my limit. It's 9:30 and we're 12 minutes away from the tip of Michigan and LSU. The benches are switched from yesterday, which caused a bit of confusion among a pocket of LSU fans in the corner. They figured it out, though.
I feel vaguely insulted that wristbands for the seats directly behind the bench only seem to have been given out for the Rutgers game, so even if you're VIP for Michigan-LSU, they won't let you sit there. Though they seem to have chased off Michelle Edwards too, so maybe that's just them asserting their authority.
The free throw shooting contest tonight seems to be along team lines this time. Yesterday, it was more random- now they're actively looking for people in team gear.
At halftime, LSU is up 29-22, and frankly, it could be more. They've forced a lot of turnovers and controlled the pace of both offenses. But Michigan has come up with a couple of big threes- a three-pointer by Madison Ristovski, a three-point play from Nicole Elmblad- to keep it close. Shanece McKinney has eight for the Lady Tigers, Madison Ristovski 10 for the Wolverines.
Nicole's family is possibly crazier than we are, and I mean that as a compliment. Michigan's lucky to have them. A New York-based alumna with a cowbell came up and joined us in the second half, and then things got really loud. My hands and legs still hurt from that last stand in the final two minutes, but we had to stand our ground and show the late-shouting LSU fans that we weren't going to let them take over.
Rebecca Lyttle gave decent minutes at forward. Kendra Seto played briefly, only as a breather. Danielle Williams also made a brief appearance, when Siera Thompson got in foul trouble in the first half. Paige Rakers rocked the three-point line in the second half, pulling Michigan back into the game almost single-handedly. She needs to be a bit more consistent about following her shot, though. We needed her to come up huge, and she did, and yes, I'm aware that I just used the first-person for Michigan, I like these kids.
Siera Thompson's shot was non-existent in the first half, and it looked like she had lost confidence in her game, both as a shooter and as a point guard, as she had to do a lot of the ballhandling with Shannon Smith sidelined after suffering a shoulder injury. (Can you sprain a shoulder? Can I fit any more S's into this sentence?) She found more space, and her rhythm, in the second half, coming up with the game-tying three before the final basket. Nicole Elmblad seemed curiously hesitant to shoot, though I might have been hesitant in her place, given the way Coach was reacting to her attempt at a long two. Then again, that's pretty much how I react to a player taking shots from just in front of the line- you might as well take the extra step and try to add the extra point. I think she let the speed of the game and the physicality of LSU's forwards get to her. Cyesha Goree went strong to the basket, especially in the second half. She got a little overexcited late in the game- at least two of her shots were a bit too strong. Val Driscoll got the start in Smith's place, and though her offense was nothing to write home about, she was a rock defensively, coming up with big boards and massive blocks- she had a gorgeous one in the second half that got spiked to Thompson to start an attempt at a Michigan break. I think that was one we got tentative on, though- I think that was the one where the player under the basket irrationally decided to pass the ball back and it all ended in turnovers. She misjudged a few rebounds, but I'm willing to give her the willingness to go for them. Madison Ristovski was the big offensive threat in the first half, but she cooled down in the second- I think part of it was having to take over more of the ballhandling duties when Thompson got in foul trouble, because there was no other option.
I'll admit it- with everything I'd seen from Kim Barnes Arico in the past, I was expecting a lot more deep bench freshmen in the second half and a lot less comeback. They held it together much better than I thought they would, and when they weren't passing the ball to Raigyne Moncrief, the ball movement was crisp- a little hurried because of LSU's constant trapping, but when they were able to keep their heads, they played well.
Derreyal Youngblood played a little in the first half, but most of her minutes were taken up by Nikki Caldwell's smaller lineup and the hot play of Shanece McKinney. DaShawn Harden fired up the defense, ball-hawking and being a huge part of the traps. Danielle Ballard came up with the game-winner and was great cutting to the lane. She kept getting tangled up with Elmblad; unsurprisingly, the Elmblads sitting behind us did not approve of this. Jasmine Rhodes was quick getting to the paint- she came up with a fairly big shot late in the game. I don't know what Anne Pedersen was supposed to bring to the game, unless it was a matchup problem, but whatever it was, she didn't seem to be providing it. Shanece McKinney did a spectacular job of cleaning up on the boards- I think three of her makes were putbacks on offensive rebounds, and a couple of her misses were too. Her bulk inside turned the tide in LSU's favor.
I'm assuming that Theresa Plaisance was injured in some way, shape, or form, because she came out of the game very quickly early on and was not the same. She looked very soft, unwilling to take contact or to make the extra move to get her shots to go down. One of the Michigan folks thought they saw her crying on the bench, but I'm not certain of this. Still, it lends credence to the "injured but playing" theory. Jeanne Kenney is a gamer. She wasn't looking for her shot in the first half. In the second half, we left her open and she hit three after three. She also took a big dive into some rather flimsy chairs in the first row (the same ones that Minta Spears wiped out in the first game) and there was a bit of a delay as she dealt with soda on her shoes and on the court. Raigyne Moncrief looked more interested in getting her teammates involved, and sacrificing some of her shots to do it. She jumped the passing lanes beautifully. Sheila Boykin barely did anything worth remembering. I think that was part of why Caldwell went to a smaller, faster, more guard-oriented lineup. Rina Hill looked a little less in over her head than she was in the first game, but she was mostly the second body in the roving traps set by Moncrief, Harden, and Ballard. Those were merciless.
LSU seemed to rely too heavily on their defense. I mean, it worked for them in this game, and if they can convert their opponents' turnovers to points on a regular basis, they'll be dangerous. And Caldwell seemed to adapt her personnel well to the style of play and who was the hot hand. But they're going to need Plaisance to be more consistent and healthy. Those big posts don't have the stamina to go a full 40.
We were not pleased with the refs, but the people we were sitting with took it to levels usually only seen in Rutgers-land. It's not a delay of game if the court really does need to be cleaned, guys.
Devotion to duty: Paige Rakers took a cut to the forehead, held the pad in place, and scooted over to rejoin the huddle as the trainer continued to tend to her.
I'm proud of the Wolverines, and proud of the fans who answered the (cow)bell to support them. We out-yelled the LSU fans until the last two minutes, when the LSU fans decided to join the party. It was an almost-perfect ending to a day full of basketball.