Thunderbirds clip Blackbirds' wings

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Southern Utah led start to finish in their 57-44 win over LIU-Brooklyn in the consolation of the LIU Turkey Classic. Andrea Jones and Marissa Robbins each had 11 for the Thunderbirds. Cleandra Roberts paced the Blackbirds with 10 points and seven rebounds. For one irresistible pun, the beginning of a quest, cheesecake, stifled comebacks, and the All-Tournament Tchochke of Doom, join your intrepid and charged up blogger after the jump.

Another day, another game, another tournament to enjoy. This time we're kicking it mid-major style, at LIU's Wellness, Recreation, and Athletics Center, watching the consolation game of the LIU Turkey Classic, which pits LIU against Southern Utah in a game that you can say is for the birds. Most of the time I'd be inclined to take Thunderbirds over Blackbirds, but I'm wearing an LIU shirt, so that would be tacky. Sorry, Johnny, can't root for your cousins today.

If you're in the New York area, come check out LIU's arena sometime. It's nice, as long as you can deal with the stairs. I assume there's an elevator somewhere, but I haven't seen it. It's very small, and if you're looking for a lot of amenities, you're not going to find them. But it's well-kept and sparkling, and laid out well. I imagine it would be powerful homecourt advantage when full. I like the simple starkness of the black paint and black logo against the hardwood- only the volleyball lines are white.

Coaching staff looks like they've been working on more basic drills with this team, picks and screens instead of shooting.

At halftime, Southern Utah is up 32-21. This one reminds me a little of Rutgers-LSU, except with fewer dramatic steals and more traveling. And here I thought Basketball Travelers was the other tournament today. The announcer keeps eating the mic, so I'm not 100% certain of my basket attributions, but I think Andrea Jones is leading Southern Utah with seven and Courtney Sullivan is leading LIU with five. Neither team is shooting particularly well, and the officials have been letting a lot of contact slide.

Crowning moment of funny: Marquelle Funk's attempt at a flop. Blatant flop was blatant, complete with the head lolling to the side.

The dance and cheer teams are particularly intense and intricate today, and I hope we get to see an on-court performance from them by the end of the day. They don't even need us to be loud (which is good, because I spent part of the first quarter of the game being afraid I'd either cry or swear if I opened my mouth). As it turned out, we didn't, except for a generic t-shirt toss, and that makes me sad. Maybe they'll perform during the second game.

The desire is there for LIU, but not so much the talent. Granted, there's very, very little experience on this roster; most of the juniors and seniors came through junior college. If they can get some more seasoning and practice, they have a chance to do interesting things in the NEC next year or the year after that. They have a good class coming in, and as long as they resist the temptation to keep loading up on junior college upperclassmen, they can build something.

Marquelle Funk's flop, mentioned above, was pretty funny. She showed a little bit of offensive touch, and a little bit of defense. Jessica Richardson brought size, or at least relative size, on the inside- she had a nice defensive play during the second half LIU attempted comeback. Hailey Mandelko got all up in everyone's business on defense, tipping balls and making steals. Going low against her was a supremely bad idea. She also took really deep threes. Worked for her once. Didn't work for her the rest of the time. Maylinn Smith helped with the disruptive defense, in addition to putting down a couple of shots.

Desiree Jackson had a couple of quick baskets in the second half- I think they might even have been consecutive. Solid play- maybe shot a little too much in the first half. Andrea Jones ran a solid offense- not too many mistakes on her part. Southern Utah did a great job having their forwards cut to the baseline and get baskets- Carli Moreland, Marissa Robbins, and Lori Parkinson all got easy ones that way. Robbins seemed to come more alive in the second half, both on the scoreboard and on the glass, though she did have one big block in the first half. Moreland did more of her work in the first half. I was most impressed with sophomore Lori Parkinson, who made a lot of good defensive plays in the middle. She got her baskets, though she needs to work a little, or a lot, on her actual shooting. She always seemed to be getting the boards and finding the ball on defensive plays. My favorite kind of player- baskets are to be cherished and defense is to be prioritized.

Sophie Bhasin isn't afraid to shoot, or to run the fast break. She and Letava Whippy paired well on the break and the trap. Mercedes Harris gave good minutes on the glass. Shanovia Dove played very briefly in the first half, which might have been a variation of the spaghetti move, seeing what the freshman had to offer. (Spaghetti move: throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.) Aleisha Myers ball-hawked well and showed off her shot a little bit, and she has a lot of promise, but she's still very rough around the edges.

Courtney Sullivan seemed to give good senior leadership, or at least that's what her team was looking for out of her, though her shot wasn't going down. Kelly Robinson ran a solid offense, though I noticed that the team still seemed to be looking to Sullivan when the defense started to press. Letava Whippy was strong on the trap, and crashed the boards well for a guard of her build. She always seemed to be in the middle of the play, one way or another. Fanny Cavallo got into the paint well for rebounds, but couldn't hang on to a lot of them, and the lane violation that wiped out a made free throw was inexcusable for a senior. She missed a lot of easy shots in the first half, but got her shot somewhat more under control in the second half, picking her moments more carefully. Cleandra Roberts got some good boards, but couldn't hang on to the ball- a couple of passes went right through her hands. She had a flying lay-up near the end of the game that was a thing of beauty.

Officials were uneven early- missed a blatant kicked ball and more than a few travels- but managed to get their act together in the second half, and there weren't any blatant missed fouls that I can think of.

After the second game, we spotted most of Southern Utah at Junior's. Good choice for a postgame meal. Someone knows their stuff.

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