Good morning, everyone! We're coming to you from the snow- well, it's not snowing in the arena, but it's snowing in Queens, which will probably depress attendance for the Chartwells Holiday Classic. Shame; Drexel and James Madison are both good, solid teams.
The good news is that Eugeneia McPherson is back in uniform for the first time in, like, ever. However, the walk-ons have both been deactivated and we seem to have misplaced Ashley Perez. I mean, Ashley hasn't had a great season so far, but it always makes me sad when a player leaves, and she's a nice kid.
The band is here, and in Christmas costumes. We have an elf. Be afraid of us, Drexel.
Former Johnnie Sky Lindsay is in the house- I originally thought she was doing some scouting for Hofstra, given that they have two conference foes in this tournament, but it looks like she's working for ESPN now. Doesn't surprise me. She's very telegenic.
Again with the guest DJ. The same lousy guest DJ we had last time. No. Stop. We have a band. We have a good band that has fun. Stop playing music instead of letting the band do their thing.
I don't think Kevin was happy with the trumpets during the anthem. I know I wasn't.
At half time, St. John's is up 31-23, but less due to their own efforts on offense than their defense and a late surge. The rim has been unkind to both teams, and we've been much hampered by a lot of fouls on both teams- I think there were twenty-five fouls called in the first half. Briana Brown leads all scorers with 10 points, including a three just as the shot clock expired that should have broken Drexel's back.
Young lady in the Penn State soccer shirt, you appear to be slightly lost,but as Penn State soccer is a very solid program that had nothing to do with Rene Portland's nonsense, I'll let it slide.
Okay, this is not promising, the trainer is running a rolling pin over the back of Aliyyah Handford's leg. This is really not reassuring, guys.
It's probably a good thing that I have to keep these notes G-rated for the sake of Swish Appeal's readership, because otherwise there would be a lot of swearing. I don't know what the deal with St. John's was today- maybe the dorms had a holiday party that ran late, maybe whatever happened to Ashley was emotionally traumatizing to the whole dang team, maybe the invasion of the body snatchers has begun- but they looked lethargic out there. It's like they had no idea what to do when their security blanket turned out to be more of a security lace doily. Everyone who wasn't a senior seemed to panic and not know what to do on offense.
Aleixs Smith was a quick offensive spark for the Dragons in the first half, hitting back to back shots. We staye a little closer on her in the second half, and I think that frustrated her a little bit, as she ended up with more fouls. Jackie Schluth was physical on defense; she reminded me weirdly of a former Johnnie (just in the build and the hair, she doesn't play like Buzz at all). Tory Thierolf seemed to be the defensive sub, judging from when she was in and out of the game in the waning minutes. She committed a couple of dumb fouls- in a game where everyone involved has been screaming at the refs, you can tell a call is bad when the coach starts screaming at the player for a change. Carrie Alexander didn't quite understand how screens work- they're not like screen doors, you can't just shove them out of the way and have the way open for you.
I'm really having trouble picking out anyone from Drexel to focus on. I blame the relatively drab colors. Really, you go with a name like Dragons, and the colors you go with are blue and yellow? At least UAB went with green. (I think I was also busy wanting to say highly inappropriate things in a tone of utter despair about St. John's. The perils of writing about the team that you love- when they get you down, they get you way down.)
Meghan Creighton had a knack for getting herself to the line and getting contact from St. John's players- I'm not going to say drawing contact, because she initiated as much as she took. Fiona Flanagan seemed more comfortable from the outside than on the inside. Rachel Pearson had a lot of trouble getting her bunnies to fall in the frist half, but heated up in the second half. So did Sarah Curran- she came up big later in the game. Abby Redick threw her weight around a little on the wing, but I'm not sure if she has a position.
Drexel held their composure well, and their shooting impreoved markedly in the second half, but I can't point to anything they did particularly well to get the win. I guess they did a decent job of clogging the paint, where St. John's likes to cut, but I'm not sure whether the epic fail that occurred under the Red Storm basket was more on Drexel's defense or the Red Storm's offensive offense.
Really happy to see Eugeneia McPherson back in uniform and on the floor. She seemed a little rusty- her back started seizing up in the second half, and they had to give her a few hard pounds to get her back on the floor. She brought hustle and defense, though her shot still leaves a fair amount to be desired. I don't know if she has confidence yet in her knee, because it looked like there wasn't as much lift on her shot as it should have been. I do like the unhurried way in which she moves- not slow, but completely in control. I don't like the hitting the floor quite so much, if only because I worry about her. Mallory Jones was willing to shoot- sometimes a little too willing. If you're the de facto center in a lineup because the other four players are all guards, you can't decide you're going to jack a three. There will be no one there to rebound it, and the other team will have the ball at a very critical point of the game. That makes us all sad. Jade Walker hustled well for rebounds, but couldn't hang on to them. Hands like stone. She's got to keep her hands up more on defense, and she has to know that if she calls that loudly for the ball, everyone on the floor will know that she considers herself open, including her defender. Aaaaand that's it for the bench play, since Sandra Udobi didn't play- I don't think she was ready, judging from her street clothes after the game. (That, and if she had been healthy, Joe would have had to put her in the game, the way Jade and Amber were playing.)
Aaliyah Lewis, what are you even doing? Tiny Aaliyah was really off her game today. Her clock management was lousy, and she launched pure panic shots in the second half. I don't think I could count the airballs- it seemed like she was just throwing the ball in the general vicinity of the basket without being concerned with the trajectory. Those are the shots we used to harp on Gina for, but they were just really, really bad. Aliyyah Handford was way off her game, too. I think her leg was bothering her- see above regarding the rolling pin being applied to her calf- but once her first few shots missed, her head fell completely out of the game. Nothing was coming easily, and for the most part she didn't seem inclined to make an effort to go for it. Too many times during the second half, she shuffled around the free throw line with her hands out, expecting to receive the ball despite the defenders who swarmed around her. Keylantra Langley came up with big shots and solid defense, in the starting spot that I suspect she's always considered rightfully hers. Amber Thompson was disgustingly passive today. She got an early foul, and I wonder if it got into her head, because she provided nothing. She's got to hit her bunnies. She's got to rebound. I'd be satisfied with at least one resounding block, the kind she can usually provide. Briana Brown was solid, and the way she's matured as a leader in her senior year is beautiful to watch. Today, however, I think she needed to be more of a fiery leader. Someone needed to yell at the team other than Joe.
Generally, the entire team looked like they were playing in quicksand. There was no sense of urgency, no movement on offense, minimal effort on defense. They didn't seem to take any pride in being up 13, they didn't seem to care about being down eight. I don't know what was wrong with them, but they need to fix it. Now. Or swearing will occur.
There was no rhythm and no flow to the game, and some of that came from the plethora of fouls that were called in the first half, compared to the amount that were called in the second half. I'm not saying the refs screwed us- if anything, Drexel got the worst of the calls. (Jade, stop holding. Seriously.) But it's hard to get a sense of where you're going if it's stop and go like rush hour on the LIE.
Is it really fair to two small children to spread presents over eighty feet of basketball court and then expect them to scoop everything up in thirty seconds? That's just mean, Santa.
I really thought we had it after Briana beat the shot clock, but we had no pep in the second half. There was nothing. A great howling void of rampant indifference. An emptiness that yearned to be filled and instead grew emptier. Or it's ark and I'm feeling existential. In either case, they can't lie down in the second half against James Madison. We're better than the CAA- let's prove it.