After that epic weekend of basketball last week when your intrepid blogger pretty much took over Swish Appeal for a while, we needed to recharge, so it's been a whole week. But we're back in the swing of things at Seton Hall, getting our first ever look at the Riverhawks of UMass-Lowell.
Almost died of squee from Alexis Brown and Bra'Shey Ali playing with one of the kidlets. Something about Bra'Shey using her dreads as a toy for the kid was just too adorable for words.
At halftime it's 56-37 Seton Hall, but Coach Bozzella is still cranky enough to stomp so loudly that the ref on the other side of the court came over to give him a warning. When Seton Hall has been able to maintain possession of the ball, they've been very good. But UMass-Lowell plays a very tough press, and it's become painfully clear that Seton Hall only has one ballhandler that they trust, Ka-Deidre Simmons. Tabatha Richardson-Smith has 18, 10 of which came in something like the first five minutes of the game, before the Riverhawks got their press really well established.
I don't know what the context was, but Coach Bozzella got into a very intense discussion with the Riverhawks' coach before the game. It went on for several minutes. Granted, pretty much any conversation is going to be animated if Coach Bozzella is involved, but he did not seem happy. Until I hear anything real, I'm going to assume they were having a fierce debate about the merits of Rainbow Dash versus those of Twilight Sparkle.
In case it wasn't obvious UMass-Lowell is a hockey school, the Riverhawks come at you in waves, to the point where even Seton Hall's PA announcer was referring to their substitutions as line changes. Their coach backed off the full-five substitutions after a while, but I don't think fewer than three Lowell players ever came in at a time. So it's kind of hard to keep everyone straight unless they really stood out. Ten players came off the bench for the Riverhawks, so yeah you're not getting detailed breakdowns on everyone. Kenya Stewart is going to be a very nice player one of these days, in my opinion. She's still raw- she miscalculated the length of the court two or three times. But she's got a lot of athleticism and a pretty little turnaround jumper, and she gets in the lane well. Brittany Lomanno showed off a little bit of stroke and made a couple of good defensive plays late. Olufemi Hamilton, who was not wearing the number expected on the roster, worked the wings well. Jennifer Gonsalves had a pretty steal very late in the game.
Shannon Samuels impressed me a lot. You know how they say players can get to the basket in an eyeblink? This is the first time I've ever literally seen it. I blinked, and in that blink her first step was complete and she was to the basket for the lay-up. She's fast, and she has a knack for getting to the line. Lindsey Doucette has a pretty little quick turnaround from the free throw line, and her threes get some serious arc on them. She got into foul trouble early in the second half, but that turned out to be nothing. Jasmine McRoy popped a couple of quick threes in the first half- in general, the Riverhawks relied heavily on the three. Nicole Hayner got in foul trouble early, and because of all the subs, didn't see much of the floor after that. She left no impression. Neither did Lauren Fiola.
UMass-Lowell pressed and trapped pretty much constantly. I think that's the advantage of always having fresh players in. Once the press was broken, they looked disoriented, and when defense impeded their ball movement, they were very out of sync.
We all thought Kathleen Egan was going to redshirt this season. Surprise! She got a couple of stretches, and while the spirit was willing, she was in over her head. Teresa Kucera had her chances to score, but missed everything she took and committed a couple of stupid fouls. Tara Inman did a nice job on the boards and picked up some cheap points on free throws near the end of the game. Breanna Jones played briefly in the first half, but disappeared for most of the second half- not in the sense of not playing well, but in the sense of "where did she go, she's not on the bench". She only came back out when Brittany Webb twisted her ankle. I suspect she was just under the weather, and they didn't want to play her in a thirty-point game unless they really had to. Jasmine McCall seems to like her shot a lot. It was good to get to see everyone get some time. Brittany Webb was tough inside, with some resounding blocks, but went out very near the end of the game with a badly twisted ankle. I'm really tired of Pirates getting hurt, you know.
Sidney Cook was an absolute monster on the boards. If the Riverhawks put a shot up, she was pulling it down. Ka-Deidre Simmons had a lot of responsibility, with her teammates unable to advance the ball without trying to get it to her. She had a couple of gorgeous drives in the second half, drawing contact and getting to the line. She did well finding her teammates, as well. Chizoba Ekedigwe was everywhere on the offensive boards, but missed a couple of sequences of chippies that had her teammates even more frustrated than they had us. She came up big in the second half. Janee Johnson came up with a lot of big plays in small ways- she was one of the few players who was at least willing to try to get the ball across without immediately panicking and trying to give the ball to Ka-Deidre. She's a strange hybrid type player, neither guard nor forward, but she works in this system. Tabatha Richardson-Smith started the game on fire- cooled down a little bit later on, but found her stroke again in the equivalent of the third quarter. I think she was a little too interested in scoring as opposed to playing a complete game- she didn't tend to leave her hands up on defense, and her rebounding was inconsistent- she got on the boards a fair amount, but in streaks. It was funny when she rebounded two straight shots that didn't actually go up, though.
The officiating was woefully inconsistent, and it damaged both teams. Seton Hall got the words of it in the first half, by far- I thought Coach Bozzella was going to pop a vein when Tabatha got called for a carry on the same play where blood somehow magically ended up on her jersey. He spent a lot of time being angry. In the second half, more of the fouls went against UMass-Lowell, and some of the calls looked as dicey as the ones against Seton Hall from the first half. I don't mind, necessarily, if officials are unable to make a specific type of call, or if they emphasize one kind of foul or violation over another- so long as that is applied consistently. It was not applied consistently, and that's dangerous to everyone on the floor.
Duck! Beware flying forwards! Tabatha went flying out of bounds and cleared a photographer. (We thought there was a collision. The photographer in question assured us later that she was fine, after she gave us a lift back to the city.)
It annoys me that the band only got into the game when the Pirates were up 25 and more. Show some fight earlier, guys.
It was good to get a win like this, but I think the more valuable takeaway is the glaring weakness in the backcourt. We'll see how that develops with the eventual return of Alexis Brown and the possible development of Tara Inman, but right now, a good press will utterly destroy Seton Hall. Now that they know that, how will they combat it?