Good morning, everyone! We're coming to you on tape delay from Carnesecca Arena on the campus of St. John's University in Queens, New York, for first-round NCAA tournament action between the Patriot League champion Navy Midshipmen and SEC powerhouse Kentucky.
I'm in a chair-back seat. It's kind of disconcerting. I'm usually in the bleachers across from the home bench- I like being across from the bench so I can see a team's interaction. But here I am four rows from center court, facing everything except the logo. I'm so confused. All the advertising is covered up, since the NCAA has all the ad rights, so there are black squares where the bright ad lights used to be, and ribbons on the court where the sponsor logo once was.
Kentucky is very, very blue. It's intensely colored. Navy has a strong base here already, though we're not sure who the guy in the Army cap is cheering for. Kentucky has names on their jackets. I like them already. I have some idea of who they are!
Not buying the swag. $25 for a hat? $10 for a program? Forget it. If I'm buying anything it's going to be in Ne Orleans.
Navy appears to have brought foam goats. I'm going to go make a trade if I can. (I had to lie and say I wanted my husband's bracket to bust to get one.)
Kentucky band is coming in. Bands have been moved to what's normally the student section instead of the angled corner next to it where they usually are.
Mystics coaching staff is in attendance- Marianne Stanley and both Thibaults.
At halftime, Navy is up one on Kentucky, 26-25, but I don't think it's sustainable. Navy's been letting themselves get rattled by Kentucky's pressure, making bad passes and completely losing clock awareness in the last ten seconds- first not calling time to avert the five-second call, then not getting off a shot when they got the ball back after a really bad shot by Kastine Evans. Alix Membreno is playing really well for the Mids, with seven points and some great hustle. Jade Geif is rebounding all the things and bringing the body. For Kentucky, DeNesha Stallworth has started to get hot with her jumper, and they're killing the offensive boards.
There is a... gentleman... in a UConn shirt objecting to our discussion of our brackets. Sir, you are in a UConn shirt. You are lost. Be thou silent or GTFO.
Kentucky band did the anthem. They did a great job of it, but I do wonder why they didn't let the Naval band do it.)
Kentucky and Jennifer O'Neill opened up a can at the start of the second half, and it was pretty much downhill from there for Navy.
M.L. Morrison brought a little bit of offense off the bench in the first half, along with a body on the Kentucky posts, especially DeNesha Stallworth. Erin Meador committed some really stupid fouls, especially her third and fourth ones. The rest of the bench mostly played spot minutes, not really much of a factor in the game.
Audrey Bauer, I am not sure why you persisted in shooting threes from somewhere in the vicinity of Annapolis, but after the third or so miss, you should have realized that this was not a good plan and gone away from it. It's okay to take another step towards the line, not a step back. Chloe Stapleton picked up two quick fouls and then a third one near the end of the first half, so whatever it is she usually does for Navy, she didn't have much of a chance to do it. Jade Geif killed the boards in the first half, and I love how she was able to body up on the Kentucky posts, but she has got to hit her chippies. She had a lot of shots right at the rim that rolled off. She has to go up with more authority, though she did a better job of that in the second half. Alix Membreno played out of her mind in the first half- hitting shots, going for steals- but I think she ran out of gas. Kara Pollinger wasn't much of a factor. I remember her hitting a three, but that's about it.
Kentucky brought in a wave of reserves all at once very early in the first half, but went back to a more traditional substitution pattern for most of the game. Jelleah Sidney got away with quite a bit of shoving that I felt was quite uncouth; I don't care if your sister was a Johnny- she was epic fail, anyway- you don't get to do that at Carnesecca. Azia Bishop is one heck of a big body in the middle- surprised they didn't use her more. She got more time in the second half, because Stallworth was starting to wear down, and I think she helped wear at Navy's confidence by wearing them out in turn. Bernisha Pinkett gave them good defensive minutes off the bench. I remember seeing a lot of the back of her jersey on traps. Same for Bria Goss.
A'dia Mathies had one of the most awful games I've ever seen from her. She kept leaving her shots either short or off the side of the rim, she couldn't get on the boards- I think Navy's gameplan hinged on doubling and tripling her because they could, and in that regard, they were victorious. Granted, it was the only regard in which they were victorious, and there are no moral advances in the NCAA tournament. DeNesha Stallworth showed off a surprisingly pretty jumper from all over the floor, but she slowed up in the second half. I think stamina was getting to her. Samarie Walker attacked the rim in the second half with verve and vigor, cutting through the lane and the defense. Jennifer O'Neill was fairly quiet in the first half, and then the second half started and she was a firecracker- her points came in a fast spurt, along with a couple of nifty steals. She propelled Kentucky on to get their act together. Kastine Evans didn't play well- Mitchell was not happy with her.
Kentucky fans turned out in force; it truly was a sea of blue. I salute the cheerleader who carried blue and white streamers in his megaphone to hand out to fans- love the ingenuity. And I knew gymnastics was serious business in the SEC, but wow, the Kentucky male cheerleaders were spectacular with their flips and the fast spelling out of C-A-T-S.
I forget what the Navy band was playing- something aquatic-themed ("Sea Cruise", maybe?)- but the Kentucky band proceeded to do The Swim to it. I think the Johnnies in the corner were ROBL (rolling on the bleachers laughing).
I love that the first half was competitive; I wish the second half had been just as fierce by Navy.