Good evening, everyone! We're coming to you for the last time this season on the usual tape delay from Carnesecca Arena on the grounds of St. John's University, in some-yet-to-be-identified neighborhood of Queens, New York. Second-seeded Kentucky and seventh-seeded Dayton will be squaring off for the dubious pleasure of going to Bridgeport; on one hand, woo-hoo, it's the Sweet Sixteen, but on the other hand, it's Bridgeport. Hard to get excited about that city. (Sorry, Nutmeggers.)
The bands have officially opened battle. Dayton's band did "Crazy Train". Kentucky's band immediately followed up with "Crazy Train". The Dayton band did not look amused. Their version was better, anyway.
A fair amount of St. John's fans stuck around for this one. I'm impressed and pleased.
I also really want Ukari Figgs's shirt, but that's because I really like royal blue, though that is not why I am leaning towards Kentucky in this one.
At halftime, it's Kentucky, 40-31, and A'dia Mathies lives, with 15 points. They keep leaving her open in the corner, and she keeps hitting threes. Kentucky went on a huge run to bust open a14-all game, but Dayton's hanging tough. Andrea Hoover has 13 for the Flyers. Dayton is having a lot more trouble finding the open man than they did against us.
I think Kentucky missed the game tape from Dayton-St. John's on Sunday. They seemed inclined to let Dayton get back into it for a while, but then A'dia Mathies happened, as she did quite a bit that night.
Brittany Wilson played a little bit in the first half, but not again in the second, which surprised me; I would have thought Jabir would use her to bang with Stallworth and Walker a little bit and try to wear them out. Kelley Austria committed an exceptionally stupid foul and somehow missed the scouting report that getting trapped in the corner against Kentucky is a recipe for disaster. I did like the offensive rebound she sneaked out of the pack with on a Hoover miss, though. Olivia Applewhite at least brought good physical defense, even if she couldn't get her shots to fall. I like the way she plays, though she does have to work on her shooting.
Samantha MacKay, what are you even doing fouling a three-point shooter? This was not the greatest game she's ever played, to be polite about it. She was careless with the ball (which is never a good plan against Kentucky) and just threw up some very bad shots. Amber Deane looked like she was in a little over her head (which, since she's a freshman and Kentucky is kind of vicious, doesn't surprise me). She had one brilliant save on the baseline- she pulled off the "throw it off the opponent" move perfectly. Andrea Hoover did pretty much the same thing to Kentucky as she did to St. John's, only more inside the arc. Cassie Sant started off hot for Dayton, with midrange jumpers and moves on the baseline, but she got into a little bit of first half foul trouble, and I think that might have affected her confidence in the second half. Ally Malott was solid, but Dayton needed her to be more than solid if they wanted to spring the upset.
In general, Dayton looked rattled by the Kentucky defense, and hopeful when Kentucky overreached or slipped an assignment. Jabir was getting frustrated, too. "STOP FOULING!" he yelled at one point in the second half, when they went into the penalty.
Azia Bishop played very briefly, but I think she might have either gotten hurt during the game or been injured beforehand; she was holding her left arm tight against her body during the handshake line. Janee Thompson got minutes as part of the hockey-style line changes, but didn't make much of an impact. Jelleah Sidney mixed it up in the lane and got into a little bit of shoving with Dayton players. Brittany Henderson gave them some very good minutes off the bench as a tough, physical guard who boxed out well- if Pinkett had hit the three off that pretty pass she threw, the place would have gone off even more than it already was during that run. Bria Goss gave Kentucky the bulk of their bench minutes and was a spark on both ends of the floor.
We saw more frequent substitutions from Kentucky tonight, both in quantity and frequency. And Matt Insell is probably going to be gone in no more than two years. He did a lot of the yelling on the sideline, to the point where I thought the officials were going to remind him of his role and tell him to sit down.
Another questionable game from Kastine Evans, though she was better on the defensive end than she was against Navy. She still seemed to be the target of most of Matthew Mitchell's criticism, though we caught a couple of other Wildcats being hollered at. Samarie Walker drove the lane well- except that any top-10-team level starter should be able to hit a lay-up from the left side. She blew one shot by forcing herself to go right and take the shot with her right hand. But she's a tough rebounder, and I guess I can give her a little bit of a pass, given what I later heard was the reason she had to switch into a throwback #22. (We didn't see her barfing, which I'm okay with, since seeing players barf at two games is more than enough for my history.) Jennifer O'Neill's passing was not particularly crisp, and she did seem to enjoy taking shots from somewhere in the vicinity of the Whitestone Bridge, but I still like how she runs her team. I'm sort of a sucker for floor generals who run their team with unmistakable authority, I don't know if you've noticed. And she did come up with a couple of big plays in the second half. DeNesha Stallworth was a stalwart in the post, plus she brought her jumper to this game.
And then there was A'dia Mathies, who seemed to have taken the lousy game from Sunday to heart and roared back to life with a vengeance, going down the lane for lay-ups and hitting three after three from the corner. She looked like the first round pick she has been touted to be. (Oh, and Bill Laimbeer was in the audience...)
The people around me who were cheering for Kentucky- both the Kentucky fan base and the St. John's fans who returned for the second round- were extremely upset at the officials for what they perceived to be unfair calls. The fact of the matter is that, yeah, Kentucky holds and reaches a lot as part of their defense, and if they get the wrong crew, they're going to be in a lot of trouble. The refs let everyone play in the first half, then tightened up in the second. (Not that there weren't bad calls against Kentucky; O'Neill has a case.)
Dayton added another hat to the band collection, a flight cap. Also, the band director's jacket was red and blue striped, with sequins and flashing lights. Seriously, Kim Mulkey would have thought it was over the top and a touch ostentatious.
Great fan support for Kentucky and from the Dayton band. I am all in favor of stomping on the bleachers.
Thank you for the free Diet Coke, person who got busted at the gate. I took it home with me afterwards.
On to Bridgeport!