Dogged Butler falls short at St. John's

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Red Storm gave up a 20-point lead to the Bulldogs, then came back themselves for a 58-55 win. Briana Brown led St. John's with 16 points, with Aliyyah Handford contributing 10 of her 14 in the second half. Taylor Schippers of Butler led all scorers with 18 points, 17 in the second half. Get off your intrepid blogger's lawn after the jump.

I hate Kids Days/School Days/Field Trip Days/Camp Days, whatever you want to call them. I hate them with a passion and a fury. If I want to see my team, I have to take time off work and reschedule my entire day, just to accommodate thousands of screaming children who only care about having an excuse to not be in school. And St. John's does a really bad job of organizing it for those few fans who are actually here for the game instead of an excuse to play hooky from school. We're currently sitting behind the band section, as our regular seats were already taken when we arrived 51 minutes before tip-off. Somehow they managed to completely load the second deck and most of the lower deck in nine minutes, unless we got lied to about when the doors opened. Again. I honestly don't know what kind of educational value these events have, but I hate them with a fury and a passion.

(Don't get me wrong, I love the band. Hi, guys! But I can't imagine my eardrums are going to make it through an entire game with y'all.)

Worse, they've got that stupid lousy DJ again. Stop it stop it stop it stop it.

I like Sandie's new haircut. Suits her face. Briana looks like she didn't want to get up this morning. Not that I blame her.

Extremely bad form, St. John's. The section behind the Butler bench is completely packed, and I'm pretty sure there's a Butler fan here who would like to sit with their school. I couldn't read his sweatshirt clearly, but it looked like Butler's font and logo, and he gesticulated repeatedly at the visiting bench. I'd be irked if I were him- come all the way out here for a morning game and you have nowhere to sit to support the team you've traveled this far for? Dude in the Butler sweatshirt, I don't know you and you don't know me, and I have no power here, but I am so, so sorry.

By the way, don't believe any attendance number you read from this game. Our tickets were not scanned, torn, taken, or otherwise acknowledged past a cursory glance. I have no reason to believe any others were.

At halftime, St. John's is up 35-17. Butler appears to be without the services of Daress McClung, which is kind of a problem for them. Briana Brown leads St. John's with 12. Liz Stratman has 10 of Butler's 17, including two threes (which means Amber needs to get her butt out to that three-point arc and defend). It's been solid effort for the Red Storm, especially as the half has worn on. Excellent rebounding. Butler's passing is pretty crisp, though.

We've come to terms with sitting in the back row behind the band. Given that the men's team is in the back row the next section over and Nadirah McKenith is three seats down from me, I think we've found where all the cool kids sit.

Okay, lousy DJ, you're playing De La Soul, I guess you can live. Though this really bad mix of "Apache" is making me expect Chardé Houston to spontaneously appear and teach the DJ a lesson.

Another reason I hate when my team hands games over to the reign of small children: school groups leave early, and when they leave early, a lot of the energy goes out of the building. I appreciated being able to get my bleacher seats back at the under-four timeout, but at the same time, why would you go to an event that you can't finish? (That also explains why there was only one door open: half the security guys were stuck playing traffic cop in the parking lot.)

Yes, I'm a cranky old bat at heart and apparently always have been. Moving right along to the actual game notes.

Butler relied heavily on their starters, even moreso given the absence of the reigning A10 player of the year. Ashton Feldhaus caught my attention with her long braid and her goggles, but ze goggles, ze do nothing. Blaire Langlois picked up a lot of the fouls in the foul derby at the end of the game, and spent a lot of time on the floor. She wasn't much of a scorer, and this NCAA box score doesn't tell me assists, but I seem to recall her, or someone with her general build, passing the ball well- not necessarily getting the immediate assist, but getting what would be an assist in hockey- the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the shot, a play that I'm fond of and that doesn't get a lot of statistical traction in basketball.

Liz Stratman found her way open in the first half, whether it was from beyond the arc (where her defenders were clearly not comfortable with her) or shouldering her way to the basket. She was also strong on the boards; even if she didn't end up getting a lot of the rebounds she got her hands on, she was able to tap them out to her teammates. Lexus Murry was a pest defensively, usually on the ball. Haley Howard had a great deflection that was apparently not counted a block even though it totally was. She lists as a guard, but they use her much more in a forward role, especially defensively. Mandy McDivitt scooped up all the loose balls. I think she was the one who managed to garner the timeout on a loose ball in the first half, a heads-up play that secured Butler the possession. You cannot give Tayler Schippers a second or an inch. She'll take that time and she'll take that space, and she'll pop a jumper or drive to the lane for a lay-up. Her offense is incredibly quick, and once she gets going, she doesn't stop. She hauled Butler back almost single-handedly in the second half.

Butler had great ball movement, especially in the second half. They forced a lot of defensive switches, ones that St. John's couldn't keep up with, and got open shots. They also swarmed the glass well. You'd see four or five black jerseys and maybe one white one on a lot of plays.

Keylantra Langley brought the defense, as she always does, up in her assignment's face with her hands out. Unusually for her, she hit her shots in the flow of regular play instead of late in the clock. (Yes, this is going to be a recurring thing, as it's been for years. Not my fault most of Key's offense comes with the shot clock running down.) Danaejah Grant came off the bench fairly late in the first half, but started the second half and brought the offense. She had a beautiful poke-check that led to an Aaliyah Lewis steal. She does have a tendency to go for the more attention-getting plays than the practical ones that get things done, but she might mature out of that one of these days. Aaliyah Lewis gave decent minutes at point guard, though I'd have to take a good look at plus/minus to determine how good they were and how accurate the number is. I think she's adapted to being more of a distributor, and she's not doing as many stupid things to try and prove that she has a place. (The 1-on-4 drive that ended with losing the ball out of bounds is a notable exception to this observation.) Jade Walker was good on the boards, but couldn't get her shot to fall and got some really bad calls against her.

Sandra Udobi got the start, as she's been doing, and played very limited minutes, as she's been doing. She chased down rebounds and came up with a beaut on the offensive end. Amber Thompson grabbed ALL the rebounds. Well, you know, not literally, but metaphorically. She went hard on the boards, boxing out when she couldn't get the board herself, and just generally being the hard-nosed awesome Amber we've been looking for for some time. Eugeneia McPherson was a non-factor- had some bad luck with the rim but mostly took bad shots and ran a decent offense. She's not an inspired point guard, but she's capable of running the team. I'm not sure it's a good idea, though, and there'll be more on that below. Aliyyah Handford had a really rough day at the line (seriously, did we bring Coco Hart back from Finland to run a free throw clinic?) and looked to be nursing a couple of injuries early in the game. She had a five-point spurt in the second half that helped St. John's regain control of the game, but I'm still worried about her shooting. Briana Brown was our captain today, coming up with big shots and free throws when her team needed her. She seemed to be making all the big plays (except for the aforementioned spurt by Aliyyah).

Part of why we lost this game was crisp ball movement by Butler that led to open shots. Part of it was our inability to guard those passes. Part of it was Taylor Schippers getting hot and hitting shots she'd missed earlier. Part of it was really questionable officiating. But a large part of it was the same thing that I've been noticing about this team: we run clock like Rutgers and Villanova do, except that our players are much more comfortable in a fast-paced, breakneck, high-scoring game where they can score in transition and get the press going. Running the clock down to the buzzer every possession bogs everything down. We choked away a 20-point lead and barely had time to get it back because every possession came down to the last few seconds, with no one even looking to shoot. If that's a team issue, then Joe has to coach them through it; if that's coach's decision, it's a bad decision that's going to come back and bite them against a team they shouldn't lose to. It almost did today- Butler without McClung should have had no chance of coming back like that.

I get the feeling that we're not going to be the ones complaining most vigorously about the seating arrangements. They seriously only saved two rows for St. John's friends and family, plus maaaaaaybe one of the crappy corner sections, and never saved anything for the Butler fans. Meanwhile, hundreds or thousands of those kids left in the second half, some of them almost as soon as the second half started. And they get priority? Tell me why I should either pay for a game I can't go to, or rearrange my schedule, when I'm going to get jerked around for doing it.

I don't know if I'd be less cranky if we'd won bigger, but my knees are still sore from that railing.

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