Good evening, blog readers! We're coming to you live and in three-d from Carnesecca Arena on the campus of St. John's University. Your intrepid blogger gets her second look in a week at the Golden Eagles of Marquette as they face the Red Storm of St. John's.
At halftime, St. John's is up 42-35, but they were up by as much as 22 in the second half, so I'm not exactly enthused about this. The team started coasting at about the eight-minute mark, and Marquette took full advantage for the rest of the game.
You have no idea how much of a herculean effort it is for me not to let lose with the f-word equivalent of the bombardment of Dresden. You really don't. Because that game was the equivalent of this team burning everything to ashes that they've been trying to build this year. They salted the earth and screwed the pooch with such efficiency that PETA cried foul. This was an embarrassment to St. John's and everything that started this season.
Which is not to take anything away from Marquette, and if anything in my post implies that, I apologize. There's no giving without taking, and the Golden Eagles fought. They went hard to the boards, they went to the floor for every loose ball- they learned from choking at Seton Hall and made sure that they took advantage of every opportunity that was given to them. Ashley Santos really needs to learn to watch her footwork, because she'll get called for travels if a crew is paying more attention to her hopsteps. She's very, very fast, though. Chelsie Butler was effective on the inside- physical, but not as infuriating as she was at Seton Hall. Lauren Tibbs gave a couple of good minutes when Butler needed a break and Plouffe was still in foul trouble. Arlesia Morse took the ball hard to the basket and got rewarded with free throws. She was also pretty solid defensively.
Cristina Bigica did not have a happy fun road trip through the New York/New Jersey area- hit her wrist at Seton Hall, got smacked or kicked in the head in this game. She didn't play a lot- they were getting good minutes from Santos and Morse, and she wasn't providing anything they weren't getting from other sources. Brooklyn Pumroy has a pretty shot, and ran her team with a lot of authority. She makes good things happen on the floor. Katie Young came up with all the big shots. I have absolutely no idea how we've overlooked her for the last three years, but she's come on like gangbusters. I think we have a contender for BEast MIP here. Apiew Ojulu showed off a little range and used her long arms well on defense- there was one point where she was simultaneously defending Keylantra Langley and Briana Brown, and doing it well. (Of course, that was as much a spacing issue as it was a defensive stand.) Katherine Plouffe filled up a lot of space in the lane and pulled down plenty of boards. She didn't play a lot because of foul trouble- Terri Mitchell was very conservative with her, and this time it seemed to work for her, when it didn't on Saturday.
Those yellow jerseys were all over the boards, especially in the second half. Two or three bodies were boxing out, and they took all the rebounds. There were several boards that hit the court, but Marquette was all over them.
For reasons more or less beyond my understanding, Mallory Jones got some time in the second half. No, I know what Joe was thinking- when she's left open beyond the arc, she can hit an open three every so often, and we needed points in a hurry. However, that plan works a lot better when the player in question actually sets up behind the three-point line at any point during her time on the floor. Jade Walker got into foul trouble, as is her wont. She had one good defensive stance with two deflections, but beyond that just couldn't get anything to work. Selina Archer was brought in for rebounding, and for reasons completely beyond my comprehension, kept getting force-fed the ball when she was in. She had one decent putback, but other than that, specialized in standing around and letting Marquette rebound around her big frame. Aliyah Lewis built on her solid performance against Creighton, if standing around pounding the ball and making abysmal decisions can be considered to be building on a game. She had to step up after the injury to Eugeneia McPherson, and she did nothing of the sort. Keylantra Langley hit one big shot and hit the deck a couple of times, but brought no energy, mediocre defense, and little other offense. Danaejah Grant at least scored some, but went a little too much for the flourish on the shot, looking too much for the foul instead of the successful finish.
Briana Brown played with no energy, which is not a good sign for the team's leader and captain. She hit a three early on, and tore down some nice rebounds, but couldn't sustain. I have to wonder if trying to be the sole leader on the court after the injury to Gina took its toll on her. Aliyyah Handford drove the lane, and offensively looked like her old self. Defensively, the energy was intermittent. Amber Thompson was decent on the inside, but got into foul trouble and had her minutes severely curtailed for reasons beyond my comprehension. Yes, some of her fouls were stupid, but how is that different from the last two or three years? Sandra Udobi got off to a slow start, then suffered a mild setback with her heavily braced knee. This was, of course, right when everyone decided that getting her the ball in shooting position was a wonderful idea. She decided that this was not a good decision. And there was much passing around. Eugeneia McPherson drove the lane, got hit low, and went down holding her knee. She was held out for the rest of the game, spending the first half riding the bike to nowhere and the second half on the bench with a large ice bag on her knee.
There are likely people who are throwing this loss on not having her down the stretch. Of course, we didn't have her during the part of the game where we were up 23, either, so that argument holds less water than your average sieve. We went up big and then we decided that we didn't need to play basketball anymore. Marquette disagreed with this assessment.
I genuinely do not understand the decisions that were made tonight. Either Joe took his stupid pills, the players all took their stupid pills, or the water supply was spiked with stupid pills. They started playing stallball with eight minutes left in the first half. There's no reason for that. We're not UConn. We can't assume that we're going to keep stomping a team just because we're currently stomping them. There's a difference between moderating the pace of the game and stalling for a shot clock violation. And I don't know why Joe was handling his personnel the way he was, but he was way too conservative with Amber and way too confident in Aaliyah's ability to run the point for long periods of time. I don't know what he was doing with Mallory and Selina. I don't know why he called signals so insistently that it could have distracted the team. I'm not sure what was up with Gina, but putting her in if she were able to go couldn't have hurt us.
The officiating was no help, but I can't blame them for a 36-point swing. That's all on the players on the floor. That's all to do with them and what they did and didn't do. Mostly didn't do. (That being said, we're lucky no one got too seriously hurt. I hope. Depends on Gina's knee, I guess. That wasn't full contact, but still.)
Worse, they did this with Nadirah in the bleachers, watching as they threw away a game they should have won. How do you do this in front of one of your greats? How do you do this in front of a teammate? How do you lay an egg like this and essentially tell one of your builders that you're going to kick over the sand castle because you just can't bring yourself to body up for a rebound?
I can't even bring myself to go after the agonizingly drawn out anthem, or whatever Briana did to her hair. I just don't have it. I just don't. I can't even fathom it.
Doug Bruno better bring a gift basket on Saturday, because we pretty much just handed DePaul the Big East crown. We had a chance to do something we haven't done since 1985, and we blew it in a matter better suited to the ladies who walk Eighth Avenue.
This is still my team, don't get it twisted. But I call them as I see them, and what I saw was enough to make me throw my clipboard in disgust. (It went further than I expected, though. I wasn't expecting it to go all the way out to the aisle.)
Do you have any pride left, St. John's? Will you put up a fight for Keylantra and Briana and Eugeneia on Saturday? Are you going to take it to DePaul the way you did at DePaul? Or will you fold? Have you decided to coast into the postseason? This isn't the old Big East. Second or third or fourth isn't enough anymore. Bring it. We'll be there.