Friday the 13th and a full moon; in retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised that there was an incident at Chambers Street that threw the Eighth Avenue lines out of whack, or that the M20 was running badly off cycle, so that I ended up shelling out $9 for a cab to take me up to the Garden from 14th Street. It's wet, and it's ridiculous out there. Stupid rain. I want to rub all my bad luck all over the Sun right now, but that might be rude.
Well, it was a really nice anthem, and it's been all downhill ever since. Connecticut is up 20 at the half, 46-26, and that's without Allison Hightower. Worse, there's a posse of about a half dozen... people... here screaming like wild banshees for the Sun- friends/family/whatever of Alex Bentley. One of them called my husband something I would never repeat in polite company, or even impolite company. Six letters, starts with F. Why do Penn State players all seem to have the worst-behaved families? (Seriously, these make Tanisha Wright's family look well-behaved, and they got into a fight with security last year.)
On a related note, I am extremely disappointed in the Garden's security and ushers. We both tried to get someone's attention when Bentley's posse started squawking, and we finally got a reaction at halftime, after the group had already changed sections. Nice. You know, it doesn't do a lot of good when they've spent an entire half taunting for you to show up AFTER it's all said and done. Nor does saying you'll keep an eye on the section next game help when they're only going to be here for the one game. (I'm starting to wonder if there's an issue with opposing players having family seats assigned here- we've had a few folks in opposing jerseys around our way this season.) That contingent of Bentley fans refused to stay at their ticketed seats, started multiple confrontations with fans, and were cursing profusely in front of children, and despite repeated visits from multiple ticketholders, security did nothing about them. How is that a fan-friendly experience?
That was a great comeback, and the only thing that short-circuited it was Bill Laimbeer's inability or unwillingness to substitute late in the game, when the five on the floor were wiped beyond belief. There was a lot of heart there, and a lot of passion, and in the end, they came up short because they ran out of gas.
I am starting to take an extreme dislike to Kelsey Griffin. I appreciate her hustle, and the ability she has to create space for her teammates with picks, but she seems to have picked up some of the more unsavory habits of Australian basketball, going low for knees and tossing cheap shoves at the player she's defending. If she could shoot, I think I might be able to put up with her more, but as she is, she's a goon, better suited to skates and a stick than the hardwood. That being said, her rebound off the missed free throw, and the resulting feed to Katie Douglas for the three, were killer. Kelly Faris actually got some early minutes, and seemed to have taken to heart all the criticism of her unwillingness to shoot, as she both took threes and drove the lane. And because Anne Donovan apparently likes to play headgames with Sun observers, she was the first player off the bench in the second half. I think they were expecting more defense out of her, but I wasn't impressed with her D tonight. Danielle McCray made a cameo in the first quarter, was quickly determined to be useless, and perforce settled back on the bench. Renee Montgomery was an offensive catalyst early, helping extend the lead in the first quarter, but I don't remember what else she did afterwards. Kayla Pedersen played sporadic minutes in the second quarter to provide a break when Chiney Ogwumike and Kelsey Bone were both dealing with minor foul trouble. She was there to rebound, nothing else.
My goodness, Chiney Ogwumike. She knows how to create space for herself, though she got some help from her teammates' screens, and when she gets space, she knows exactly what to do with it (which is sometimes unusual in collegiate superstars- they don't know what to do with space because they haven't had it in years. Sugar.). She and Tina Charles were going at it hammer and tongs down low, and she was tough on Tina. The stat line may not show it, but there was a lot of work down there. Alex Bentley had one of those shooting nights where everything, and I mean everything, and I mean hard off the side of the rim and high off the glass and down everything, went down. She kept hitting that jumper from the left elbow, and we kept giving it to her, and she kept hitting it, and I'm pretty sure the definition of insanity is leaving the same shot open over and over again and expecting different results, or something like that. Fortunately for my sanity, the behind the back flip to Katie Douglas did not result in a basket, because otherwise it would have been SHUT DOWN EVERYTHING. Katie Douglas hits threes and goes to the left. She's been doing this since she was in Orlando, since the Shock wore black, since Cappie was in high school and Sugar was in middle school. You would think someone would have figured this out by now, or at least attempted to guard it. She didn't seem to have the defensive step that she once had, but she didn't necessarily need it. (I'm also amused by the fact that most of her missed twos were long. Clearly the solution is for her to take ALL the three-point shots.) Kelsey Bone was solid in the middle, hitting a lot of the shots that she has a tendency to miss. She got into foul trouble in the fourth quarter, and couldn't ever quite believe it. Kelsey, it was a travel because you pushed her. Alyssa Thomas ran nice breaks, but seemed a little in over her head.
I have this dim recollection of Avery Warley-Talbert being a secret weapon down low the first time we brought her in last year. I love her toughness. I love her strength in the middle and her willingness to use that strength. I do not like that she has hands you could bounce a quarter off of, or her inexplicable tendency to bring the ball all the way down to the floor when she pulls down a rebound. Avery, you're six-foot-something, keep the ball over your head and the little people can't get it. Shanece McKinney played briefly in the first half, had one resounding block, but was otherwise unremarkable. Alex Montgomery was strong defensively, and her fast break offense was good, but she was entirely too hesitant in the halfcourt set. Maybe it was the exhaustion, or maybe it was just her lack of offensive-mindedness, but there's no excuse for a shot clock violation in a key moment at the end of the game. Sugar Rodgers gave good defensive hustle, some good offense, and some questionable shots (because you're always going to have questionable shots with Sugar, that's how she rolls). She was a huge part of the comeback, and I give her major props for that. DeLisha Milton-Jones was on the wrong end of the whistle too many times, those long arms tangling with opponents over the top.
Plenette Pierson went down in a heap early in the third quarter, and went back to the locker room briefly before joining the rest of the team on the bench, but she didn't go back into the game, which might be part of why Bill made the fatal mistake. I don't know if she would have made that much of a difference, though- she was banging down low and causing trouble defensively, but she wasn't getting the shots down on offense. Lots of junk being thrown off the rim and the glass. Besides the occasional moments where Tina Charles is utterly convinced she has a skyhook, she was fantastic tonight. She went strong to the inside and came up with ALL the rebounds. Much like Henrik Lundqvist is currently doing on my TV screen, she slid over to catch every loose ball. Cappie Pondexter took some questionable shots, but came up with the big ones late, and she had a beautiful pass to Alex Montgomery when she was tripled that I don't think she would have made last year. Late in the game, we saw some of the high-low game between Cappie and Tina that we've been hoping for all season, excellent interaction between them. Anna Cruz looked better on offense than she has in the last couple of games, but Bill didn't have faith in her down the stretch, for whatever reason. Essence Carson, I can't even. I love E to bitty pieces, but there's something up with her that I can't figure out. I don't think it's all physical, though that's a fair amount of it- she can't compensate for the loss of speed, so she reaches, and she can't make the athletic plays she used to, but there's something more to it.
I can't even with the refs in this game. Bad calls on contact. Bad calls on out-of-bounds (it should be really easy to tell if Kelsey Griffin knocked it out versus Alex Montgomery knocking it out). We're lucky no one did anything stupid.
I would be more disappointed in the crowd if it weren't utterly pouring rain in New York. The family in front of us was super awesome, and I hope the jerks sitting next to them didn't discourage them from coming back.
You know why we agitated for longer rosters, Bill? A fair amount of it was to deal with injuries, but a small part of it was to make sure that we had players on the bench. The last sub for the Liberty was at 5:08 of the third quarter, when Sugar came in for Anna. Avery's been a Lib for, what, two weeks? And suddenly you're asking her to play pretty much the entire second half straight through? Sugar is a sophomore who was lightly used in Minnesota last year, and you're asking her to go fifteen minutes of game time without a sub? Not that Essence and DeLisha and Anna were exactly lighting up the room, but players are only human. If a player's missing shots short, or if she's two steps slow on defense, you might want to consider giving her a couple of minutes to gulp some Gatorade and wipe off the sheets of sweat forming on her arms and shoulders. Just a thought.
Despite the epic fail of the first half, I still saw a lot of things I liked out of the team today. It felt like the first time Cappie and Tina actually worked together, instead of against each other. We just need some more out of the rest of the team- consistent scoring from Alex, positive contributions from Essence, good health from Plenette, more offensive ball thought from Anna, something.