Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's completed the season sweep of Rutgers in dominating fashion, never trailing in a 61-48 win. Nadirah McKenith led all scorers with 21 points, joined in double figures by Briana Brown with 13 and Aliyyah Handford with 12. Erica Wheeler led Rutgers with 11 points, while Betnijah Laney had eight points and 10 rebounds. For embarrassing parents, self-satisfaction, dancing in inappropriate areas, conquest of the tri-state area, color coordination, and Nadirah McKenith being awesome, join your intrepid and tussis-ridden blogger after the jump.
So this is how it starts to wind down: a dwindling pile of tickets, marks on a calendar, the realization that this is the last walk for a month (Senior Night means I come from work). It's just getting good- I don't want it to end this soon!
The Cagers' bus appears to have been driven by someone more competent than last year, which is good. I don't like people being potentially in car accidents, especially in a steady driving rain. They did try to get some of the RU chants going, which we did not take kindly to, but after the last push by St. John's, they mostly quieted down. Most of them didn't seem to be jerks, which is refreshing.
Solid anthem. Band was on point most of the day, though our drummer was a bit more absent-minded than usual. He's still awesome, though.
I suspect that one of the lessons that Our Lady of Hope's coach will impart after that halftime game is "don't dance the Cha-Cha Slide while playing basketball". Yes, one of the kids was trying to do the dance move in basketball rhythm. It didn't go so well for her.
Kaleah Copper showed all the potential she has, being in the right place at the right time for rebounds. We got lucky that she got rim and nothing more on some of her shots. Christa Evans got minutes in the first half, and I think she was more effective than usual because we weren't considering her to be of any importance. Which, after her first basket, she really wasn't, although she used her big frame to make space for her teammates. Ariel Butts played just long enough to get a putback on an offensive rebound, then disappeared into the ether. I don't get that choice either, but that might have had something to do with Rachel Hollivay's play in the second half. Hollivay is an impressively talented player, and she has the potential to be a star with her physicality and her touch around the basket. She's got a bit of a hot head, though, and she got into it with Mary Nwachukwu a couple of times, to the point where Mary got a technical after getting tangled up with her. She's not the kind of player I normally expect from a Stringer team, in terms of personality. Precious Person showed flashes of her potential, but just briefly. With a name like that (and a number like that- Essence Carson was one of my favorite Scarlet Knights) she'd better pan out as something special.
Monique Oliver played well in the time that she had, but she didn't play a lot for whatever reason- she didn't look hurt, and there didn't seem to be foul trouble, but maybe it was the Hollivay factor again. She's a big scary post, and if Rutgers wants to at least go to the WNIT, they should feed her more. Of course, since I don't think they care about the WNIT, I understand getting Hollivay and Butts into the game. Shakena Richardson is adorable, especially when she's arguing a foul call that she clearly committed. And she did commit some boneheaded fouls. Syessence Davis looked good, with some nice plays on defense. Erica Wheeler was inconsistent- she demonstrated some fantastic, ballet-level footwork on defense and the chase for loose balls, but she seems to have had her three-point shot scared out of her somehow. She got a little hot in the second half, but that was also when she blew a fast break lay-up off the corner of the backboard. She still looks like the closest thing they have to a leader. Betnijah Laney continues to demonstrate a remarkable ability to miss makeable shots. She rebounded well, but I'm not sure if she's Big East, or Big Ten, talent. (I also don't envy her adventures with Big Ten fans in her senior year.)
Not to say that Rutgers was getting physical when they were getting frustrated, but they even shoved each other a couple of times after the play. Somehow, Laney always seemed to be in the middle of the contact; take that for what it's worth.
Ashley Perez buried a three near the end of the first half to get us all excited for her. Cedrica Gibson came into the game at the very end to keep a steady hand on the offense. I do like travel-size point guards- they're adorable! Amber Thompson had a good defensive game, but I would have liked to see more offense out of her, both because I want to see her do well and because her very enthusiastic mother was sitting a couple of rows down from us. Keylantra Langley didn't have her end-of-the-shot-clock magic, but was solid defensively.
Aliyyah Handford either has a hard head or a lot of luck- she went down hard at one point and hit her head, then while she was on the floor, got an accidental heel to the forehead from Erica Wheeler. She went out of the game, had the concussion test administered, and was cleared to come back in, and she looked pretty much normal. She drove the lane like a madwoman today, and got a lot of free throws out of the deal. Shenneika Smith couldn't find the bottom of the basket, and her ballhandling was off. Way off. "Did you just do the show-the-ball trick?" off. (For those of you unversed in the ways of the New York Liberty: Tari Phillips used to have a habit of holding the ball out directly in front of her, either as a badly telegraphed hand-off or a brazen challenge to the other team to steal the ball; the other team usually took the challenge gladly.) It might be time to retire the PinkZone kicks, or something. Her move to force the three-shot foul with one second left on the shot clock was dramatic genius, however. Briana Brown continues to be the most improved player in the Big East, with the biggest metaphorical cojones you will find. She was feeling it from the corner, and on the backdoor, and she played solid defense. Nadirah McKenith continues to corner the market on game-controlling awesomeness, driving the lane, finding her teammates, and even blocking shots. She was amazing. Mary Nwachukwu played like someone had lit a fire under her, tough on defense and even hitting the first shot of the game. Rutgers's posts are very physical, and she played them tough. She got a lot of elbows and forearms in uncomfortable places, and somehow she ended up being the only player teched when she and Hollivay got tangled up.
And then the St. John's crowd rallied behind her with an angry roar at the refs, which may have helped silence the Rutgers people. (And no, I never expected to type that the St. John's crowd rallied behind Mary Nwachukwu.) The officiating was sketchy in the second half, and we had the competent Enterline. Rutgers was doing a lot of reaching without getting called, and I'm pretty sure Nadirah could have called "BAD TOUCH!" on one of those reaches. After the tech, the refs got stricter on their calls and kept it from degenerating into anything worse.
Many ducks have been chucked and donations made, and today Clare Droesch's parents were presented with a check for $3,758 to help crush her cancer. I wish her good luck with that.
We keep doing what we have to do. That's all I can ask. That's all we can do.