Photo by Ed Szczepanski | USA Today Sports.
Just the Facts, Ma'am: UConn broke open a close game in the last two minutes and pulled out the road win at St. John's, 71-65. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the Huskies with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Kelly Faris scored 13 of her 17 in the second half. Shenneika Smith of St. John's led all scorers with 21 points, adding four steals; Briana Brown had 12 of her 16 in the first half. For pride, ferocity, stubbornness, defense, shooting, and knitting, join your intrepid and hoarse blogger after the jump.
My team doesn't surrender. My team doesn't give up. My team fights to the end against even the best teams in the game. We looked UConn in the eye and led them into the fourth quarter. For a long stretch we even shut up the UConn fans, and if you know me, you know that that means a lot to me. (It dates back to my Rutgers days, when hating UConn was part of the job description.)
Because the UConn fans overwhelmed the place and don't tend to listen to friendly "um, hey, our point guard's family likes to sit there" or "excuse me, that's the home bench, please don't sit behind it" explanations, we decided we weren't going to start trouble and decamped from our usual section by the band, joining RedZone in the endcourt student section closer to the St. John's bench. And even then there were UConn fans trying to get in. GUYS SERIOUSLY CAN WE HAVE ONE CORNER OF OUR OWN ARENA?
RedZone put in work for this game, I'll give them that. We might have gotten them started, but the team kept them in the game for most of it. And I think the UConn fans starting DE-FENSE chants on the road spurred them on too. Do not taunt happy fun New Yorkers. We can be louder than anyone.
Nice anthem. Nice dress, too. Yes, I notice these things.
Morgan Tuck moves well for someone of her build. I wasn't expecting her to be able to be so comfortable both deep in the paint and out in jump shot territory. I think she's put a lot of expectations on herself with that jersey number, and while I don't know if she can live up to those expectations, she's going to be a very useful piece for them. I can see her playing a similar role to Danielle Adams offensively, only without the flopping tendency. Moriah Jefferson seems to have a chip on her shoulder- maybe it's just her build? I don't know but there's something about her that I don't particularly like. I did like her tendency to get faked out by our guards' fancy dribbling, though. She's dangerous on that press- she and Tuck (I think) killed us on something like three straight possessions. I'm sorry Brianna Banks screwed up her knee, and I hope she gets well soon, but that was a charge. Run into two defensive players, and things will probably not end well for you. Breanna Stewart didn't impress me. Yes, she's tall, and she can play Geno's defense, but if I were a UConn fan, I would be screaming the same imprecations at her that I currently scream at Amber Thompson- you have to hit your chippies if you're a post player, and she had a lot of shots that she should have hit. Yeah, a couple of those were victims of the peculiarities of Carnesecca's rims, but if this is the best freshman in the Big East, it's going to be a long four years in this conference. (I disagree, by the way, but I'm biased and I'm proud to be biased in that regard.) She's also a little freer with her elbows than I like, but I guess that's what happens when you can't get anything else going.
I'm surprised that no one's gotten the memo that you can't leave Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis open. Seriously, her stroke is a thing of beauty and lightning-fast. You can't give her any daylight. At all. You have to lock down on her and never let up. She uses her build well, too- there's something of the football player to her body, but if I compare her to Kara Lawson, I'm probably going to end up with Boneyarders trolling me and claiming that I've committed some kind of mortal insult by comparing a Husky to a Vol. Bria Hartley had a rough time of it, but she was hassled for most of the day. I suspect that the scouting report focused more on her than KML. But she did always seem to have a big shot at the right time. Kelly Faris caught fire in the second half, much to my chagrin. Sorry. I try to admit my biases so everyone knows where I'm coming from, and I think Faris is overrated, overhyped, and obnoxious. I see her throw too many elbows for my liking, and while I appreciate that she does the hustle work, there are enough players who bust their butts out there in college that I don't think it makes her the greatest thing since sliced bread. (I also suspect she's going to get dinged for a lot more fouls on the next level.) Kiah Stokes was a useful piece down low- if Dolson's out for any period of time and she figures out more about where she needs to be on the floor and what the role of a UConn center is, that makes their offense even more dangerous. Which it totally needs to be, am I right? Leading the nation in scoring and scoring defense is not enough! Caroline Doty got after some loose balls, and she's awfully pretty in person, but I can't remember her doing anything of note in the game.
I like watching Geno coach. You can actually see coaching going on. It's refreshing in the women's game when you can actually see strategy on the floor and have it work.
Amber Thompson, one of these days you're going to drive me to drinking if you don't catch those passes under the basket that Nadirah and Aliyyah try to feed you. I love Amber's defense (though I'd like to see her pick up the knack of running backwards) and if she can hit her chippies she'll be a stud on the court. She had to play a lot of minutes with Mary Nwachukwu's foul issues in the first half, and she made a different. Keylantra Langley should not have the ball against a press. The shot she missed was beautiful and open and she usually hits those shots when the shot clock is running down. Sandra Udobi got a couple of minutes in the second half- I think Joe was thinking he could body up on UConn.
Mary was in foul trouble in the first half, and by the second half, Amber had shown what she could do, so Mary was mostly relegated to being an offense-defensive switch. She did hit a lay-up, which is a bigger deal than you'd think- she does most of her work from the elbow or other parts of the court that are not in the paint, to my eternal and infinite frustration. Briana Brown torched UConn in the first half- she had three threes and just didn't seem capable of being stopped. UConn paid a little more attention to her in the second half, and I don't think she knew how to handle it. But I love, love, love the way she gets after loose balls. She has a great nose for the ball, both when it's on the floor and when she's flying for a rebound. If she keeps this up in her senior year, I will happily eat a heaping helping of crow for doubting her. (Then get treated for West Nile, probably, but it'll be worth it.) Nadirah McKenith just couldn't get her shot going- she was either leaving her lay-ups short or overcompensating and sending them too hard. But she made up for it with her vision finding her teammates. If her teammates had hit a couple of more shots she might have hit double figures in assists, which would have been awesome. (There's a specific play I'm thinking of where she fed Amber and Amber promptly fumbled it.) She reads defenses well and finds people well. Aliyyah Handford came out like she wanted to pull a Da'Shena Stevens and stake Big East Freshman of the Year on one big game against UConn. She didn't quite go as off as Day did, but she slashed through the Husky defense like there was no tomorrow and was generally awesome. Shenneika Smith also played like she knew people were watching and she needed to have a big game. She pressed too much in the last couple of minutes, but I think part of that had to do with knowing what the game meant. I'd rather have her pressing than have her backing off and having someone else take a bad shot. She was also solid defensively.
Poor Briana got destroyed on a screen with no call, but I've gotten used to that; I think there's some kind of secret deal that Bri must suffer during a game. There were also a couple of very odd out-of-bounds calls (if it goes off two UConn players, I'm pretty sure it should be St. John's ball, and if Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis's foot is on the endcourt paint, I'm pretty sure she's out of bounds). The free throw discrepancy irks me, but not as much as you would think. I'd have liked to have seen more calls go against UConn when we had the ball, but a lot of our fouls were to stop the break and were therefore shooting fouls. 25-9 enrages me on general principles, but we needed to do a better job of not getting into situations where we had to foul the shooter.
I generally try not to be a flaming snotrag to people at games. You do you, I do me, we'll all be good. But if you come to a basketball game- to arguably the biggest home game of the year- and you sit in the front row of the student section, and the people behind you are decked out in jerseys and beads, it might be stupid to ask those people not to scream through the entire game. If you want to sit there and do the Madame DeFarge thing with your knitting, fine. But it's a little unrealistic to expect the people around you at the game to be quiet, especially when you come to a section that's supposed to be loud.
I think I messed up my throat screaming, but that's because it was that close a game and I felt I was needed. Sorry to those who had to put up with my shrillness. I wasn't exactly concerned with ameliorating my pitch.
Lots of dancing at halftime. I was trying to talk to my mom, so I didn't really watch. Sorry, guys.
Don't have much else to say about this one. We played well. We didn't quite play well enough. But we made a statement. Okay, so we made that statement with Stefanie Dolson not playing (found out after the game that she was sick- chicken soup and don't infect your teammates, Stef!), but I'm okay with caveats and asterisks. UConn is still UConn. And we are (still) St. John's.