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Rider on the Storm: Road Tripping to Columbia

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Those of you who have loved, or at least tolerated, the Game Notes of Doom will be pleased to know that they'll be mirrored here.  It's time to live up to my part of the bargain.

There are things fans should never be asked to do for the love of their teams.  Brave the Lions' den, packed with hundreds of screaming children, is one of them.  But I love my team, and it was too late to back out of things when I saw the throng of kids anyway.

I often forget how much I like Levien Gym.  Especially when full or close to it, that model of homecourt is a very good size and style for the average women's basketball attendance in the NCAA.  I was not, however, pleased with whoever had seated two rows of squalling private school students in the first two rows directly behind the St. John's bench.  There's a wide aisle and a railing separating the bench and the seats, but it still seemed uncouth.  Given that there were several rows of empty seats higher up in the section, I'll just assume that the ushers made an error.

Much love for the gentleman in the "Yale has died of dysentery" Oregon Trail shirt.  GNoD approved!

The sound system kept cutting out while the anthem singer was attempting to perform; eventually, the sound people figured out that it was more effective to have her sing a capella and let the little kids back her up.  It was kinda cool.  Regrettably, many of the giggling, whispering, chattering children who were disrespecting the anthem appear to have been born in various barns.  GNoD DISapproved.

Kelly, if the hair dye helps your shot, then go as Nancy Lieberman orangey-yellow tan with your hair as you like.  It's good to see her with some of her old confidence, though there were two occasions where she hesitated and passed up a shot that she could and should have taken.  Coco's really stepped up her game on the boards and in the post, though she's still prone to making enough incredibly boneheaded plays that I won't rename the Coco Hart Memorial Award For Epic Fail just yet.  Eugeneia was a critical part of the press that so frustrated Columbia, and hit a couple of shots on broken plays.  Because Columbia kept the game so close for most of the way, we couldn't go as deep into the bench as we would have liked with a road game coming up in two days.

I hope Nadirah's going to be okay- she twisted her ankle in the second half and didn't come back; she was limping pretty badly during timeouts.  She got her pocket picked a few times, though- freshman jitters, I can deal with those.  Shenneika really needs to work on her ballhandling- I'm stunned she was only called for one turnover, because she was in a lot of awkward situations.  But she's so smooth.  She's a joy to watch.  Which reminds me... Yes, I know, I should be ashamed of myself for wordplay like that.  Joy wasn't quite as scrappy as I'm used to, though she hit the deck for a couple of balls.  Those graceful flying lay-ups weren't so effective, but gosh, am I looking forward to seeing her versus Chelsi Johnson on the 10th.  Sky isn't a morning person- she spent a lot of time doing her best impression of a statue- but she got her offense going when we needed her to.  Da'Shena still isn't where I expected her to be- I don't know if USA Basketball wrung her out or she's rusty, but her shot is off and she's not really bringing it well on defense.  What, did Tiffany Hayes hire someone to put a curse on the BEast FOY award?

Cameo appearances by most of the Columbia reserves who saw time.  I was surprised that Shafer didn't play more when they needed offense, or Stachon when they needed toughness and someone to free up their shooters.  I think Nixon was counting on Mary "Lisa Leslie is my fashion role model" Beato to bring the offense, but she mostly just brought the fouls instead.  Tyler Simpson was the first sub for the Lions, but she had no statistical presence.

It intrigues me that Columbia uses the standard names for every class but the youngest, who are first-years instead of freshmen.  And it's not a gender thing, either, because the male first-year players in the joint program were also listed as first-year and not freshmen.

I honestly believe that one of the biggest reasons we won this game was that we hassled and frustrated and flummoxed Lauren Dwyer.  Because she couldn't hit her shots when she even got them off, Columbia lost a major portion of their offense.  And while Kathleen Barry and Danielle Browne did their part to pick up the slack- the former from jump shots, the latter from drives inside- they couldn't quite do it.  I do like Barry, though- she's a very good player.  If she bulks up a little, she might be a prospect next year.  Browne's fearless.  I don't know how many times she hit the floor, but it was a lot.  Judie Lomax set the tone for the game for the Lions; when she was in, getting rebounds and cleaning up the trash, they were doing well, but she committed a couple of critical offensive fouls by not being able to stop, and she fouled out with about three minutes to go, which really screwed up Columbia's chances for a comeback.  Sara Yee, one of the GNoD's favorite players, did a helluva job on defense, but got into trouble with the Red Storm press and committed two backcourt violations.  Still love Ten Pounds of Crazy in a Two Pound Bag, though.

I'm not sure what game the refs were watching.  It wasn't this one, though it had enough similarities to the one we were at that the fouls weren't too bad, but there were some odd calls.

Never let it be said that the GNoD come unprepared.  I've been to Levien enough times that I expected to end up in the bleachers and brought seat cushions, figuring I could loan out the spares.  I ended up in chairback seating, for which I was exceedingly grateful- but Sky's mom and sister were a few rows up in the bleachers.  Nothing makes friends faster than offering seat cushions to people sitting on hard plastic bleachers.

Sky isn't my favorite Red Storm player, not by a long shot.  But she's one of the most interesting and funniest people on the team.  So after the game I was shooting the breeze with a friend of mine who's a Columbia STH, and we were sitting there a good long time, long enough that the teams drifted back into the gym.  Sky came over to us and said to me that they saw me at all the games, that they really appreciated us coming out.  Then she really got warmed up.  "You're the only real fan we have," she says to me.  She gestures a few seats over, where her mom and sister are still sitting there.  "If I weren't playing, she wouldn't even be here."

(It's flattering, but not quite true.  I don't leave the tri-state for road games, and I have to miss another home game because I am NOT paying MSG prices.  But I guess I do stand out with my clipboard.  It's such a useful prop, though: I keep stats on it, I beat out tempos with it, I disconcert free throw shooters with it, I hit myself in the head with it when my team commits stupid mistakes.)

What really saved the day for us was the press.  We controlled Columbia's offense almost more than we did our own by keeping them trapped in the backcourt and forcing them to hurry up their offense once they did get it over the line.  I consider that very promising, because I love a good press.

The kids might have made me crazy, but I wish the ones we get in with camps could be half as organized and purposefully loud as these.  Great atmosphere.  I still hate kids on general principles, but they did a good job.

I'm not looking forward to the game against Carolina, but I'll take what I can get.  GNoD approved!

External links:

St. John's Red Storm 75, Columbia Lions 63

Lions Unable to Weather Red Storm (SportsPage Magazine)