Delaware, and Delle Donne, were definitely worth the price of admission. But more importantly, so was Hofstra. They've got some promising youngsters.
Getting lost on the Hofstra campus is not recommended. It stretches across both sides of Hempstead Turnpike, which is a difficult road to cross, to put it mildly. Nothing says adrenaline rush like some guy turning across two lanes and honking at you as you run across the street while you have the light. That wasn't even the worst traffic disaster at that corner, but we'll get to that in its proper place.
Hofstra has the only mid-major arena I've ever seen with luxury boxes. They haven't used them in either of the games I've been at, but that doesn't mean that at some point they won't come into use. I also like how Hofstra uses the complementary colors for their banners- they're not separated by gender, but by NCAA tournament versus conference tournament. But then, the Pride are very big on, well, pride, across both men's and women's sports. The structure of the arena is a bit confusing, though; it's not easy to get to a seat on the far side of the arena, the souvenir stands are on one level while the concession stands are on another, and all gods help you if you want to buy a program.
I assume that Lauren Curra normally starts, because she was subbed into the game fairly quickly- within the first minute or two, I'd say- of both halves. She's got a bit of an attitude that I'm not terribly impressed with. Good knack of getting to the line, though, which is something I have to reluctantly admire. Jasmine Gibson is a big woman. No, really big. She's a tank. Jaquetta May got the balance of the reserve guard minutes for the Fightin' Blue Hens.
I admit to a fondness for Kayla Miller, but that's mostly because of her screaming out the title line of Bon Jovi's "Have a Nice Day" while practicing her threes. I know she and Delle Donne were teammates in high school, so it makes sense that they know each other better than they know their teammates, and that they communicate really well, but I still think it's good that they DO, if that makes any sense. She got to the line a lot, which makes sense, since there were some intentional fouls near the end of the game and her season percentage was pretty bad. Jocelyn Bailey was the player who Curra replaced in the lineup, and I recall her getting into a couple of tangles with Hofstra players. Danielle Parker had a pretty quiet game. So did Eva Riddick. Delaware's starters have pretty good hands- they tip a lot of balls to each other, especially when they have a nice big target to find.
Oh, yeah, <I>her</I>. That tall girl with the really obvious brown roots. I guess she's all right. Okay, I'm going to be serious now. Delle Donne obviously has long range, looking comfortable beyond even the men's three-point line. She's got some beautiful moves, including a stepthrough that made my heart skip a beat from its grace. What's less obvious from the stats is that she's in the middle of a lot of defensive plays, and always has her hands up to make a play or receive a tipped ball on a steal. (She's credited with five in the boxscore, but I think she forced two or three herself and was just the recipient of a couple of tips on the others.) What I really like about her is that, for a freshman (even one with a year of volleyball under her belt), is that she's very communicative and very involved in huddles. She'll be the one to call the team over during a prolonged stoppage of play. Very few underclassmen do that, and I wasn't expecting it from her. She's a great player, but I'd love to see her work more on her post moves to become a more complete player- sort of a Lauren Jackson type. She needs a little meat on her legs if she's going to stand up to the kind of minutes she has to play. And she looks so very lost in a zone defense. With a little development, I think she'll be awesome; right now, she's great but flawed.
First off the bench for the Pride was Marie Malone, a lithe post who transferred from West Virginia. I like her- she's very smooth. I'd like to see her work the boards more; I suspect that's why she's a lioness and not a Mountaineer, because if you're not interested in hitting someone, Mike Carey has no use for you. Nicole Capurso found her offense in the second half and seemed to be single-handedly trying to keep Hofstra in the game, because the shots she hit were all big ones that could have turned the momentum in Hofstra's favor. (Of course, then there were the shots she missed...) Seemed like Candace Bond and Asia Jenkins were mostly in to chew up minutes and pick up fouls, especially late in the game. Bond was also an offense/defense sub with Candice Bellocchio. (As an aside, what is it with a) people in Piscataway naming their daughters some variant of Asia, and b) said daughters choosing to go to Big East schools other than Rutgers? Jenkins transferred from Cincinnati.) Isoken Uzamere came in as the fourth post because of foul trouble, but I wasn't impressed.
I still love Jess Fuller. I'm inordinately fond of posts who get inside and block shots, and she did that to perfection. I especially liked the block that she tipped up and caught to get the change of possession. She really got her offense going in the second half. Shante Evans reminds me of what Le'Coe Willingham was with the Sun, or DeTrina White with the Liberty, or maybe a not criminally inclined Latasha Byears: she's broad, but short, but gets things done on the inside with ups, smarts, and toughness. Candice Bellocchio has a lot of guts. If she's 5'6", then I'm jumping center for the Liberty next summer. That didn't keep her from being everywhere at once, up to and including in Delle Donne's face. Her tendency to attempt passes over the top against taller defenders was a bit mind-boggling, but it's hard to argue with ten assists. Sam Brigham had a couple of great moments, but they were usually followed up by moments of head-scratching stupidity. The most notable pair of these came at the end of the first half. She hit a three to bring Hofstra within seven... then fouled Bailey on a lay-up to allow a three-point play and complete giving back the points she had just scored. I'm also not enthusiastic about a player who's smart enough to track the progress of a shot, see that it's going to go off the rim, and not crash the boards. Aamira Terry seems to have lost some of the role I remember having last season- I dimly recall her having a lot of play-calling duties, and in this game she wasn't much of a factor.
Hofstra looked very lost whenever they faced a zone. Since they play it themselves, that surprised me.
The refereeing was quite inconsistent, but I'd like to call out Mark Behrens in particular for two egregiously messed up plays. In the first, Elena Delle Donne was shooting the second of two free throws. Before she released the second, Jocelyn Bailey committed a fairly blatant lane violation, while a Hofstra player committed a somewhat less obvious one. The whistle was duly blown, and the referees had a long talk. They granted Delle Donne a free throw that she never shot and gave Hofstra the ball as if she had hit it. Then there was a play later in the game where Delaware hit a shot and the ball somehow ended up on the floor. The referee started counting the five seconds to inbound before a Hofstra player ever touched the ball. Here I may be wrong, and I'll cop to it if I am, but I was under the impression that the five seconds only started when a player touched the ball to start the inbounding process. In any case, I wasn't thrilled with his professionalism during the game.
Lots of Girl Scouts at Mack. A special shoutout must go to the troop whose leader had the girls learning how to keep score, to the young ladies in the front row of our section who brought the "GO HOFSTRA" letter signs, and the young lady with the Jets-themed eyeblack in the next section over. Eyeblack is fierce.
As luck would have it, this was an autograph session game for the Pride, so we attached ourselves to the tail of the line and got our poster signed by most of the team. (Two players, Lindsay Watson and Joelle Connolly, weren't with the team.) I'm hoping to run into Nicole Capurso at a Liberty game this summer, since she mentioned being a fan of Janel's. I love those sorts of connections between levels of the game. It emphasizes the importance of building from the grass roots.
As for the second Hempstead Turnpike event that left my heart in my throat: we were waiting in the shelter for the bus to take us to the next bus to take us to the last bus, and we saw the Delaware charter bus heading the other way on the turnpike. It was easy to tell that it was Delaware's bus, given that it was from Delaware Express and had many people in blue and yellow in it. As it came up to the light, it swung around in a huge, sweeping U-turn to get onto the westbound side. While the bus made it just fine, the mental image of it flipping over or being T-boned by the careless, onrushing traffic flashed before my eyes. If this had been a movie, that would be how the saga of Delle Donne would end, wouldn't it?
Sometimes I forget how much I like the CAA, and that it's sort of in my backyard. It's such a tight conference that it seems like very few people know about. More people should.