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St. John's Takes Manhattan with Defense

St. John's Red Storm 77, Manhattan Jaspers 51

Hi, everyone! Did you miss me? I tend to go into hibernation when the WNBA season is over, catching up on real world concerns like housekeeping, fiction writing, reading, and wedding planning. But the Game Notes of Doom are back like they never left. Which is good, because it's so good to be home. You have no idea.

For free stuff, tiny Aricos, sore throats, hypothetically kicked puppies, and other scattered thoughts, join your intrepid and pensive blogger after the jump.

It didn't start raining until after the game, so my mood was better, but my lovely posters were more endangered. (The poster this year is a great group shot. I like that. We need to be a team-oriented team.)

As a proud St. John's season ticket holder, I got my choice of gifts. I could take either a lovely white St John's mug, or a mini-basketball signed by Coach Barnes Arico. What do you think I chose? The ball will come in very handy during the annual autograph session, and there's always a chance they'll have mugs left at the end of the season.

Not to say that we dress out for games, but my fiancé and I both wore our St. John's t-shirts under our work clothes today. He brought his hat and a towel. I brought a soccer scarf. My clipboard is already broken. I love my team.

They did a banner unveiling to show off the 2010 addition to the tournament banner. It would have been a lot more impressive if they hadn't already added it before the game, and it hadn't been visible during the big Tip-Off Event that any fan who could call themselves a fan would be at. Still. We went to the tournament, and it was awesome. (Now we need to get to the Sweet Sixteen so they can add a banner. TAKE THE SHOT NEXT TIME, NADIRAH.)

There was a moment of silence for a couple of program supporters, including the lady for whom Taffner Field House is named. The team also had black memorial ET patches on, which gave me a bit of a start, given that Eric Thibault was supposed to start with the team and wasn't listed on the coaching staff.*

Excellent anthem, although hearing the name Michelle Cleary in a women's basketball context sort of makes me wonder why this redhead is on the floor, and where the blonde Australian wandered off to.

I think Manhattan's coach was using this game as a learning opportunity as much as Coach Barnes Arico was. He used a lot of different players and a lot of different lineups, and tried a few different things. That intrigues me, and makes me think that Manhattan might be a team to watch this year or next in the MAAC. He does need to let Brandone Roberts know that Manhattan doesn't have a football team, though. Her first action in the game was to slide tackle Eugeneia McPherson. Rule of thumb: this is generally a bad idea. Did I mention that this was while an eventually-successful free throw as in the air? Maggie Blair came off the bench in the first half, but started the second half for Lindsey Loutsenhizer, who had three fouls in the first half. Alyssa Herrington annoyed me, but that was as much because we kept leaving her open for threes. Hey, guys, she canned two and here comes the third one, maybe you should put one of the freshmen on her or something? She wasn't afraid to mix it up, which was a surprise, given her build. I was surprised that Alicia Marculitis didn't play; I recalled her being memorable the last time we saw them play.

I don't know exactly what Abby Wentworth's problem is, but she came into this game with a chip on her shoulder the size of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. The first few plays of the game, she was playing rough against Nadirah McKenith like Nadirah had personally set her puppy on fire and drop-kicked it into a pit of broken glass. The second half, she and Herrington went after Eugeneia like they thought it was Eugeneia who had kidnapped the puppy in the first place. She's got a nice stroke and good hustle, though. Nadia Peters was a tough presence inside, when they remembered to get the ball to her. Schyanne Halfkenny impressed me with her versatility. Monica Roeder's screens were the strongest part of her game- that's not a slight on any other part of her game, that's a comment on how good her screens were and how well-timed they were. She also had a wicked block on Da'Shena Stevens. The player who impressed me most for the Jaspers was Lindsey Loutsenhizer, who, despite her big build, has a beautiful stroke from outside. She's not afraid to throw her weight around, either, and I like her instinct for the ball.

Jennifer Blanding, whatever in the world possessed you to do that to your hair, get thee to a priest and have him exorcise it out of you, because holy God, that frosted gold on top of the dark brown is some kind of indescribable ugly. It didn't help her cause that she had an awful game in her limited minutes off the bench. As much as we've been screaming for some post players to come in and relieve Da'Shena and Coco Hart, Jennifer is not the answer. She let rebounds and passes go off her hands, missed her assignments, and looked like a waste of a 6-3 body. It's a bad sign when your center isn't lined up for the rebound when the opposing team is shooting. Especially when she's one of the four posts you have. Zakiyyah Shahid-Martin looked like she was trying to go for an NCAA record for quickest foulout, but Jennifer came in for her after her fourth foul. I'm not enamored with the idea of Amanda Burakoski as a four though clearly Coach is. On the other hand, that gives her time she might not otherwise see with the number of guards on our bench, and with her instincts, I'd like to have her on the floor. For all that I remember her having an intensely blonde moment when she was a high school senior and got hit in the head with a t-shirt while sitting in the stands, she's really developed into a smart, observant player. She notices a lot of little things, and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. I'll admit that Keylantra Langley rubbed me the wrong way even before games started, for non-basketball reasons, but her play tonight bore out my dislike of her. She didn't seem to be aware of the plays, and looked too much for her own shot when teammates were open. Briana Brown, who's wearing a hard number to follow (#12, which was Kia Wright's number), still has some of the wide-eyed freshman about her, but I love her willingness to dive for loose balls. In that, and in her ability to be in the right place to make the right play, she reminds me of Sheree Ledbetter.

It's official. We need to introduce Nadirah McKenith and Ticha Penicheiro. They would get along like a house on fire. Pass-first point guards with flashy plays and quick hands- yes, they have quite a lot in common. When she went behind the back to Eugeneia for the lay-up, I thought the arena would explode. Da'Shena Stevens had a quiet game for her, which meant just seven boards. I was worried about her ankle, though; she came out walking gingerly and had it iced on the bench. This is actually part of a larger worry about Day's fragility in general- either she has a low pain tolerance or she breaks very easily, and that's not good for a great player like her. She has some of the most interesting facial expressions when she's frustrated, though. After a gods-awful shooting game against Kansas State, Shenneika Smith showed a bit more judgment in the shots she took, and took advantage of her height, build, vertical, and quickness to go towards the basket, almost playing as a tweener at some points. This intrigues me, because she'll probably be a three if she's looking towards the next level (though in two years, who's to say the guards won't be bigger?) and I like that she's working on all elements of her game. Coco Hart makes me crazy sometimes, no denying that, but she's really stepped up to the plate as a leader in her senior year. And she's killing those offensive rebounds. Every time I looked, she was on the glass. Sky Lindsay is never going to fix her shot. She's a senior and she still has no spin. I officially give up. I think she realizes that Eugeneia's gunning for her spot in the starting lineup, and I don't think Eugeneia particularly cares whether Sky graduates before she takes it or not.

Play of the game for St. John's: either the behind the back pass to Eugeneia for the lay-up, or Shenneika's emphatic block. The general play of the game would be the Red Storm's incredible ability to come up with a steal or a loose ball as soon as we started chanting some variation of "DEFENSE!"

Moment that almost killed me in the bleachers: near the end of the game, the bench players were in. Buzz was open on the wing for a three. Briana and Keylantra, to put it politely, didn't notice. Coach Barnes Arico very much wanted Buzz to get the ball. You haven't lived until you've seen a coach repeatedly screaming "OVER HERE!" about an open player, complete with energetic finger-pointing at said player. The freshmen never managed to find her, and the possession ended with Keylantra fumbling.

We were sitting behind Nadirah's family, or so I ascertained from the loud cheering whenever her name was mentioned. I think one of the kids running around was kin to Shenneika, though. Oh, and the Aricos sit over there too. I think Trevor and the younger girl inherited their mom's... ah, sometimes fiery... temperament. It's adorable, but please watch your water bottles, people.

Fairly solidly reffed game- nothing I can really argue with other than the slide-tackle by Roberts and Wentworth's inexplicable distaste for Nadirah. One thing stuck out to me, though. Aliberti has always been a great ref, someone whose professionalism and eye for the game tell me that this is going to be a well-called game. For the last couple of years, Aliberti was a Janice; tonight, Aliberti was announced and listed in the box as John. Don't know if that's an error at our end or if there's been a change. (Or hey, maybe there are twin NCAAW refs who are both great officials and run good games. You never know.) Which, hey, more power to you, ref. You're damn good no matter what your name is or how you identify yourself.

So tired. So happy to be home. Now I'm going to sleep. Hopefully I'll dream of beating Columbia on Friday.

Side Notes of Doom:

* - Eric Thibault was not as part of the coaching staff because he is a graduate assistant and not considered a "coach", according to St. John's.