Just the Facts, Ma'am: Behind 14 points each from LaSondra Barrett and Katherine Graham, the Tigers of LSU knocked off the Seton Hall Pirates 57-40. Barrett also had 11 rebounds for LSU. Kandice Green led the Pirates with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
For sleep deprivation, a long walk, not enough caffeine, flashbacks, and other sundries, join your intrepid and adventurous blogger after the jump.Obviously, the best part of basketball season starting all over again is seeing your own team in action, getting to know the new faces and say hi to the old ones (especially when they notice your hair- no, I'm not getting over that for a while, thank you for asking), and settling back into your old seats. The second best part, though, if you're an itinerant basketball fan like your intrepid blogger here, is getting back into the swing of your familiar road trips, going back to foreign arenas to cherry-pick the very best games.
From where I am, it's a bit of a haul to Seton Hall. Even once you factor out the bus to the subway, it's a fair piece on New Jersey Transit (with their exorbitant fares; I'm not joking when I say that this could affect attendance for games in New Jersey) through various Oranges until you get to South Orange. Hike up and down a couple of hills on South Orange Avenue, through the picturesque and dimly lit streets of a historic district and a college town, until you reach the end of the road. It's either go to Seton Hall or play in traffic.
Walsh Gym is old-fashioned trapped in glass. They renovate and renovate and renovate, but you still have to walk past the pool and hand your ticket to a guy in a blue shirt to get torn manually. You still have to figure out if you want to sit below in bleachers as hard as stone, or upstairs in seats reminiscent of a high school auditorium, where a railing occasionally obstructs game play. There's still a stage, though it's now hung with a Big East curtain. The ceilings are too low and the wall space too close to the audience for jerseys and banners to be displayed, so years of tradition hang like laundry on clotheslines over the court. It's too easy to tell how bad things were under Phyllis Mangina- the gaps between even WNIT appearances show in the years on the banners.
As much as I'd like to see LSU do well, I'm a Liberty fan. It's in the STH contract; if you root for Comets, they pull your subscription and send Sue Wicks or Kym Hampton after you to demand an explanation. That extends to VanChan the Candy Throwing Man, no matter how dapper he looks in contrasting purple shirt and tie. LSU started the game with phenomenal passing and great interior play. The passing deteriorated a little bit, but the interior play kept them afloat when Seton Hall made a bit of a run. They got good minutes off the bench from Jeanne Kenney, who I'm going to guess has some kind of Cajun background from the French pronunciation of her name- she stepped up her offense and made some good defensive plays. Courtney Jones did some nice work in the middle. Chancellor was able to really stretch out his bench in the first half, going eight and nine deep. By the end of the game, he was tossing everyone in. They're going to need some blowouts to test them, but I want to see what the tandem of 6'4" Shanece McKinney and 6'5" Theresa Plaisance do in a couple of years. Those are a couple of big girls.
Katherine Graham showed a good knack for getting inside and getting to the line. She uses her body well. One thing I noticed was when opponents were at the line, she was able to disconcert them with her very squeaky sneakers. She probably won't be able to get away with it all season, because some ref will call her out on it, and it doesn't show great sportsmanship, but I have to applaud her ingenuity. LaSondra Barrett was a threat from outside, as well as a fierce presence on the boards; her three in the second half really felt like the dagger that ended the Hall's chance of a comeback. Latear Eason had a beautiful give and go with Adrienne Webb, but her free throw misses later in the game were the stuff of laughter in the stands. Webb fattened her stat line with free throws in the second half when the Pirates were fouling near the end of the game. I really like Taylor Turnbow for this team. She needs to lay off the elbows a bit, but I love her nose for the basket. She had five rebounds in the first half- and four of them were offensive. That pace didn't look to change much in the second half. If she can hit her chippies, she might be a prospect next year. And remember, I told you first. ;)
Seton Hall's energy was much different from last year. Refreshingly so. There was a lot of fight in them that there wasn't under Mangina. The defensive pressure was much better. They still can't shoot straight, but that takes time to relearn. They actually looked like they cared about winning, and with former New York Liberty coach Anne Donovan in her first year and no real chance of improvement in the conference, that might be the most important thing. You can't win until you think you can win, after all. I'm not impressed with Mangina's last class, though. Elaine Swaby shows flashes of being a useful player, but she's got a lot of edges she needs knocked off. Ka-Deidre Simmons is listed at 5-8, but that's hard to believe when she's shorter than a teammate who's listed at 5-7. At best she's 5-6; I'd say she might even be 5-4. I like her fearlessness and her flash, but she needs to acquire better judgment. She plays like she's been watching too many mixtapes. Jazzmine Johnson did nothing to impress me. Tajay Ashmeade does a pretty good Shameka Christon impression in the glamour photos, and she brought some nice rebounding off the bench for the Pirates, but she has to hang on to the ball. Whitney Wood continues to be the most inexplicably awful sixth woman I've ever seen in the Big East. Between LSU's bench and Sports Page's photographer, Wood wasn't even the second best sixth woman in the room that day. She thinks she has range- she doesn't. Because she thinks she has range, she doesn't go inside and use her bulk.
Terry Green canned a three early, and we thought she was back. It was the only shot she hit all day. She was a step slow most of the game. Kandice Green made a lot of good plays but a lot of dumb plays. Same for Brittany Morris, with added questionable shot selection. Alexandra Maseko shows the most potential out of the group, but the foul trouble is a problem. I think Jasmine Crew wants to put this team on her shoulders, but either can't or is going to clash with a Green or two by doing so. I would be worried about her defense if I were a Hall fan, though. She left her teammates high and dry a couple of times.
Seton Hall fans are learning one of the things that Indiana, Charlotte, Seattle, and New York fans learned: sitting behind the home bench is not necessarily a good idea when Donovan is wearing heels. However, Seton Hall has found a unique way to avoid complaints; I'm pretty sure at least two of the women behind the bench were related to Coach Donovan. Presumably they know the risks.
Dee Kantner, it's never a good sign when we mistake you for Sue Blauch. That was a really badly called game. A lot of physical play went unremarked, and we're not talking about the usual banging in the post, we're talking about people being hip-checked into the mascot. I was disappointed.
One moment of LOL from the ref crew, though: this crew included a relatively new young black female ref. I missed the context, but apparently Van got her by the shoulder or something. From this, I conclude that he had a senior moment and mistook her for Sonja Henning or Coquese Washington and expected her to get into the game or something like that. She looked very confused by the whole thing.
Seton Hall's autograph policy for their team is something I haven't seen from a college team before, but one I have in the pros: after the game, a few players were delegated to sign autographs for the (LOL) crowd. So we got that, and we'll bring the card back if we go to the St. John's game, and we'll hope that they have three different players from today's batch. It feels like we're dealing with Pokemon or something. Gotta catch them all!
It's going to take a while for Anne Donovan to change the culture in South Orange. That's the first thing she has to do, though. It'll probably be easier when they actually get rid of Phyllis Mangina, or at least not let her in the building. The fact that that woman is still employed at Seton Hall is embarrassing for that school and for the Big East. I can't say I'm looking forward to Seton Hall's improvement, since they're the Red Storm's double on the Big East schedule and I sort of like having a couple of games that we know we can win, but for the sake of the conference and the betterment of the game, I can hope that the Hall is at least better than the effort they were putting up the last couple of years under Mangina. Besides, I'm still irked at Donovan for leaving the Liberty.