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Kurowski Leads the Way for UMBC

Just the Facts, Ma'am: 25 points from Michelle Kurowski propelled UMBC to a 75-55 win over Brown in the consolation game of the Iona Thanksgiving Classic. Meghan Colabella added a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Retrievers. Lauren Clarke had 11 to lead the Bears, with Aileen Daniels chipping in 10 points and seven rebounds.

For travelogues, crisp ball movement, and the perils of sitting at midcourt, join your intrepid and belated blogger after the jump.

It's the most wonderful time of the year- not for the holidays and the Christmas lights that people are putting up entirely too early and the ever-increasing pressure to buy presents for people and the biting cold that cuts right through your jacket, but the time when the out of conference season really heats up, and teams take every opportunity to travel to new and exciting places that they might not have been before. I love holiday tournaments, don't you?

To get to Iona, you take Metro-North. (Or you drive. But if you're me, you take Metro-North because you don't have a driver's license and no one in their right mind drives in New York.) You're on the New Haven line, which will eventually take you to exciting places in Connecticut if you forget to get off the train. It's not the prettiest of the Metro-North lines- that's the Hudson line, which Billy Joel sang about and which will take you up to Poughkeepsie and Marist if you're so inclined. But once you get past the warehouses and grim apartment buildings of the Bronx, it's a pretty enough ride. New Rochelle is about an hour on the train, and from the station, it's a curvy little cab ride up to the campus. Possibly, it's walkable, but walking involved freezing off bits of myself that I rather like, so I opted for a cab.

The layout of the arena is a bit odd- the gym isn't properly connected to the rest of the athletics center, so you have to go through the basement if you want to get around anywhere. There are small details to the gym itself that I like- the "IONA" in white on the bleacher seats so that even if there's no one there the school spirit becomes clear, the stat board in the back corner that updates team stats in real time, the detailed graphic board that shows player stats when a player is at the free throw line. Of course, the hardest thing to argue with is the $5 ticket prices, even with $1 for the programs.

Brown did not impress me. Their coach was exceptionally slow with her subs, to the point where we were wondering what in the world she was doing in the Ivy League. Their defense reminded me of the middle-school games that you see at halftime- everyone went after the person with the ball. Against a moderately better team than UMBC, this is not going to work. Against UMBC, it worked for a while. We also weren't sure what in the world the coach was thinking with some of the sub patterns, especially in the second half when the game was out of reach- one minute she'd be bringing in the subs from the very end of the bench, the next she'd be calling them back and coming with the starters, almost like a head coach reading off the card for a two-point conversion- "Sure, it's a forty-point game, so the card says I should go for it." (Different numbers, obviously, because points mean different things in football and basketball, but you get the idea, right?)

Lindsay Steele was the first player off the bench in both halves, a guard who got into the mix a bit. We saw a little bit of everyone. The bench player who sticks out the most in my mind is freshman Jordin Juker, who played defense like she fantasizing about suiting up on the Smurf Turf back in Boise and played offense like she never saw a shot she didn't like. Her aggression and assertiveness will serve her well, but she's not going to have a lot of friends on the other teams in the Ivy. I remember thinking that there was a lot of head-desky moments for Carly Wellington.

Lauren Clarke likes to shoot a little bit. It seemed like every time she had the ball in the frontcourt, she was getting ready to put up another three. To be fair to her, UMBC left her embarrassingly open sometimes- we're talking about having enough time to step into the three, not just release it quickly. Aileen Daniels was a name that stuck in my head from the last time I saw Brown, and she has a nice presence inside, even if she couldn't hit a free throw to save her life. I don't think this was her best game, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear about her having good games in the Ivy League season. Sheila Dixon tried to pull off a lot of fancy moves that neither she nor her team were properly prepared for. Nice vertical, though. If the over-the-shoulder pass had gone to someone that could hit a lay-up, I might have remarked on that as one of the best plays of the day. It was reminiscent of Ticha Penicheiro. Lindsay Nickel sort of disappeared until the second half, though that had a bit to do with foul trouble. Hannah Passafulme came on in the second half, with a nice block and a pretty shot on a feed from Daniels.

UMBC didn't like to go to their subs until late in the half- they went almost the entire first quarter (or reasonable facsimile thereof, as I'm aware college games don't use the quarter system) with their starters. I liked what I saw out of Amirah Tucker in garbage time, and Kristen Coles was a useful guard. Chelsea Barker was good as a reserve point guard, though sometimes she thought too much about her own offense.

Where we were sitting (center court, about six rows up) was very neutral ground, though contested might be closer. Behind us was a family of Brown fans. In front of us was a contingent from Montclair. My wild guess is that they were there for the kid from Upper Montclair, Meghan Colabella. She started off well, but she faded later in the game. Erin Brown came up with the shots when they needed them. Tope Obajolu did a great job of rebounding and coming up with the loose ball, but she couldn't hit the broad side of a barn if you spotted her an extra barn to aim for. Michele Brokans spent a lot of the game in foul trouble, and she did a nice job of staying out of it once she got the fourth foul. The player who impressed me for the Retrievers was Michelle Kurowski. I'm not just talking about the way she shredded Brown's defense. Her court vision was well above par. She kept the ball movement going smoothly.

I was sort of disappointed in the referees. I'm starting to think that points of emphasis are much more of a guide than the NCAA planned for them to be- the officials seemed more worried about calling travels and slight contact than they were about some of the more heavy-duty contact that was going on.

Things that impressed me about UMBC: ball movement. A positive A/TO is a lovely thing to see in a basketball game. In a depleted America East, they might make some noise.