Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's built an early cushion in the second half and used it as protection in an 81-50 win that ended with only four players on the floor for the Red Storm. Eugeneia McPherson's career-high 23 points led all scorers, with Shenneika Smith adding 19 points and 8 rebounds. Rachel Vigers led Southern Miss with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
For an accounting of the injured, carefully controlled seething rage, acts of awesomeness, and eligibility questions, join your intrepid and infuriated blogger after the jump.
It's never a good sign when one of the assistants asks you if you have eligibility left... and you're not sure if she's joking or not. It was that rough of a game. (And to be fair, I'm one of maybe three people she could ask who at least comes with her own jersey.)
I don't know how often I've told the story of the Iona game, the one where I fell in fandom love with Joy McCorvey, the one where we were down to five players in the second half due to surgeries, ineligibility, injuries, and random disappearances. It was even weirder today.
There are fourteen players listed on the Red Storm roster. Elón Sidney hasn't been seen all season. Tesia Harris and Mary the Redshirt are both sitting out their transfer year. So that brings us down to eleven active players. For whatever reason, Briana Brown was sitting out this game in street clothes. Okay, down to ten players. Still a fairly good rotation, right?
Then Da'Shena Stevens was knocked to the floor and concussed; out for the game and down to nine. Then Coco Hart twisted her ankle; out for the half. Halftime. Coco was tripped again and wrenched her ankle; out for the game and down to eight. Then Sky Lindsay twisted her ankle; out for the game and down to seven. Then Jennifer Blanding fouled out; out for the game and down to six. Then Nadirah McKenith was hit in her already-injured thumb; out for the game and down to five. Then Shenneika Smith was slide-tackled and her ankle twisted badly; out for the game and down to four.
You heard me. We played the last two minutes with only four players. And as far as I'm concerned, Eugeneia McPherson, Amanda Burakoski, Keylantra Langley, and Zakiyyah Shahid-Martin are now certified BAMFs.
No, I am really not amused by Southern Mississippi right now, whatever gave you that idea? It might have been the bit where Tanisha Washington was gooning like she had a checklist. Or the bit where they were fouling hard down 30. Or the part where the coach sent the aforementioned Washington back in with forty-odd seconds left, who started the game, when we were down to four players. Or the bit where they were trying to throw down with Eugeneia and Key at the four-player mark. Or the part where they were rolling the ball with nine seconds left and down 30.
Started out nice, too. We were in good voice, the band was on their game (a marching band version of Barenaked Ladies' "Brian Wilson"? MADE OF WIN!), the anthem was good, it was a nice if cold day, we got our Christmas tree (and named it Katharen for its height and awkward looming ability), certified BAMF Eugeneia was on the poster... and then five minutes in, Da'Shena hit the floor and it all went downhill from there.
Nia Bradford looked like a woman desperate for playing time, and she was overzealous in her play almost to the point of cheap shots. It's one thing never to give up, it's another thing to throw hip checks down 30. Ewa Urbanowska showed reasonable physicality for a Euro, but her shooting form could use a little work. I'm assuming that Danielle Johnson hits more of her shots on most days, because she seemed like a jump shooter who was just off her game. I know Niesha Pierce and Bianco Heard played, but I don't remember what they did.
I'll be nice. I really like this freshman they've got, Jamierra Faulkner. I like her spirit, I like her instincts, and I like that she's classier than most of her teammates. She's got moves, she's got smarts, and she's got good hands. Some of her passes were a bit off, but I started to wonder if those were apologies for her teammates- and I thought it was interesting that she touched the ball early when they were trying to roll it. I also like Rachel Vigers. She's rough, but she's clean. She works hard on the boards and knows how to get her points in the paint. She's got a funky free throw routine that involves throwing the ball so high in the air that it could be a false shot. Geneshia Dunbar's foul trouble kept her from being much of a factor. I don't even remember the existence of Brittany Johnson. And then there was Tanisha Washington, who hooks arms like Plenette Pierson, throws elbows like DeLisha Milton-Jones or Lisa Leslie, and would probably have felt right at home with Bill Laimbeer's Bad Girls. The part where she was swaggering back down the court after Coco went down the first time was sickening (and there was insult to that injury, but to be fair, I don't think she could have known that Coco's family flew in from Memphis). She took shots at all of our post players, plus Keylantra and Shenneika. And it was almost like she had a checklist: "okay, Stevens is out, go after Hart; okay, Hart is out, go after Blanding; Hart is back, go after Hart; Hart's out again, go after Blanding; got a hit in on Blanding, go after Shahid-Martin".
And their coach allowed all this to happen- and from her play-calling and sub patterns, encouraged it. Sickening. Obscene. Embarrassing. Unprofessional.
Because of her thumb, Nadirah was coming off the bench anyway, and she did a nice job of setting things up and making the plays she needed to make. Jennifer played reasonably well, and for the first time in the year and change she's been here, really threw her weight around and made it clear that she and her team were not to be trifled with. She still can't hit a bunny to save her life (or without hopping- one basket was wiped off the board for a fairly blatant travel), but I liked that she didn't let us get pushed around. Zakiyyah played well, especially when she had to step up and be a certified BAMF- needs to work on her ballhandling and grip, especially under pressure, but she's a freshman, and you can let that pass to an extent with the last player off the bench. Keylantra also really impressed me, and if you've been following the Game Notes of Doom for any length of time, you know that I've been very hard on her. Her defense was better than I've seen it all year, and she made it clear that she wasn't taking crap from anyone. Buzz had an amazing tip-in at the first-half buzzer (which I thought came after the buzzer, but I'll take it) and had very active hands. She also stepped up her shooting when our numbers really began to dwindle. I like that kind of leadership out of a sophomore.
Da'Shena hardly played- her concussion came less than three minutes into the game! If this were Twitter, I'd have hashtagged that #cmonson. Coco was overdoing it in the first half, trying too hard to look good for her family, and she was knocking away a lot of stuff she could probably have gotten her hands on, but she looked a little better before the first trip and shortly after halftime. Sky's shot selection was a bit more questionable than usual, but her defense was pretty good. Shenneika went for style points on a few too many shots (I wonder if she thought there were scouts). Her work on the boards was great- there was one play where Sky got the steal and blew the fast break- but Shenneika was there with the putback.
Eugeneia gets her own paragraph, because she was just that awesome. Her shots were falling, her defense was good, her hands were active, she took no crap from anyone, and she made all the plays she needed to make. As much as Buzz's tip-in would normally have been the play of the game, her hoop-and-harm after Shenneika went out to bring us down to four was just what the doctor ordered. She was the rock that steadied us when everyone was falling. This game, and especially that second half, really showed her mettle. Buzz, Zakiyyah, and Keylantra showed what they were made of too, but Eugeneia especially proved that she can be a leader if she's called upon.
I'm not happy with this officiating crew. They let things get out of hand, and didn't steady it until after half our team was out with injuries. If players are tripping, slue footing, undercutting, elbowing, and hooking, perhaps it should be called before the last regular starter leaves the floor? Just as a thought?
In case it was not clear from other game notes, the young Aricos very much take after their mother. Trevor was lecturing the referees from his seat in the bleachers after Coco was injured. "I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to them."
Monique McLean sighting! By the end of the game, I thought Kim was going to ask her to grab a jersey. (And we had a spare white one, too. Sure, it was meant for a broad-shouldered post player, but we can work with that.)
I love my team far more than is healthy. They were amazing today.