Just the Facts, Ma'am: The triumphant return of Da'Shena Stevens and a career effort from Shenneika Smith spearheaded a second-half comeback that allowed the Red Storm to beat Liberty University 81-66. Smith's 28 points tied a career high, while Stevens added 20 points and six rebounds. For the Lady Flames, Danika Dale and LaKendra Washington each had 13 off the bench.
For trials and travails, deep personal offenses, a lot of screaming, relief, over-exuberance, Pod People, and the frustration of Kim Barnes Arico, join your intrepid and exhausted blogger after the jump.
For pictures from the trip, watch this space.Seeing Maryland is all well and good, but we didn't brave the Snowpocalypse, bus cancellations, power outages in Newark, or frozen doors on Amtrak to see Maryland whoop LaSalle. We're Johnnies, and that's who we came to see. A fair number of Maryland fans stayed for the second game, and we made friends with a few of them, in addition to our Board Junkie colleagues from the Rebounders. It's a wonderful feeling to be known by people you barely know. Thrilling, but weird.
We didn't travel as well as I think we could have if it hadn't been for the Snowpocalypse. Half our team is from Brooklyn, and they usually bring a lot of family; factor them out, plus Nadirah's family from Newark (which was affected by the power outage that delayed our train), and there aren't that many people in Storm gear. Some folks came out from the Island, if the #22 jersey in the next section is any indication.
We looked very rusty in the first quarter or so of the game, and Da'Shena Stevens looked far too exuberant about being on the floor for the first time since Southern Miss whammed her with an elbow and gave her a concussion. Things started to get back on the right track later in the first half and through the second, when Shenneika Smith made a valiant effort to match her jersey number. Honestly, in the second half, the only reason Liberty had a chance to stay close was because of some dicey officiating from Spence, Gulbeyan, and crew. It's a sad, sad sign when I recognize a ref in street clothes and know she's going to be calling the game, which in turn means that I know there's going to be extra emphasis on violations.
A warm, friendly, New York-style shoutout to the Liberty University fans who thought they could outdo New Yorkers, and especially to the one gentleman who called us obnoxious and lacking in class loud enough for us to hear, yet without saying it to our faces. Let me assure you, sirrah, that this proud New York agnostic-leaning-towards-atheist considers that a compliment from such as you.
LaKendra Washington's got some stroke, let me tell you. You can't leave her open, especially not from the near corner. She will kill you dead. We got so frustrated with our team's inability to defend her, you have no idea. Brittany Campbell hit a three off such a sweet pass from Tolu Omotola that we were all "okay, if she flips you the ball like that, you have to hit the shot, even if you're on a team we don't like". I was also very impressed with Danika Dale, who showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time to get her points. While other Liberty players saw time, I don't quite recall anything they might have done.
I love Devon Brown's mohawk. I'm a sucker for mohawks, okay? I mean, I'm also a sucker for slick moves to the hoop like Brown has, but especially for mohawks. Avery Warley spent a lot of the game in foul trouble, but I really like the way she moves on the floor and the way she uses her body. Emily Frazier found her way to the line in the second half on some dicey calls. Jalena Antic gave us a little bit of a scare from outside, but mostly annoyed me for reasons I can't properly recall at the moment.
Nadirah McKenith played this game like she was personally offended about something. Maybe it was coming off the bench, maybe she isn't fond of religious fundamentalists, maybe she was just feeling it, but she drove the lane like she was trying to do her best Mark Jackson impression. She was showing off a little with her ballhandling too. Amanda Burakoski was out of it, having more than one blonde moment, but she redeemed herself a little with a three-pointer (of course, it was on a play where she should have taken the two, but we won't go there). Keylantra Langley looked very much like a lost freshman, though she made some good defensive stances. Jennifer Blanding was her usual slightly clueless self.
Have I mentioned lately that we really missed Da'Shena? Because we really missed Da'Shena. Clearly, she missed the floor about as much as we missed having her on the floor. She was a bit over-exuberant in the beginning, but when she settled down, she found her groove and looked like the rust was shaken off. More, she was hitting her free throws. You don't understand how rare that is. And when she hit that field goal to hit her thousandth point, we went nuts. Couldn't happen to a nicer kid. I just wish Sky Lindsay had remembered to get on the bus. This Pod Person who was wearing her jersey was really awful. She almost matched her jersey number, which is not good when you wear #1. Coco Hart started slow, and really needed a good thwack upside the head, but she stepped up in the second half, and she was willing to go at Warley when Warley got in foul trouble. Eugeneia McPherson stepped up her defense, but we're going to need her to be more of an offensive threat if we're going to take Maryland. Granted, we're also going to need Shenneika Smith to be the unconscious beast she was in the middle of this game. Near the end of the first half, she started a streak where she was hitting everything she looked at- she started with little shots inside, then moved back and canned four threes, then moved back in. When she's on, she looks like she could be in the WNBA today. She still needs to refine her game, but she was stupendous, and we need her to be that player again.
I don't know exactly when Kim Barnes Arico started going around and kicking referees' puppies, but she needs to stop. There were some sketchy calls against us that even the Maryland fans around us thought were questionable. To be fair, we made up for those with a plethora of and-1 calls. We must have had five or six hoop-and-harm plays. There was one play where Kim yelled to the ref, "Kathy, if you see it, you can change it!" because the call was that egregious.
I'm really glad we dug down, grabbed Shenneika, and hung on for dear life. I wasn't all that impressed with Liberty, but that might change if Brown is allowed to roam free in Big South play, or if someone else for that team steps up.