Just the Facts, Ma'am: Eugeneia McPherson led all scorers with 20 points on 8-11 shooting, and St. John's pulled away from Seton Hall in the second half for a 71-52 win.
For bricks, sore throats, and surprisingly dodgy starters, join your intrepid and hungry blogger after the jump.
I love rivalry games. I love conference games. I love trying to out-yell the entire opposing bench and the fans behind it. I love the release of shrieking at the top of my theater-trained lungs after a long, exhausting week. I love finally being back on my hard plastic bleacher after nearly two weeks away, surrounded by familiar faces. I love teaching the young how to disconcert a free throw shooter, and hoping that Daddy Arico doesn't think we're a bad influence.
I don't love the Q31, but that's because it took too long to get to the stop. HopStop, why must you lie to me?
We got a very good crowd for a mid-week game. I was surprised not to see any blatant Liberty fans there. I would have expected someone there, either to cheer Anne Donovan or to boo her. (No, Lisa White, you and your family don't count.) There were even Seton Hall fans, a subspecies I was not aware existed in large enough numbers to migrate. And they tried to disconcert our free throw shooters. In the words of Erin Thorn, unacceptable. This is why I have a sore throat right now.
Beautiful anthem. The singer definitely felt some passion for the song.
I have to give a shoutout to the girls from Our Lady of Lourdes, because that was one of the best halftime CYO games I've ever seen. Arguably, one of the best fast breaks by a team in a dark jersey tonight was run by these kids. Excellent passing and surprising range. When Seton Hall came out a few seconds early for their warm-ups, we joked that they were doing some scouting and recruiting.
Anne Donovan is definitely more interested in working with her freshmen than in trying to make huge strides this year. When the game was in hand, the five on the floor weren't the five deepest on the bench, but her freshmen and the lightly used sophomores from last year- in other words, the players that she wants to develop and give time to, not the players who would win her games this year. Of course, that mindset might have been more evident because of whatever injury kept Jasmine Crew out of this game. She's been a big part of what little success they've had this year.
Elaine Swaby is terribly uncoordinated. Maybe it's just that she's not used to her legs or something, but she slipped up a lot in this game. She showed flashes of nice defensive potential, and she's the kind of player I can see Donovan being able to develop. Ditto for Alexandra Maseko, whose emphatic block of Da'Shena Stevens was one of the few notable plays for the Pirates. I like her hustle. We got to see Nicosia Henry early, but she didn't look as comfortable in the game as a lot of her classmates. It continues to boggle my mind how Whitney Wood has stayed on a Big East roster. Yes, she's tall, but she's also slow and doesn't have that much basketball IQ, and because of my own girth, I won't even go into her conditioning. Tiffani Blackman only came in at the end of the game, and her entry was the signal that it was time to clear the benches, because the game was out of hand.
Kandice Green, just... just stop talking, okay? With all due respect to your rebounding ability and your questionable shot selection, stop talking. She was still complaining about fouls from the first half when she came out for second half warm-ups. Just because your hands are up does not mean you did not throw a hip check that would make Sean Avery blush. That goes for you too, Brittany Morris. I respect your hustle and your nose for the ball, but if you hit someone in the face, don't act surprised that you got called for the foul. Seriously, Miss Morris. You hit her in the face. Ka-Deirdre Simmons, I must again stress, is 5'8" in the same way that Big XII post players match their listed height. It's always a bad sign when a nominally 5'8" player is noticeably smaller than someone who's nominally 5'7". She was really getting fancy, but sometimes went a little too far. Arm locks are not legal basketball moves, though I suppose if Seton Hall had a wrestling team, they'd be interested in that sort of thing. Tajay Ashmeade had herself a nice game, going hard on the offensive glass and showing some nice moves in the paint. She looked a lot better than she did against LSU.
I can't help but wonder at Kim Barnes Arico's back end rotation sometimes. Keylantra Langley has shown me slightly more than nothing in the minutes she's gotten, but she's getting into the game ahead of Briana Brown, who at least hustles the way I thought Kim liked. The pattern held tonight: Keylantra's main contribution was a dangerous and stupid foul, while Briana's was a jump ball. Jennifer Blanding and Zakiyyah Shahid-Martin also got to see some time in the last couple of minutes, and Zakiyyah made a nice defensive play. Amanda Burakoski was not her usual self on offense, but her hands were busy on rebounds, and I do wonder if she ever played volleyball. The star of the game, though, was Eugeneia McPherson. She apparently wasn't happy with her shooting and practiced it earlier in the day. Holy sweet hypothetical baby Jesus, did it pay off. She was hitting everything she looked at, even when there was no way on earth you'd think the shot was going in. And defensively she was pretty well on her game too. She was bound and determined that as few passes as possible were going past her.
Da'Shena Stevens? Paging Da'Shena Stevens? I'm not as worried about the scoring as I am the lack of rebounding. Or defensive effort. Or general interest in the whole basketball thing. She just doesn't look like she wants to be out there. Maybe it's just something about her face that makes her look that way, but as a fan, I'm a little bit worried. Coco Hart looked like something the cat dragged in, but she hit her shots and found her way onto the glass, so I can't complain too badly. Shenneika Smith was quiet defensively, but her stroke was still pretty good. Sky Lindsay is occasionally hilarious; when she hit a jumper at the free throw line that she shouldn't have taken due to the hesitation in her dribble, even her mother looked like "WTF was that, and whatever it was, don't ever do it again!" (Still not the best maternal scolding I've seen from a St. John's parent... the best also came against Seton Hall, though on the road: after Kia Wright took a gods-awful shot or made some other egregious error, Mama Wright belted out, "KIA! You're walking back to New York!") Nadirah McKenith, back in the starting lineup, got the offense flowing the way she always does, and her quick hands did a number on Seton Hall's offense.
Coach Barnes Arico was still not happy with a lot of what the team was doing. Her shrieking was in full voice tonight. I almost wished I had a tape recorder so I could scare some of the former players with it. It might have caused flashbacks.
Bonita Spence was the crew chief, so we expected a lot of travels to be called. What we didn't expect was for rugby scrums to break out. I was very disappointed in the referees' inability to control some of the physicality. I know Coco Hart has a bit of a reputation for being a flopper, and she does overdo it a bit, but that doesn't mean she isn't getting hit out there, and that doesn't mean the refs shouldn't be calling the contact. I was starting to think that Kandice Green and Whitney Wood were never going to stop complaining.
Thank you, Storm fans. The Seattle kind, not the St. John's kind. We were 3/5 on using the "BRICK!" move last night to disconcert the shooter. By the third or fourth time, there were a few of us doing it, and I'm thinking it might be more effective in a smaller arena.
Right now, my biggest fear for the season is that one of the Arico parents thinks we're a bad influence on the kids and asks us to leave. But I don't think that's going to happen. :)