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Stormy Weather: St. John's Dominates Short-Handed Louisville



Neither snow nor sleet nor rain nor gloom of night nor a cold/flu/other respiratory ailment that has turned my head into the Incredible Gunk Factory nor moving the start time up five hours will stay this fan from her appointed rounds.  The aforementioned respiratory ailment reduced my effectiveness a bit by taking away my voice, essentially turning me into the Harpo Marx of women's basketball fans by forcing me to communicate with the various Liberty noisemakers we packed to make up for the lack of a crowd.

If you stop the anthem singers in the middle of their rehearsal, they might be bad.  If you then have the team's pep band perform the anthem instead, they might be gods-awful.  As it was, the band was merely tolerable.  The trumpets could use some work, though.

You would have thought that Louisville would have learned their lesson about lapping an opponent's court after l'affaire d'Georgetown, but apparently they're not going to let a little thing like a suspension-drawing fight stop them from their routines.  Jennifer Blanding gave them a little guff as they came around, but there were no incidents worth mentioning.  They're also one of the loudest teams I've ever heard during stretching and ball-handling drills.  It's not a very good look for them.  I coughed often and repeatedly at them for that.

I was impressed that we got the band and the cheerleaders in.  I would have thought that they had class, but I guess maybe classes were cancelled?  We made extra noise anyway.  We happened to be in the same section as the St. John's men's team.  I'm not sure they appreciated our racket.  Someone in that general vicinity seemed rather fond of Coco, but I couldn't tell if it was coming from the team, the band, or elsewhere.

I guess LaToya Johnson wasn't as healed up as they thought she'd be- Cardinal Couple left me with the impression she'd be ready to play, but she didn't.  I was also surprised at how little we saw of Brandie Radde.  I thought she was going to be a high-rotation player, but the ball didn't seem to be in her hands enough (though maybe that was 'cause of Nadirah and the rest of our defense- they were all quite busy).  Maybe she didn't want to seem like she was stealing shots from her teammates?  Gwen Rucker really needs to work on her footwork.  The refs weren't calling traveling a lot today, but she should definitely have been rung up for it more than once.  Rachel Story busted loose for one lay-up that made me want to go down there and smack Kelly McManmon with my clipboard, because whatever is beyond matador defense in the lexicon of things one should never be seen doing on a basketball court, that was what Kelly was doing.

I suspect that Asia Taylor was the one player who wasn't on the St. John's scouting report, because she was the one player who really got loose for the Cardinals early.  I guess it makes sense when you've got outside shooters like Burke and Harper to keep an eye on, a big center like Hines to worry about, and a double-double threat like Reid looming.  Taylor's sort of the fifth wheel in that situation.  Shelby Harper shoots like a lost Frese sister- Stacy Frese at Iowa State had a very similar shot.  She's very cute, but she's very small.  That didn't serve her well when the trap closed on her, and she didn't seem to know how to get out of it.  I'm surprised Burke doesn't go inside more- she's got a strong build, and while I know she's got the good outside shot, she might be able to open up more offense if she were willing to drive it more.  I think we did a great job of taking her out of her game, which took away from Louisville's offense.  Reid and Hines both started to find their groove in the second half, but that might have had as much to do with us backing off on defense as it did with Louisville finding their offense.  If I hadn't looked at the box, I wouldn't have guessed that Keshia Hines shot 50% from the field- she missed a lot of very easy shots by putting too much on them.

Eugeneia, stop shooting, at least until you worry more about making the shot and less about drawing the contact.  She was 1-7 from the field- she probably could have improved that to 3-7 if she'd done more to make sure she got a good shot instead of the contact.  She's got incredible ups, a lot of strength, the mindset of a defensive tackle, and good speed- sometimes, she just needs a little common sense to go with all of that.  Likewise, I wish Coco would ditch the habit she has of flopping.  If it's obvious from the other side of the arena that no one hit you as you folded to the ground, then perhaps your flop is not going to convince the official standing right there.  Good hustle, as always, but just some boneheaded plays, as always.  Kelly, except for a few awful defensive sequences, actually played pretty well.  She had a couple of rebounds that she fought for, and she canned four treys to put her over 200 for her career.  My boyfriend, who slogged through the snow with me and therefore deserves a shoutout, whipped up a sign for her pretty much on the spot.  I was happy to be wrong about him jinxing her by making it when she hit 199.  It was enough of a blowout that we got to see extended time from Jennifer and Amanda..  Buzz scored a three and Jennifer put in a lay-up, so everyone scored, which is always a good thing.  I really think Buzz is making a case for Kelly's minutes next year.

We see you, Shenneika Smith!  I love when she does her "psycho" look- she gets this smug little smile on her face, her headband moves up to stand her hair up, her eyes roll up a little in her head- almost like "yeah, bring it, punk, I'ma smack it into the next ZIP code".  She got a lot of rolls today.  I love watching the way she moves, too- it's sort of a weird cross between Deanna Nolan and DeLisha Milton-Jones.  She had the gaudiest stat line, but I think Nadirah had the best game- she was the field general for the offense, and then there were the seven steals.  She picked Louisville clean- a couple of those plays were SportsCenter worthy, in my biased opinion.  I'd say half her points were on fast breaks off steals- and then she got fancy.  I've also got to love what Joy was doing.  She set the tone for them by hitting the deck constantly for loose balls- no question, she was sacrificing her body for the good of the team, and this is one of the things that makes her a player whose jersey I'd go out and buy with pride.  Her work- and Shenneika's, and Coco's, to be completely fair to the three players with more o-boards than defensive rebounds- on the offensive boards kept a lot of our possessions alive.  Sky had a good first half, but it was almost as if she got stage fright when her mom and sister got there at halftime; the only really good play she made in the second half was a three-point play that I think Coach needs to tape and show Eugeneia: "This is how you take contact and go to the hole.  You think about hitting the shot first, then you take the contact.  The officials aren't going to give you anything- you have to take it."  Da'Shena had a good day from the line- 4/5 (actually 5/6, but her first shot didn't count because Walz wouldn't shut up and the ref waved it off).  She got dinged pretty good and spent some time on the bench getting stuff put up her nose.  I think that caused us to back off a little, between the increasingly absurd lead and the physicality of Hines and Reid.

Play of the day for St. John's was first going to be Nadirah's block on Harper, because it was a pretty sweet block, even if Harper's a little bitty.  Then it was going to be one of Nadirah's steals where she just plucked it out of the air.  But then late in the game, Joy and Eugeneia teamed up on a play that made my heart go pitter-pat, so that decided it.  Joy swatted a shot, keeping it in bounds.  Eugeneia scooped up the ball and fired the outlet pass to Joy, who swooped in for the lay-up.  I love when teammates reward each other.  Really, though, there were a few baskets with sweet passes attached.  The ballhandling was pretty crisp today for St. John's.

I really don't know what to say about the officiating.  While I appreciate the philosophy of "let 'em play", I think they let it go a little too far.  I know it's gauche to complain about officiating when you hit fifteen free throws, but Keshia Hines should have fouled out of the game earlier than she did, and I wasn't thrilled about Gwen Rucker's elbow encountering the side of Buzz's throat, or the time Da'Shena had to spend with the smelling salts and tissue up her nose.

Shoutout to Adrienne Johnson, working the radio for the Cards- nothing but love for a former Rocker up in here.  Also, shoutout to Frisco, who was kind enough to confirm for me that that <em>was</em> Adrienne Johnson.  It's good to have friends who know how to answer not just the question you're asking, but the one that you haven't gotten around to asking, too.

This was definitely worth the hike through the snow and suffering in the cold.  I love my team so much. *tiny cough of victory*  Go St. John's!  Don't get creamed too badly by UConn!

St. John's Red Storm 91, Louisville Cardinals 56