Levien Gym is one of my favorite intimate arenas to visit for a game. Tickets are reasonably priced, the arena is comfortably sized, the cheerleaders and dance team aren't completely incompetent, and the band never ceases to come up with some novel way of amusing the crowd. (Tonight it was one of the band members miming the shapes of Tetris pieces while the band played the Tetris music. AWESOME. My nerdy heart goes boom.)
We went to Levien Gym figuring we had a chance to see the battle for the Ivy crown. It might only be February, but having seen Columbia play a lot of BCS schools tough, and hearing about Princeton's out-of-conference success, we figured this would show who was the cream of the crop. It did, but not in the way we were expecting.
Excellent rendition of the anthem, too. We happened to be sitting next to a friend who goes to a lot of Columbia games, and she said that this was the first time this guy was lucky enough to get through the whole song without the mic going out on him. He deserved better than those previous occasions.
A friendly hello to our colleagues at SportsPage Magazine. I'm sure Tracy and Tara covered this game as professionally and thoroughly as they've covered many other women's basketball events.
Because the game turned out to be such a blowout, we got to see the deep ends of both benches. I'm not sure I like Krystal Hill cranking a three with seven seconds left in a twenty-point game when she had already scored and she had scoreless teammates out there with her. Laura Johnson did a good job keeping the pressure on Columbia while she spelled Polansky. Kate Miller also gave them good minutes as a freshman off the bench. Their seniors didn't play very much, which tells me the coach who's only been there for three years is recruiting far superior talent to what was there before.
I've been on the Addie Micir bandwagon since I saw her light up Penn a couple of years ago when she was just a freshman. She's still bringing it, but I think she's better suited to the Robin role that she can step into with a post like Niveen Rasheed around. Rasheed was... she completely dominated Columbia tonight. She's not afraid to mix it up, which is a critical element of success anywhere, but especially in the Ivy League, where having a banger makes a very big difference. She's also got good hands, which allowed her to tip a lot of balls- what I didn't realize until I got home and looked at the box score was that she led the team in assists tonight as well. Devona Allgood also took advantage of Columbia's weakness in the paint to pounce early- she and Rasheed were almost taking turns scoring for the Tigers. Polansky did a good job running the offense and keeping things on an even keel- she didn't look to score, but they didn't need her to score.
I like some of the freshmen- sorry, first-years- for Columbia. Tyler Simpson doesn't seem to be daunted by the transition from high school to Division I. And while announcers may not be thrilled at the prospect, I think we'll be seeing more of Bhavna Chadalavada in the next couple of years- I like her instinct to go towards the basket, though she could do with being a little less tentative about it. Do or do not; there is no try. Diana Lee plays like someone who was slightly taller than her classmates and was able to use her height to her advantage then. Unfortunately, she's only 5-6, and that style of play's not going to do anyone good at that size. Of course, my perspective may be skewed, because her first couple of plays were pretty boneheaded- a bad shot and a blatant hit on a Princeton player. Mary Beato canned one ridiculously long three that was well beyond the men's line, and she really was trying on defense, but she lacked a certain grace, or any grace at all. She was blowing her nose during most of the time she was on the bench, so perhaps that's a pass for her. I'm not quite sure what Caitlin Stachon's excuse was for not staying on her woman when the Tiger post players had been abusing Columbia, but whatever it was, it was unacceptable, and she didn't do enough on the offensive end to make up for it.
As beat-up and worn-down as the Columbia starters looked, perhaps Paul Nixon needs to go to his bench more often. Danielle Browne's got a brace and a hand wrap, Judie Lomax seems to be having hand problems... I'm wondering if this is why Columbia started off so well and then seemed to start running out of gas in the Ivy season. And it couldn't have helped that Kathleen Barry, who's one of the key parts of the Lions' offense, was out injured or sick. Melissa Shafer got the start for Barry, and I think she was in over her head a little. There were times she looked scared to shoot when she had good looks; there were times when she took shots she had no business attempting. She got dinged up a bit too- there was a stretch where she had to sit because she got scratched and they couldn't stop the blood. Lomax wasn't herself- she wasn't holding on to the ball when she got it, and she was taking far too many shots away from the basket. I've seen her a few times. She doesn’t have a jump shot. For some reason, tonight she thought she was an outside shooter. Though she got rebounds, she probably should have had more, or at least kept Rasheed from getting a double-double with stronger boxouts. Browne was really forcing things, especially in the second half. On the other hand, I was surprised that Lauren Dwyer didn't assert herself more, especially in Barry's absence. I recognize this probably had a lot to do with the physical post play of Princeton, but she's got a decent midrange shot. It says something about the way Columbia was playing that, arguably, their best rebounder on the night was Sara Yee- you might recall her from other Game Notes of Doom as the player fondly referred to as "Ten Pounds of Crazy in a Two Pound Bag" for her tenacity and 5-1 stature. But she was boxing out far taller and stronger players and fighting for loose balls like nobody's business. Her offensive choices left a bit to be desired.
Just as a general note, the Columbia players didn't look like they actually knew each other, or that basketball is played with the assistance of other people who are wearing clothes similarly colored to one's own. In mid-February, twenty games into the season, this is really not good.
I'm normally not one to blame the referees, and you can't blame officiating for a twenty-point margin, and I'll also admit that sitting behind the Columbia bench would have colored my opinion of any calls I didn't see. But it seemed like Columbia was being called for a lot of things that Princeton was getting away with, that Princeton fouls were not being called, (which led to fouls that <strong>were</strong> called on Columbia), and that loose balls were going to Princeton at an inordinate rate. It also seemed like one particular ref made most of the more inexplicable calls, a brown-haired woman with a tan. From the box score, I would guess that she was Michelle Ross. (She might have been Michele St. Pierre, but she didn't look French enough to carry a name like that off, and I <strong>am</strong> certain that she wasn't Kenneth Kelly.)
On the other hand, while I do love hearing fans get loud and involved in the game, not every call is going to go your way, and sometimes your team does commit the foul in the questionable play. Please stop complaining, especially if you're sitting in the row behind me.
This didn't seem like the same team that gave St. John's all kinds of trouble when they played in December. That's why they play the games, I know, but it's still jarring to see a team go from scrapping for every loose ball to not contesting lay-ups in the paint, from playing a BCS school within twelve points to going down twenty-five to an Ivy League team. I'd like to think it's just the grind of the season and the absence of Barry that made this game such an aberration for the Lions, and that they'll bounce back tomorrow night against the winless Quakers.