Just the Facts, Ma'am:: Behind yet another superlative performance from Maya Moore, the Connecticut Huskies defeated the St. John's Red Storm 84-52. Moore had 21 points, eight assists, six rebounds, and three steals. Tiffany Hayes added 21 points and eight rebounds for Connecticut. Da'Shena Stevens led the Red Storm with 12 points and five rebounds.
For dismay, distress, despair, and a severe lack of basketball on the part of St. John's, join your intrepid and depressed blogger after the jump.
The good news is that more people in red are staying than we thought. The good news as a St. John's fan is that not a lot of UConn fans appear to have made the trip down, possibly having something to do with the giant blizzard that enveloped New England, possibly related to Syracuse fans buying up all the tickets. I'm not sure how thrilled I am about some of these people staying, given some of the remarks the college boys behind us were passing. Have I mentioned lately that alcohol and college athletics are a really bad combination?
We moved over a section, and we might be moving up a couple of rows as well, so we can actually see things other than the bench. Sometimes there's such a thing as having too good a seat, you know?
Shoutout to the hard-working photographers, especially SportsPage Magazine's representative.
The things I would like to ask St. John's are not things I can say in a public forum. Our offense is stagnant on its good plays and spastic on its bad ones. Our defense is out to lunch (how do you leave Maya Moore open, ever?!). Our coaching is sketchy. Our effort is lackluster. How many of these players actually want to be playing Big East basketball right now? Have they forgotten that things don't come easy? I think they have. I think they played too many cupcakes and got fat, just like Syracuse does, just like North Carolina does. I'm sick to my soul, knowing what this team can be and has been, and comparing it to what it is now.
I don't get it. I just don't get it. I don't know what's wrong with my team. And the sad part is that they're not going to learn anything from this because everyone expects UConn to lay the hammer down, and it doesn't occur to them that there are things to be taken away from a game like this, that there's no way on God's green earth the margin should have ballooned out the way it did. That's not taking anything away from UConn. They're an excellent, deep team that's developing its young post players at a dizzying rate. And, of course, they have Maya Moore. That's a pretty good piece to have.
Samarie Walker put in some work in the post off the bench. She doesn't have the bulk, but she's got the moves. She looks to be more of a slashing forward than a back to the basket sort of post. We got to see some Heather Buck, and apparently a round with a team that's lost its way is the cure for a lack of confidence. Bria Hartley is already showing the ruthlessness of a true Husky- not just the talent, but the killer instinct that separates UConn from a lot of teams. She's sure got a pretty stroke. Why or how we missed the scouting report on her, given that we also have a kid from North Babylon, I will never know.
There were three main differences between this year's debacle and last year's more closely contested game. One, this year our offense went on vacation. Two, this year our defense broke down. Three, this year Tiffany Hayes showed out. When we played them two seasons back at Carnesecca Arena, Hayes was a non-factor (this is the same game that won Da'Shena Stevens BEast FOY). She was showing more aggressiveness towards the basket than I remembered seeing from her, but that didn't mean she abandoned the three-point stroke. You'd think she'd have cooled off after the fifth one, but this is UConn. Lorin Dixon is really, really fast. For this team, she works as a point guard, because she doesn't need to be the spearhead or the playmaker. She just has to keep them from going completely off the rails. Stefanie Dolson... okay, I'll admit that when I first saw UConn on TV this year, I said, "Oh my God, it's Kara Wolters." She was a step or two slow that I think we could have taken advantage of, but she clogs things up in the middle and is a good enough finisher to force teams to match up against her, which means they have to change their game plan, which will result in someone being left open. If you're having a good day, it'll be Dixon. If you're having a bad day, it'll be Hayes or Faris. If you're having an Arthur Pearlstein kind of day and moaning, "I knew I should have stayed home today," you'll leave Maya Moore open, which is possibly the single stupidest thing you can do in basketball. Then again, if you guard her, she'll hit the shot anyway. I saw her glide in and hit shots against doubles, with hands in her face, into the arm of a defender- she had one possession with a gorgeous tip-in, another where she slid around with a silky move and went to the hole. So maybe that is a good plan. Leave her open and she'll get hers, and maybe you have a shot of stopping someone who's not a demigod. Seriously, she's like Connecticut's answer to Tamika Catchings, like Geno got annoyed he couldn't have Catch, so he had someone whip up a carbon copy for him. Kelly Faris also showed out in this game, though it seemed like she was taking advantage of being considered a weak link by our quote-unquote perimeter defense.
You know how bad we were? Briana Brown actually got into the game. And she wasn't completely awful. She looked a little lost, but that's to be expected when you don't play. Her first shot, she canned a sweet corner three. I'd love to hear from Coach Barnes Arico what the story is there. Zakkiyah Shahid-Martin also got into the game, though she didn't get as much of an opportunity. Keylantra Langley continues to look like a lost freshman, without the other two freshmen's excuse of not getting playing time. And if I ever catch someone's head hanging during play, I'm going to rush the court and shake some sense into them. I'm sorry, but no matter how thoroughly you are being embarrassed, hold your head high and don't act like you're ashamed to wear your jersey. Amanda Burakoski's confidence is shot (and this is coming from a very reliable witness). Why she's not shooting, I will never know. As her three to beat the shot clock buzzer proved, good things happen when she shoots. She's a scrapper, and she's a shooter, and she has to be both and more to be a player for us. She can't let herself turn into Kelly McManmon, only shooting when the defender is in the next ZIP code. Jennifer Blanding was not well-used in this game- she had very few opportunities to counter Dolson, and she was given few chances to attack the basket. Now, granted, this might be because Jennifer has a terrible habit of missing shots that I could probably make. But she's actually playing with heart and soul out there, and the way this team's gone down the tubes, that kind of effort needs to be rewarded. I will never fault Eugeneia McPherson's effort, though, because she might hurt me if I did. I will fault her three-point shooting, her tendency to believe that officials will reward you for going to the basket no matter how ill-advised the shot is, and her sudden inability to hit a damn free throw. But I will never fault her defense, her leadership ability, or her hustle.
Seriously, though, has anyone seen Shenneika Smith's head? Wherever it is, it's not on her shoulders and it's not in the game. She's passing up shots she should be taking for NBA-style glorified lay-ups that she shouldn't be taking, because the one that goes in looks beautiful on the highlight reel, but the ten that don't are disastrous for her team. Her defense is lacking, too. This all infuriates me because I believe Shenneika has the skills and the skill set for the WNBA, and if she's not careful she's going to blow it. I've already watched one potential prospect shoot herself in the foot this way (Monique McLean, two years ago, who reminded me so much of Shameka Christon it wasn't funny) and I can't deal with it again. I'm also going to need for Nadirah McKenith to stop worrying about whether she's broken her opponent's ankles with a crossover and start worrying about where her teammates are and where her assignment is on the defensive end of the floor. Don't get me wrong, she has a beautiful crossover that drew gasps from the crowd a few times, but she was so much more than that last year. Someone, and God help me, it might have to be me, needs to get her some footage of Jennifer Azzi or Ticha Penicheiro. I'm about done trying to figure out what Sky Lindsay's deal is. Whether she's been out-talented by the younger players, whether she's just counting the days until she graduates, whether there's something else going on in her life, I don't know, because I'm not Sky Lindsay. (I'd have bigger boots and be a better dancer if I were.) I have no idea what happened to Coco Hart, either, other than getting out-sized. While she progressed early in the season, she's back to being the epic fail we all know and... know. She was badly out of position on a lot of plays. It was very frustrating.
I wasn't thrilled with the officiating. Maya Moore, you are not allowed to hit Da'Shena Stevens in the windpipe. But I can't really blame that.
I just don't know what's going on with this team. I'm trying to figure it out, and I'm trying to ignore it, and I'm trying not to scream at the top of my lungs.