Just the Facts, Ma'am: 26 points, seven steals, and seven rebounds from Nadirah McKenith carried the St. John's Red Storm to a 66-45 win over the La Salle Explorers. Alexis Scott had 17 off the bench for La Salle.
For unhinged jaws, squeaky brass, floor burns, and pressure, join your intrepid and amazed blogger after the jump.
The problem with a performance as incandescent as Nadirah McKenith's is that it makes the rest of the Game Notes of Doom even harder to write. How am I supposed to remember the acts of minor bench players when I've got a pass in my head that would make Ticha Penicheiro weep for its beauty?
Jeff Williams worked in a lot of his players, especially late in the game after the Red Storm extended the lead. We had brief cameos from a couple of seniors, Nikki Ortiz and Michele McCaughern. Nadia Duncan was first off the bench, but she became a non-factor. Indigo Dickens brought size, and a couple of nice picks, but not much else. Ruvanna Campbell is a prototypical mid-major post- tall, fast, and a good shot-blocker, but can't hold on to the ball and can't shoot. She's just a freshman, though. There might be potential there. Alexis Scott did a nice job of getting to the line, and she was really the only offense La Salle could find, especially in the second half. Advice in advance, A-10 fans- she's very easily disconcerted at the line. We nailed her twice.
Jess Koci rebounded well in the first half, and started establishing herself in the paint in the second, but by then there was no force on this earth that could save the Explorers. Brittany Wilson committed stupid fouls from behind. No, Miss Wilson, you cannot have a piggyback ride from our players. Omaah Tayong brought a decent defensive presence, and I like her hustle. I really can't remember a damn thing Jordan Mosley did, and Jada Payne, who came in as La Salle's leading scorer, didn't impress me either.
Jennifer Blanding was demoted to the bench, and after the debacle that was her last game, I can't say I'm surprised. She was better on the defensive end, and the one shot she took was a nice hit, but if you're the tallest player on the team, you should be getting at least one rebound, not being the one player on the team who played without getting a rebound. SHAME, Jennifer. SHAME. Shenneika Smith also didn't start, though that appeared to be disciplinary- she didn't look injured, and she did play. She got hot in the second half when she was able to get into the lane, and demonstrated a little hook shot that I hope she doesn't think she can use against real competition yet. Zakiyyah Shahid-Martin showed hustle going for loose balls, and she and her classmates have good chemistry. Briana Brown, you cannot shoot three-pointers. If you're going to keep trying, do it in practice, not in games. It's embarrassing when they fall shorter than the shooting contest's latest sucker. Keylantra Langley led the team in floor burns, going after loose balls and rebounds. She looks like she's growing into her role and finding herself. I like.
Mary Nwachukwu, get it together. She had a better game on the boards than I realized, but she still needs to be going hard on defense. I don't mind so much if she wants to shoot the midrange jumper at this point- we need someone who can extend the defense slightly, and if we need to have that someone be a four, fine. On the other hand, Kim Barnes Arico is not Don Nelson and Mary is not a point forward- why, in the nine classical circles of Dante's Inferno, is she bringing the ball up with a guard next to her? Tesia Harris looked more inclined to shoot than she was the last game, but she still looks a little rusty. There's enough there that I think she'll be fine if she gets more used to the system. Eugeneia McPherson, if I have said this once, I have said this sixteen times: you are not Angel McCoughtry, you are not Lindsay Whalen, you are not getting those calls when you drive wildly into the lane and throw the ball in the general direction of the backboard. Go for the shot, not the foul, and stop bitching about not getting the foul. She couldn't hit the broad side of a barn in the first half, and wasn't much better in the second- at least she hit some shots eventually. I'd like to see her get back on defense the way she was as a freshman, with less focus on throwing up prayers. I know we need her to step up her offensive game with the graduation of two starters and Da'Shena's injury, but that's not necessarily her strength. Amber Thompson continues to impress me more in early going than any Red Storm player has in her freshman year since my very favorite, Joy McCorvey. I love her nose for the ball, I love her rebounding, I love the way she learns, I love the way she gets into seams in the paint, I love that she can finish underneath.
And then there was Nadirah McKenith- or, in message board parlance, Nadirah Effing McKenith. I think my jaw is still unhinged from the show she put on. Through a fair stretch of the game, she was single-handedly outscoring La Salle- and this coming from a distributing point! She got into a zone where everything she touched turned to gold, whether it was lay-ups, jumpers, passes, crossovers, rebounds, or steals. She got the crowd, such as it was, going, and she didn't stop. If her teammates had hit the easy shots she gave them, she would have threatened a quadruple-double- not gotten it, but made it look close.
I'm not sure which one was the play of the game. It might have been the Ticha-esque no-look pass to Jennifer Blanding for the lay-up. Or it might have been the reverse with the and-1. And that's just Nadirah. Briana's imitations of Darrelle Revis were also pretty cool. (She's from Norwalk, and I think Norwalk is west of New Haven, so I think it's okay to make a Jets comparison there, not a New England one.)
How many times will you ever see double-dribble called twice in a game? This crew decided to go for it. I'd like to see fewer procedural calls and more contact calls.
The brass section in the band needs work. They're off their game.
The guy in the shooting contest needed to back off sooner. When he got right up on the line, he was missing long. When he moved back, bam, free burritos.
I think I saw the previous owner of my jersey in the stands. If that was her, she can have it back at any time.
We still miss Da'Shena, I think. But the newcomers made progress, and progress is good. The Hofstra game will be interesting, and I may even have notes from it!