Just the Facts, Ma'am: A strong second half gave the Long Island Blackbirds an 81-72 win over the visiting Charlotte 49ers. Kiara Evans led all scorers with 23 points, one of four Long Island players in double figures. Epiphany Woodson led Charlotte with 21.
For squeaky brasses, the frustration of coaches, pizza, and a lot of free throws, join your intrepid and half-everything blogger after the jump.
Good afternoon, everyone! We're coming to you on the Internet version of tape delay from the Wellness, Recreation, and Athletic Center on the campus of Long Island University in beautiful and somewhat congested Downtown Brooklyn, bringing you the LIU Turkey Classic.
I've mentioned this before, but LIU may have my favorite small arena in the New York area, with Hofstra's as my favorite medium and Carnesecca as my medium-large favorite. They keep it up well, though they still haven't taken off the old three-point line. It's a bargain for the price, it really is. (This doesn't mean increase the price, LIU.) It has enough amenities to be comfortable and enough smaller touches to still be intimate. They've upgraded the sound system from the last time I was here; now they use an iPod touch to provide the music. They're still working on the band, though.
I like LIU's new warmup jackets. The uniforms are sharp.
There are a few Charlotte fans behind their bench, and a few Florida people arrived early. I haven't seen anyone in La Salle gear yet, but that doesn't prove anything. I've seen more of La Salle than I ever wanted to, and I haven't been impressed much yet.
At halftime, Charlotte leads LIU 31-28. I have so far been impressed with Epiphany Woodson's stepback jumper, Ny Hammonds's on-ball defense, and Ashley Palmer's willingness to go towards the hole. I have so far not been impressed with the LIU band, Kiara Evans's court vision, and the referees' tendency to call everything short of assault and battery a travel or a no-call.
Make the band stop. Please. Make them stop. It's especially bad when you recognize a tune that St. John's usually butchers... and they're doing worse things to it.
Charlotte is a big, tenacious team. That'll serve them well in the Atlantic 10. They'll need that. Ny Hammonds seems to have only one gear- go go go go go. She's one of the fiercest on-ball defenders I've seen in my life, and she never quits. Sometimes she doesn't quit even when she should. I was surprised she didn't foul out of the game, but that's because my Sharpie went a little crazy with the fouls. Paige McCallum brought a lot of hustle and offense off the bench. I think Katie Meador fancied herself a shooter, and it didn't work out so well.
I think I might be a little in love with Epiphany Woodson's step-back jumper. Gods, that thing is gorgeous. Textbook. That's someone I want to keep an eye on when Charlotte goes into the A-10 season. I also want to see if Jennifer Hailey is just a second-half player, or if that second half was the aberration, or if the first half was the aberration. I like her size and her touch around the basket. They need to go to her more. I'd also want Amanda Dowe to be more aggressive. At 6-4, she should have been having her way with LIU. Ayanna Holmes had one wicked block, but was otherwise not a factor that I can remember. Jai Forney came on late. There's something I like about her, but I can't put my finger on it.
If Cara Consuegra spends less time kvetching to the refs and more time working on close-to-the-basket shooting, this team might get somewhere. They had a lot of chances, especially when they cut the lead late in the game.
Krystal Wells may have saved the game for LIU. Her threes off the bench came at opportune times, and she made a diving save near the end of the game to maintain possession and keep Charlotte from having a shot to make it a two-possession game. She's tenacious, and she hustles. I like her. They got more than I was expecting from their tank in the middle, Tamika Guz. She's lost a little weight since the last time I saw LIU play, but she's still a load in the middle. I'd like to see her be more aggressive, but that might involve more speed, higher vertical, and better footwork than she's capable of. We got brief appearances by Cleandra Roberts and Letava Whippy, as Gail Striegler worked her freshmen into the rotation.
I really like Ebony Davis's ability to rebound. I don't like her hands of stone and her walking tendencies, though. I'd like to see her fine-tune her shot. She'tiarra Pledger did not impress me, though she made a lot of big plays at the end of the game. Marika Sprow, despite starting, was mostly used to allow Kiara Evans and Krystal Wells to switch between the guard spots. Ashley Palmer looks like she's put on a little weight and gotten this crazy idea that she can shoot from the outside again. But somehow, she just kept getting the job done, getting to the basket and scoring with that high-arcing shot that always looks like it's going to fall short. Evans started off slow, and her overall shooting wasn't great, but in the second half she got a better idea of the defenses that were being played against her and was able to get off better passes instead of throwing it directly to opposing players and causing her coach to scream "do something different!" on the next possession.
That second half was something else. Both teams kept making big plays to stay in the game, with steals and rebounds galore. I wouldn't say it was like a tournament game, but it was the next best thing. LIU knew this would be a resume win for this year, while Charlotte couldn't afford a bad loss with a down A-10 this year.
I really don't know what to say about the officiating. I'm fairly certain piggyback rides are not a permissible part of the game. They got whistle-happy with travels in the first half, then a bit tighter with fouls, then they swallowed just about everything. I understand human imperfection. I understand that refs aren't perfect. All I ask for is something that vaguely resembles consistency so I know what to expect and so no one gets hurt.
After the game, LIU did what is my favorite tradition of theirs: they went up into the stands and greeted whoever happened to be there. For the most part, it was family and friends, but they'll acknowledge whoever speaks to them. I remember being thanked for coming out there once. To me, that's part of the essence of the game, and one of the most striking differences between the women's game and the men's game.