Just the Facts, Ma'am: Nadirah McKenith's drive and hoop in the lane with nine seconds left turned out to be the game-winner for St. John's, allowing the Red Storm to hang on to a 51-48 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rutgers had a chance to tie the game on their last possession, but a lane violation by April Sykes nullified Erica Wheeler's tying free throw. Monique Oliver of Rutgers led all players with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Amanda Burakoski led St. John's off the bench with a career high 16 points.
For exhilaration, exhaustion, minor miracles, free t-shirts, loud fans, yipping, and bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, join your intrepid and belated blogger after the jump.
Well, this is a pretty bad sign. Tip is imminent and ain't nobody here, and there's no scorecards. I have a really bad feeling about this, especially as I see a chorus line up for the anthem.
No scorecards. I am not a happy blogger. Well, I wouldn't be a happy blogger if it weren't for this lovely 25-15 lead we've got at the half. Amanda Burakoski is going nuts out there- she's got three threes and a wicked block that helped force a shot clock violation. The Rutgers defense is giving us trouble, especially in the neutral zone (if you don't mind me borrowing a hockey term), but our man-to-man is making their lives hell. I've seen more people step on the endline this game than ever before in my life. Rutgers is committing a lot of offensive fouls. Stupid, preventable things. If Stringer adapts her strategy at the half and goes to the big girls Lee and Oliver more, we might have trouble, since we don't have a lot of solutions for them.
If there is any pause in these game notes, it's because I died of the cute when Debbie Antonelli brought Trevor Arico down to the "booth" and stuck a headset on him. That kid's got a knack for charming people. (And a shooting knack. An older gentleman who I presume is a proud relative was passing around an article about the national shooting competition he's in.) Oh, this is just too cute. I am so jealous of him right now, you have no idea.
I missed it because I was working on the first-half recap, but apparently one of the kids in the biddy game hit a three from beyond the men's line. Given how awful the bits of the game I saw were, I'm duly impressed.
Oh my gods, that was exhausting and exhilarating and cathartic and necessary and heartbreaking and heart-stopping and I'm sure the Rutgers fans are furious but I don't care because we needed that and we finally stepped up and took what we needed after almost giving it away and the state of my writing postgame as compared to halftime might be a hint as to the nature of the second half of the game.
Choral anthem. Weak start, strong middle, completely ruined in the end. Surprisingly, it was an allegory for the road team, not the home team.
It would appear that Daisha Simmons is the bench for Rutgers until they get Nikki Speed back. Or something. She played minutes at a lot of different positions. She got in on a lot of loose balls. Got slightly screwed by the refs, too; I really thought her fourth was Wheeler's third.
Monique Oliver started to annoy me in the second half, but in that "we are being overpowered by an opponent I respect" sense, not that "get this woman out of my arena because she's being unsportsmanlike" sense. She's a big girl who isn't afraid of it, and I respect that. She could have been more careful with her footwork, but that's a small nitpick for a player who already had a big game. I was less impressed with Chelsey Lee, who was willing to throw her body around, but wasn't as effective in actually doing anything with it. She looks like she's put on some weight since the last time I saw Rutgers, and it's not doing her any favors. Erica Wheeler went off in the second half. We sort of kept losing her while we were trying to put a lid on the bigs in the middle. I like that she's not afraid to go after loose balls and get down on the floor. Effort will always earn kudos from me. Khadijah Rushdan used her size advantage on some of our guards to really work the boards. I thought we did a great job of stopping up her offense. April Sykes... she's going to be the goat of this game, and I can't say she didn't completely earn it with her questionable shot selection and lousy footwork. She stepped out of bounds quite a few times, and of course there was the last play. I'll be honest, I didn't see the last play because I was too busy putting up a couple of prayers, so I have no opinion on whether the lane violation was a legitimate call or not. But I was not very impressed with her today. She didn't look all there.
They killed us on defense, plain and simple. I'll give them all the credit in the world for that. Their hands were everywhere, and all of them were willing to hit the floor for the ball.
Jennifer Blanding came in and committed a three-second violation. That was really her only contribution to the game. Eugeneia McPherson brought a good bit of her defense, though her offense was still missing in action. The story of the game, though, was Amanda Burakoski. Buzz went off. She was hitting her threes, she was going to the hole, she was hitting the boards (I have no idea how she didn't get credited with any rebounds), she was making defensive plays. That block in the first half was awesome. She looks like she's getting her confidence back, and if that's the case, the Big East better watch out.
Shenneika Smith's shot is still AWOL- she kept leaving what would normally be easy shots short, and I don't know whether it has to do with injuries or not wanting to go up against the bigs for Rutgers. Her ballhandling was not great, either; she kept trying to get fancy, which is a really bad idea against a team like Rutgers. She was cold-blooded at the line, though, and with the way we shoot free throws, and as close as this game was, we needed that. Nadirah McKenith had the same problem with fancy ballhandling, but she stayed tough on defense, and she did what I've been praying for her to do since we played Florida State: when it came down to the last, game-winning shot, she took it instead of passing off. It might be a small thing, but to me, it suggests a huge leap forward in her development as a leader and a point guard. Sky Lindsay was a non-factor, but she didn't have to be a factor, because we had Buzz off the bench. Coco Hart took a beating in the paint, and she wasn't able to get a lot of shots off, but she made up for it with hard boxing out despite giving up a lot of size to the Rutgers posts. Da'Shena Stevens had a little more luck going inside, and she put in some work on the boards. Her and-1 play was huge, even if she missed the free throw (it turned into a four-point play of sorts- she got a lay-up off the offensive rebound).
I don't know if it was just that everyone was particularly clumsy that day or what, but there were a lot of feet on the sidelines. I don't know what's up with that. I would have appreciated a foul called when Gina got checked into the Rutgers bench, but I can't complain too much about the officiating- after all, a judgment call gave us a chance to ice the game. It got very physical in the later stages of the game as things got a little more desperate.
Special attention must be given to the Rutgers fans who made it out to the game. On the one hand, I appreciate their passion and support for their team. On the other hand, I think it's a bit tacky to sing your fight song and disconcert the shooter on the road, in someone else's arena. Support your team on the road, sure. I've done that in four different states. But be positive. Don't go into someone else's house and treat it like your own. You'll just anger the home fans.
If you were watching the game on television and you heard what sounded like a yippy little dog barking, that was probably me. I swear on my honor as a former Girl Scout, I had no idea I was so high-pitched. I used to be an alto...
After the game, we concluded that St. John himself gave us a little help. Only reason I can think of for all those little mistakes that gave us the game. I'm glad to see the effort back again, and we better bring it with us to Marquette. We need this stretch.