Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Red Storm led wire to wire in their 63-54 win over the Mountaineers of West Virginia. Nadirah McKenith filled the stat sheet, leading all players with 26 points and adding six rebounds, five assists, and five steals. Ayana Dunning led West Virginia with 21 points and 16 rebounds, with the 14 second half points of Christal Caldwell the only other double-digit output for the Mountaineers.
For heart, soul, Valentines, the crazy things we do for love, scheduling conflicts, and really bad choices of phrase, join your intrepid and drained blogger after the jump.
It's hard to describe a game that St. John's never trailed as having two fatal flaws for the Red Storm. But they were there, and they were glaring, and if Mike Carey had pulled this rabbit out of his hat, I would be ranting about them like a talk radio caller.
Got in late, so I missed the anthem. In fact, I arrived just in time to see the video tribute to Kim Barnes Arico's 169th win, including pics of the sign my husband made. They also had replicas of the sign available for fans (which we suspected, since they asked us for the master file). Coach signed one for us, which is going to take pride of place in the apartment. Amazing. I am full of glee and squee.
The pink shirts are moderately acceptable. They are more team-oriented than usual, which is a relief. I still didn't wear it, but that's because if you want me to take off my Red Storm jersey at a St. John's game, you're going to go explain to Joy McCorvey why you asked me to take off her jersey. There is one potential exception.
Brooke Hampton is a shooter. We left her open too many times for my comfort- though it helps that West Virginia sets good screens. Fortunately, her shot was off. Akilah Bethel got on the boards, but was high risk/high reward with foul trouble. Averee Fields needed to do a little less talking and a little more everything else. Props for a pretty head fake in the first half, though. Froze her defender solid. Taylor Palmer also needed to concentrate more on her game than on her mouth.
Ayana Dunning was the only reason West Virginia had a chance in this game, and the only reason that that chance went through their hands. She was hitting everything she looked at, no matter where it was on the floor, and pulling down every rebound, and blocking shots, and using that considerable posterior to move defenders and would-be seekers of position out of her way. But that was pretty much all West Virginia had to offer. Christal Caldwell scored all her points in the second half, but never felt like she was a major factor. Asya Bussie got busy with the elbows and the hips, but that was the most impact she had on the game. Ditto for Linda Stepney, who was involved in the play that got Mary Nwachukwu's face broken. Take that ish outta here. I can't remember anything of note that Jess Harlee did. To be fair to the other Mountaineers, in a backhanded way, Ayana Dunning was so dominant that it's hard to pick out anything that wasn't done by #33.
Tesia Harris went in briefly, but she did not match up well with West Virginia at all- a slim guard whose most consistent strength is offensive rebounding will get mashed by the Mountaineer posts. Briana Brown got more minutes than usual because of the injury to Nadirah McKenith, and she took advantage of them with a couple of quick hits and great on-ball defense. She's got to hit her free throws, though. Keylantra Langley was better on defense than on offense- she serves as a point guard, but she's not a point guard. She's much more Ashley Battle than she is Essence Carson. Amber Thompson got a lot of extra time when Mary Nwachukwu's face got rearranged, and when she's a sophomore she'll hit the shots that rim out or the shots that she backed down from taking tonight. She brought some of the presence in the middle that we needed to back down some of the crap that West Virginia was dishing out.
Eugeneia McPherson, I can't really bring myself to be as enraged at your timidity in shooting and your all-around invisible game (save the deflection on West Virginia's last shot). If it had been a closer game, I would probably go back in time and whack her over the head with my clipboard. Mary Nwachukwu did what we needed her to do up until the point where she got hit in the face, came away holding parts of it in place, and was summarily escorted off the floor and never seen again. Feel better, Mary. We miss you and we need you. Shenneika Smith, while occasionally guilty of questionable shot selection, brought the rebounding and defense with those go-go gadget arms- she had one that looked straight out of the NBA. She's a matchup nightmare in college- bet more than one BEast coach will be glad to see her graduate next year. Da'Shena Stevens couldn't get the scoring opportunities she's been getting lately- this is not a good matchup for her, even though she plays well against bigger posts. I think she got tired of getting hit by Asya Bussie's... um, bustle. But when she gets knocked down, she gets right back up and gets back into position. She makes things happen.
And once more, there was Nadirah McKenith, who is apparently not one of the best eight point guards in the country, but is the one I would take if I needed a point guard who could carry my team in any category on either side of the floor, including the non-statistical. If I want a scorer, a distributor, a thief, a spearhead to my defense, a playmaker, a leader, a rebounder, a competitor, I will take her over all of the decorated and hyped guards you can name today. She knew how important this game was and she played like it.
Free throw shooting. Dear sweet heaven. I don't even. 18-34 is unacceptable. Subtract the more than acceptable 11-13 from Nadirah, and you get 7-21, which is somewhere between abysmal and horrific. Neither Eugeneia nor Briana hit a free throw in seven combined attempts. This made the game more interesting than it needed to be.
Play of the game- Tesia Harris misses the shot. Two West Virginia players go for the rebound. Nadirah McKenith weaves her way through their feet, comes up with the rebound, snags it, dishes it to Da'Shena Stevens.
It is not recommended to headbutt your opponents, West Virginia, even if it's an accident. Overall, this game was called loosely. In the first half there were a lot of calls that came up with the right result but for the wrong reason- an out of bounds signaled as a travel, a trip called as a block. Even that pretense of competence fell apart in the second half. We're lucky no one got coldcocked at center court this time 'round.
While this was PinkZone, it was also tied to the fund for Clare Droesch, who spent some time on the St. John's staff. I agree with the Jumbotron people that "Friends of Clare Droesch Crush Clare's Cancer Fund" is way too long, but I don't think a lot of people wanted to donate to the "Crush Clare Fund". (That may not be the exact shortening, but it definitely included the phrase "Crush Clare".)
Nothing's scarier than an opponent going on a big run and your point guard clutching her knee. Glory and blessed be, it was just a high cramp. She was in and out and working the bike, but she came back.
Zakiyyah Shahid-Martin, I know you're easily amused, and heaven knows my husband's an attention-getter. (Leos.) And if I've misinterpreted you, I humbly apologize. But if I see you stop, stare, smirk, poke Jennifer Blanding, and point up at him with a smirk, I'm going to assume you're making fun of him. And if I were an expressive, emotional player whose celebratory reactions on the bench are always demonstrative, I might reconsider that.
Major props to the sorority sister in the far student section. I think she, her streamer, and her foam finger induced three missed free throws from West Virginia in the second half. She left early, so I couldn't salute her. Instead, I salute her on the Internet, where tens, maybe hundreds, of strangers, will know of her work. Credit to the RedZone guys in the near student section, too- they weren't in RedZone gear, but the sped-up "DE-FENSE" chant is almost exclusive to RedZone. As soon as I caught the tempo, I knew.
About a thousand words ago, I said that there was only one way I would take off my beloved #25 jersey for the sake of PinkZone... and that's if I get my fannish little hands on the pink #25 jersey used in the Dress and Dribble contest at halftime. I am indifferent as to the fate of Coco Hart's #30. But I have blogged hundreds, if not a thousand or so, words as to why Joy McCorvey is my most favorite Johnnie, and I would pay for that pink jersey. Any BHA organization short of Susan G. Komen. I'd write out the check in a second.
Tonight's game, combined with the later loss by DePaul, clinched a double bye in the Big East Tournament. Translated to those outside Big East country, that means at least fourth in the conference. Third or even second isn't out of the picture.
I'm going to miss Mike Carey, in a way. I mean, I don't necessarily like his style, but he's brilliant and well-rounded as a coach, and goes under-appreciated in the Big East. I don't know if West Virginia can provide the institutional support he'll need in the Big XII've-lost-count.
This is so surreal. In a good way. I'm a little relieved, to be honest. My team needs a break, my coach needs a break, and I need a break. Five games, five venues, four conferences, nine days- you're probably sick of me.