Good afternoon! This time we're coming to you from the Hynes Athletic Center for the finale of Iona's tip-off tournament. Our first game features the Michigan Wolverines and the Arizona Wildcats.
It's good to have friends. Thanks for the assist, Joy.
Iona switched up which side of the court had the benches- the chairbacks are now across from the benches, which is mildly inconvenient. One of these years I'll remember to bring a seat cushion to bleacher seating. But they've done the place up a bit; the paint job is so fresh that I can still smell it, and it still has the new paint gleam.
Arizona seems to be focusing on finer control- footwork, low dribbling, ball control. Michigan's drill is pretty standard.
We're not the only ones here who came via the St. John's connection. There's folks in red who aren't with Arizona.
The Arizona crowd took time to get involved, but they did. I think they felt they were challenged. Well, bring it. I ain't shutting up any time soon.
Halftime, it's 32-26 Michigan, and so far Arizona's defense has kept them in the game. They've pressured out-of-bounds plays very well, inducing a five-second call early in the game. Michigan's offense was solid early, but it seems to have broken down more as the half progressed. Arizona shut down a lot of the ball movement, but on the other end of the floor, they have serious issues with their shooting.
So far no really awkward moments. I expect them, though. I have an Iona shirt under a Michigan shirt under a St. John's scarf, someone's going to question my loyalties to someone eventually.
I'd be more involved in the game on the offensive end if I knew the Michigan chants. The folks around us don't seem to be inclined to that kind of noise, though, so I'm still kind of lost. Ah, well, more voice for the Iona game. Though not as much as I was expecting... that game got a little too exciting for comfort. Both teams still have a long way to go.
Michigan relied heavily on their starters in this one, which is a very KBA thing to do, but not necessarily one that I would do in the second game of a back-to-back. They got some key baskets from Paige Rakers (which is pronounced Rockers and is thus an extremely awesome surname). I think they were expecting better shooting from Madison Ristovski, judging from the times when they were using her. Kendra Seto got some brief minutes in relief of the posts, but nothing to write home about.
All things considered, Shannon Smith and Eugeneia McPherson would probably hit it off like a house on fire, at least in terms of playing style. Smith is somewhat more of a distributor when things are going smoothly, but as soon as there was the slightest hint of pressure, she was driving the lane and putting up highly questionable shots in the faint hope of securing a whistle, then committing stupid fouls when a bad decision led to Arizona having the ball. Her three-point stroke was pretty enough that I joked that perhaps she should be wearing 30, though perhaps making a reference to that school in Ohio was a bad plan. I honestly don't know if I would put that much faith in her decision-making ability. Val Driscoll provided a solid body in the middle, and I think I would have liked to have seen her get more touches. Siera Thompson was hot and cold on offense, but she came up with a couple of big shots late in the game. I was expecting a little more from Nicole Elmblad. Consistency isn't the word I'm looking for, but she had one or two easy finishes that should have gone down. She scrambled well for rebounds, as well. Cyesha Goree came up with the board and the sweet soft shot to send the game into overtime. She was solid throughout the game, though I wasn't happy with most of her fouls- they seemed either to be bad calls or bad decisions, no real in between.
I'm not sure about Michigan's composure under pressure. They didn't cope well with Arizona's defense, and when the going got tough in the second half, they lost a lot of the crisp ball movement that staked them to the early lead. There's a difference between not being able to make the pass and not looking to make the pass. They made stronger defensive stands in the OT, and that was the key difference, not an improvement on offense.
Arizona got such good minutes off the bench out of Breanna Workman that I thought she was the starter, which shows how much I know about Arizona women's basketball. She was really good defensively. Dejza James put in hard work on the offensive boards- I think most of her baskets came off offensive rebounds. She was very impressive for a freshman. Keyahndra Cannon scored her two buckets back to back and also demonstrated a perfect foul to stop the break on a Michigan fast break. It might be a small thing to notice, but too many players either back off the break or don't foul hard enough to stop the basket. She fouled hard and clean, making sure that there was no way the shot was getting off.
I really thought Kama Griffits was going to scrape the pipes on the ceiling with the insanely high arc of her shot. She's got a rainmaker shot, and it was pouring buckets in the first half. That shot was virtually unblockable (not that Michigan seemed to be making an effort to block it). LaBrittney Jones showed promise, but Butts had her on a short leash, relying more on Workman. Ashley Merrill didn't do anything memorable. Carissa Crutchfield relied a bit too much on a senior's flair for the dramatic when trying to get a call, but was a solid running mate for Candice Warthen. Is it weird to say that Warthen looks like a Candice? Because I'm starting to think that there's a certain essential Cand*ceness that Cand*ces share; Parker has it, Dupree has it, Warthen has it. Yes, I know I'm strange, moving along to actual analysis right now. Warthen ran amok against the Michigan defense. She's very quick, and she made good decisions with the ball. I was very impressed with her.
Actually, I was very impressed with Arizona, period. I was not expecting much from them, given the program's ill-fortune after Polk, but they were very pesky on defense. What intrigued me most was that the drills they were working on before the game were the keys to keeping the game as competitive as it was. I mean, yes, working on skills is supposed to make those skills useful in game action, but it's rare to see it in such a clear and present fashion. I also thought Butts made good adjustments throughout the game, both offensively and defensively. I think they can definitely annoy some of those top teams in the Pac-12 and snag an unexpected win or two over teams expected to finish higher.
I'm pretty sure one of the officials- the not completely bald gentleman- was originally from the state of Arizona. All the bad calls against Michigan seemed to be coming from his whistle. The loose ball calls all seemed to be coming against Michigan. Every out of bounds was going to Arizona. We were not amused.
I married a man who goes to the effort of looking up the words to "Hail to the Victors" so that he can sing the fight song for a team that is, at best, our fourth priority. That is love and basketball.
Seriously, the Arizona crowd got into it once they got into it. They practically had choreography. There were a couple of folks in fraternity gear; I wonder if they had experience with step teams.
It was a thriller, and I think both teams took a lot away from it. I took away a mild headache, but the day was only starting...