Finally! I get to cover my team!
I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll roll with Iona (when they're not playing us); I love their potential and their talent, and Damika's family would kick my butt otherwise. I'll roll with Seton Hall (when they're not playing us); Tony Bozzella's a good guy and the Pirates need a renewal. I'll roll with Michigan (when they're not playing us); Kim and Joy still remember us, and loyalty deserves loyalty. I'll roll with my New York teams (when they're not playing us) (and not Fordham this year); I'm a New Yorker, I love basketball, and I love seeing good basketball in my city. I'll roll with whoever at the drop of a hat... but in the cold, cold winter, I live and die with my Johnnies, the red and white of SJU.
So here I am on the Q46, the Union Turnpike bus, as it wheezes and whistles up Union, getting ready for the home opener against Iona. It's going to be tough. It's going to be heart-wrenching (I do like those Iona kids). It's going to be exciting. It'll be good to be home. Tickets are at will call, so we'll see how long the warm and fuzzies last.
Well, the ticket office managed to put our tickets in the wrong section of the ticket office, so that was a fun detangling, and one of these days they're going to annoy me enough to make me a Seton Hall booster. Of course, while we were at the will call window, we ran into Damika Martinez's family, along with an Iona fan who got excited when she recognized us and was heartbroken when she noticed our St. John's gear.
Excellent, powerful anthem.
The walk-ons are really tiny. Keylantra almost literally had them under her wing before the game. Aaliyah Lewis is also really tiny, but she's got immense vertical. At halftime it's 41-26 St. John's, mostly behind 14 points from Aliyyah Handford. It was tough sledding in the early going, but after Iona got out to something like an 11-4 lead, the Storm got the offense together. Rebounding is still an issue, which is to be expected somewhat when you have no height, but we need to get after the loose balls.
Dude with the iTunes, your mix is lousy, with horrible dynamics and questionable mixing. No. Just no. Can we just listen to the band instead? Turn off the Chipmunks setting next time, and don't try to play your music while the band is making music.
What happened to you, Iona? Not that I mind as a St. John's fan, but I mind as a fan who follows your team when they're not playing St. John's.
Christina Rubin couldn't find the basket with a map and compass. Her shot was all over the place, but mostly hard off the backboard. She might have been better off trying to use her height in the paint against the utter lack of height that St. John's ran out there. Spencer Gray started the second half in place of Damika Martinez, to better protect Martinez from getting in further foul trouble, and looked very freshman-y. Aurellia Cammock wasn't bad in the middle, and showed that she might be the post that Iona is going to so desperately need when Sabrina Jeridore graduates. Cassidee Ranger is back to taking her threes from the corner instead of trying to defend the post, and we got lucky that she wasn't hitting her shots. Aaliyah Robinson was unremarkable, though I think she helped stabilize her team a little bit.
The good news for Iona is that Joy Adams wasn't bringing the ball up like she did against Bowling Green, because that is a bad plan at this point in her career. The bad news for Iona is that, for reasons completely beyond my ken, Joy Adams took five threes on the night, hitting only one. That's not her game, as it stands right now, and she's not good enough at her strengths yet to start trying to add new dimensions to her game. Get her back into the lane and get her slashing to the basket or posting up down low, and make sure she's got that element of her game established before you start trying to get her to do something she's not entirely suited to yet. Aleesha Powell looked to have more strength and confidence in her jump shot- she had a very pretty floater in the lane as well. Damika Martinez was trying to do too much by herself, which is a habit she's got to break. She's by far the best scorer on her team, but that doesn't mean she has to go 1-on-2 or 1-on-3 on a bad break. Sabrina Jeridore had a great defensive game, blocking shots, getting boards, and boxing out, but she could not get a shot to drop. She had good looks on the inside, but she couldn't hit them for love nor money. Haley D'Angelo was decent on the open looks that she got, but the ball didn't seem to be in her hands enough as the point guard and floor general to try and get the team's head back together.
We got to see one of the walk-ons! Cynthia Barboa got a couple of minutes at the end of the game and showed a little bit of fire when she went for the strip on Jeridore. Our hearts broke when that free throw bounced all around the rim and out. Mallory Jones kept trying to bomb threes from Tina Thompson land, which was not a good plan for her. Her rebounding instincts were decent, though the execution could use some work. There's also a lot of... um... bouncing going on with her. I might have to give her the card to my corsetorium. Keylantra Langley was a surprise coming off the bench, in terms of who was benched and who was starting, though I think her back was bothering her- I think she was the one getting treatment on the bench for back issues. Sandra Udobi gave good minutes down low, but she needs to hit a few more of her chippies. I'm glad the brace is shrinking.
Aaliyah Lewis is very small. I've dubbed her Tiny Aaliyah for conversational use; while Aaliyah and Aliyyah are visually different names, they're homophonic. She has incredible vertical, though, and her vision was good tonight. And she's so adorable! Ashley Perez brought her shot, along with some drives in the lane and good defense. Briana Brown was her solid senior self, getting to the basket and hitting big threes. Amber Thompson's shot could be better- she's got to make the little ones inside- but she was really good, and played a solid defensive game. And then there was Aliyyah Handford, who showed all her moves tonight. I've never run out of room on a scorecard before. Not with the great Huskies that came through with UConn. Not when Delle Donne came to town. Not with Sugar Rodgers on the other side. But Aliyyah was on fire, slashing to the hoop and getting her buckets like it was her divine mission. It got to the point where she was using the shot pass to try to get the ball to her teammates (Amber, Ashley, you gotta hit those shots).
Officiating was nothing to write home about. Neither team was particularly fond of the zero-tolerance on hand-checks.
There's a new dude on the dance team, after a couple of dude-less years. New dude needs pom-poms! He looks so naked without pom-poms!
This was much better than I was expecting from St. John's, and much worse than I was expecting from Iona. I have to wonder if Bowling Green broke them instead of telling them that they could run with the best.