As the ticket booth clerk was so eager to remind me, this is a double-header, which means the championship game is up next, featuring the Cowgirls of McNeese State and the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. I'm going to be up-front about this- until I realized that Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett had graduated, I was actually more intrigued by McNeese than Georgia Tech. These are the perils of playing a full Division I fantasy league.
I'm actually hoping for a decent turnout- the Georgia Tech men are also in town, and there's a large Georgia Tech alumni contingent in the city for at least that game, as we ran into them at the Buffalo Wild Wings across from the Barclays Center yesterday.
Georgia Tech is wearing very yellow sneakers. They're a bit more florescent than the usual Georgia Tech gold, though. Their gear is all numbered, which will make it easy to identify them in the pregame. McNeese is working on ballhandling drills in a circle. Those are some strange stretches that Georgia Tech is doing.
Timing, Georgia Tech, you no haz it. Arena security was escorting a blind guy along the baseline, right when the Yellow Jackets were coming out. There are better ways of establishing yourself as the bad guy than running over a blind guy. They successfully dodged collisions, much to everyone's relief.
We've been seeing more of the Bonita Spence memorial patches, which I noticed yesterday but forgot to mention. Full name on the left breast of the uniform- yes, this is one of those times when using the initials is a bad idea. (Referees don't need to be labeled BS.)
At halftime, Georgia Tech is up 40-31 on McNeese State. McNeese has shown a lot of fight, but Georgia Tech has been too big and too fast for them most of the time. Sydney Wallace has 11 to lead the Yellow Jackets. Cecelia Okoye has eight for the Cowgirls. So far, I'm most intrigued by Shayla Bivens. Well-proportioned, athletic size with touch doesn't come along every day.
I don't know why Ty Marshall wasn't starting, but I'm presuming it was some sort of disciplinary action, since she didn't seem to be injured. She seemed to come up with all the big shots for the Yellow Jackets. Dawnn Maye was that player who missed the memo on points of emphasis, kept trying to put her hands on the opponent, and got called for the foul for it. Every team has one. Nariah Taylor was a big presence in the middle, a nice security blanket for when the guards weren't sure what to do with the shot clock running down, and a physical presence on the boards. Donnaizha Fountain had family at the game, or at least people who she was hugging during the LIU-Southern Utah game, and she came up with a big rebound in the second half.
Roddreka Rogers got her points on the inside, but I was more impressed with her movement off the ball, setting picks and screens for her teammates. I don't know if she's the regular starter, or who was starting instead of Marshall, but she's the kind of player you like to have on your team even when she's not putting up numbers. I'd have liked to have seen Shayla Bivens get more touches to see whether all the things she showed were things that she could do consistently, or whether they were all fullukes. I don't think the blocks were flukes, though. One of them was so spectacular that you could probably have heard it at the Barclays Center, five blocks down Flatbush Avenue. Sydney Wallace seemed to get into her own head a lot, taking stupid shots that MaChelle Joseph did not approve of. She was stronger defensively in the second half, with a sweet steal leading to a lay-up for her only second-half points. Aaliyah Whiteside was quiet- I think Marshall took the starter's minutes at her position. Kaela Davis has the moves, and the shot, and the build, but I don't know if she has the attitude to succeed. She didn't seem to take well to being pulled early in the second half, and it didn't look like she wanted to listen to her coaches. That all being said, she put the game away for the Yellow Jackets with back to back buckets late in th second half, an athletic two in the lane and a sweet three from the right side. If she can get her head together, she'll be a legitimate player- but I need to be sure that she can get her head together.
Victoria Rachal was a fearless gunner, going to the lane no matter how big her opponents were (I think hers was the shot that Bivens so thoroughly swatted). She was cold in the first half, but caught fire in the second. Amber Donnes made some good defensive plays. Arianna James rebounded well.
Jayln Johnson impressed me a lot. In a sense, she reminded me of Leilani Mitchell, only on college scale- very small, very fast, runs a good offense, hits the three, and gives it all she's got on defense, but is a defensive liability because of her size. Allison Baggett has a very sweet shot, but hasn't learned how to defend without getting in foul trouble, and doesn't seem to know how to defend with four fouls. She's only a sophomore, and I think she'll learn. Cecelia Okoye rebounded powerfully, and her go-to move on the left wing fooled Georgia Tech more than once (which made it pretty funny during the second double-header, when Texas Tech tried to run the same play and botched it). She's not the most reliable shooter, but rebounding like that, she doesn't necessarily have to be. Alaina Verdin did a lot of small things, but none of the big things.. NeTanya Jones cleaned up under the basket, slipping behind the Yellow Jacket defense early and often.
I was very impressed with the Cowgirls. They looked to have mastered the element of surprise, and they know how to adapt. The threes weren't falling early when they were taking a lot of them, so the plays started to go to Okoye and Jones on the inside. Brooks Donald-Williams struck the right notes on the sideline, and I do like a coach who keeps her arguing with refs to a minimum.
Officials missed a couple of bad trips, which is impressive given the bright yellow sneakers on Georgia Tech, but I don't think they affected the game.
That was a much better game than I was expecting it to be, and I think McNeese has served notice to the Southland that they would very much like to be taken seriously.