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Dukes reign over Storm

Just the Facts, Ma'am: James Madison withstood a strong second half showing by St. John's and came away with the 64-51 win. Kirby Burkholder led the Dukes with 18 points, while Toia Giggetts added 12 points and six rebounds, and Jazmon Gwathmey had 10 points and six blocks. Eugeneia McPherson led the Red Storm with 15 points off the bench. For frustration, buses, slush, soreness, nonsensical awards, swats, and potential friction, join your intrepid and jumpy blogger after the jump.

Rafael Suanes-US PRESSWIRE

We're at intermission now, with the second game, between James Madison and St. John's, ready to start in half an hour or so. James Madison is in their home whites, St. John's in road colors, which doesn't make any sense, since this is our arena. Someone needs to cue the James Madison fans which bench is which, though the migration does appear to have begun. I think the roads have cleared; the Conn-tingent is starting to drift in, and our New Jerseyans are arriving. (I'm not sure whether to call them the Brick City Brigade or to factor in Jade and Sandie and call them the Jersey Boys and Girls. By the time I figure it out, Jade will have graduated...)

I think we have alumnae, but I can't swear to it, and looking up the 2005-06 team in the middle of GNoD would just be weird.

The colors thing makes more sense now- they're debuting a blue and red third jersey, and Chartwells is usually when they make their fashion statements. I like that we have a third jersey, if only because the guys do too, but I don't like the jersey itself. We're the Red Storm, we should wear red. (James Madison also seems to be wearing an alternate white jersey. What is this, the NCAA catwalk?)

The band members that are holding down the fort here at Carnesecca are clustered around various video devices to catch the men's game at the Garden versus Syracuse. Actually, pretty much everyone related to St. John's is checking the score. Your intrepid blogger has the play-by-play open in another tab, along with her various idle games and game info.

At halftime... today is not a good day to be a Johnnie. The men screwed the pooch against Syracuse and the women don't seem to care about the game on the floor, down 29-13 to James Madison. I seriously do not know what is wrong with my team, but I do not approve. If they're broken, they need to be fixed; if they're distracted, they need to be refocused; if they're injured, then they need time to heal. There's no effort, especially on the offensive end, and it's disgusting. Aaliyah and Aliyyah are both out of sync. Gina McPherson is backing away from contact as if she's caught leprosy.

That awkward moment when you realize the person who you thought was the dude who looks like Shenneika Smith is, in fact, Shenneika Smith. I think I also spotted someone in a W team sweatshirt, or at least one that uses the W font, but I can't read it.

I don't think the SEC road trip was good for this team. I don't know what happened since the Harvard game, but it's like someone let all the air out of the balloon and they're all fighting over who was holding the pin. Okay, the metaphor is a bit strained, but the point remains that whatever comeback magic they were rocking against Harvard, and whatever can of butt-whoopin' they had against Iona, they lacked it this weekend against the representatives from the CAA.

Angela Mickens has impressive speed and a knack for misdirection. She left Aaliyah Lewis flat-footed once or twice, and Aaliyah's pretty quick. She made things run very smoothly for the Dukes. Lauren Okafor, presumably off her success yesterday, got a lot of minutes in this one- she got knocked around a little bit more by Jade and (a little bit Sandie), but still made things happen for James Madison underneath. Destiny Jones and Crystal Ross both played briefly, mostly to deal with foul issues. Neither made much of an impact, though Ross had more of one than Jones.

Jazmon Gwathmey has really long arms and bit hands. She swats shots well, especially on breaks where the player with the ball is utterly certain that she's got the lay-up. It gets her in foul trouble, but it also stops the opponent's offense cold. Nikki Newman spent much of the second half in foul trouble, but still rebounded well. Precious Hall had a nice and-1 in the first half, but was quiet for most of the game, with Mickens getting the bulk of the minutes. Kirby Buckholder came up with big shots in the second half and helped clinch the game with free throws. Toia Giggetts had less dancing, but more defense and midrange jumpers- she was very efficient and well placed.

The Dukes did a nice job converting on the break and finding the open player under the basket on cuts. They didn't necessarily react well to surprises, but they reacted better to broken plays than they did yesterday.

Jade Walker used her size well on the inside, but she has to play defense without holding. She's a freshman, so I'll let that slide a little bit- but she needs to be learning how to move without holding, and the coaching staff needs to make that a point of emphasis with her. She's not that quick, but she needs to be faster. Sandra Udobi was in very briefl in the first half, but the knee must have started acting up again, because she didn't go back in the game after that, even when both Amber and Jade were in foul trouble. Eugeneia McPherson gave us all a scare when she crumpled to the floor with her left knee bent, but it looked like it was just tightness or a cramp or something, because she came back intot he game. She backed away from contact long before that, though. That irked me- there's no point in having her in as a defensive player if she's going to run-run-run and then run away like a coward. All of that being said, her sharpshooting in the second half, especially beyond the arc, fueled the comeback.

Aaliyah Lewis really needs to stop shooting. I don't know whether she's desperately trying to play for her job with Gina back in the rotation and our transfer from Clemson becoming eligible at the semester break, but she's pressing badly, and it's backfiring in spectacular fashion. She's a good passer and a speedy player. I don't know why she's trying and trying to score, and doing so with bad shots against far bigger opponents. Sometimes the most important part of being a point guard is knowing when not to score. Aliyyah Handford seems to have lost her confidence driving to the lane. She got a lot of it back in the second half, but there was too much of her running along the same path on the free throw line with her hands up, not caring about the presence of the defense. I don't think she was expecting all the attention, which is very strange, given how well she was playing; you'd think she'd think other teams would figure it out eventually. Amber Thompson was awful in the first half, but I think someone got up in her face in the locker room at half time, because she came out blazing, gong strong to the basket and getting rebounds. Keylantra Langley had a decent third quarter, but her common sense utterly deserted her in the endgame, with dumb fouls that utterly ruined any momentum that the team had. Briana Brown seemed to be the only player with any urgency in the latter stages of the game- I think she was the only one who attempted a three when we were down nine with something like three minutes to go. She was in way over her head with the height of James Madison- her defensive match-up was usually Jazmon Gwathmey, who is a long-limbed true 4, whereas Briana is a very determined two.

No urgency. No clock management. Very limited awareness of proper shot selection. Really, really bad player management by Joe (why would you go four guard set against a team that big?) It was like they came back part of the way, lost a little bit of momentum, then decided to pack it in and go home. Counter-intuitive when you're home. Shame, because the band and fans really got into it with the comeback.

No one was happy with the refs. Blocks and charges were especially contentious today, and I'm not sure how getting a forearm to the chest earned Keylantra a foul. But whatever.

Apparently people in Virginia don't have a sense of humor. Fine. Just for that, I hope Drexel wins the CAA after all.

I'm tired, and I'm disappointed, and I don't know what to do, and I don't know what to expect. Are we ready? Was the beginning of the season the illusion? Or is this the illusion, and this too shall pass?