Don't worry, you've only got three more games of me after this, then you'll get a six-week break from long blocks of text, irrelevant parenthetical asides, and occasionally inaccurate analysis.
All things considered, there are a fair amount of people here so far, given that it's 6:19 and tip is around 7:30. The band and cheerleaders are getting ready to go- we're at UConn's end, which makes me a bit frustrated, but what can you do? Maybe we'll get enough elevation to see over the band pits.
This game was tied at 22. Heck, Kentucky had a 23-22 lead. And then UConn remembered that one of their other staples is stifling defense, and a UConn game broke out. Kentucky got scared, as if they'd suddenly forgotten how to play offense against stifling in-your-face defense, even though you'd think they practice against it every day. UConn broke loose down the lane. At least maybe I'll make the 9:38 train back to NY.
I decided I was making that 9:38 no matter what, so for the first time in close to five years, I left a game early. I don't enjoy doing that- I feel guilty, as if not getting my money's worth, but not getting my money's worth is not worth shivering my way through an hour on a Metro-North platform and getting home at 1 in the morning. It was the under-4 when I left, and I believe it was a 27-point game; the only frustrating part is that I don't have a personal complete box score.
Azia Bishop played briefly, but after a hard moving screen, she got sat down, and I don't think she went back. Mitchell didn't seem happy with her after that foul. Bria Goss got the same teaching moment treatment after a stupid foul. Though at least she was a little more effective in the first half. She got a lot of time because Kastine Evans was hesitating, Jennifer O'Neill was making some stupid mistakes, and A'dia Mathies was in foul trouble. Jelleah Sidney tried to get the defense on, but she got into foul trouble in the first half, and I don't think that helped Kentucky's cause. I know, understatement of the year, but I think that got into their heads a little too. I thought it was interesting she got more aggressive on offense- might be a good sign for them for the future. I don't remember Bernisha Pinkett doing anything of note other than committing a foul so egregious in the paint that even I could call it half-obscured by the stanchion. Janee Thompson gave decent minutes; they definitely could have been worse, all things considered.
The early fouls on A'dia Mathies could not have helped her confidence, but I think having to run around after Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis all night and having to be a key part of her team's offense didn't help. Kastine Evans wanted the ball, but as soon as she got it, she backed away from shots that she was taking against Delaware, even when she had space. You have to be aggressive against UConn. You can't let them get into your heads, or your shorts. You have to go at them like they're just another basketball team. They may not be, but you have to treat them as such. DeNesha Stallworth at least seemed interested in shooting the ball, though I do have to question some of her shot selection. I know she had decent luck with the midrange jumper, but I'm not sure if that was the best plan against UConn. They're pretty much okay with people shooting outside jumpers against them. Samarie Walker... I don't know if she wasn't looking for the ball or if she was defended too tightly to get the ball in her preferred spots, but 0-1 from the field and 2-2 from the line is not nearly sufficient when you want to knock out a team like UConn. She looked good on the boards, but she needed to be a bigger part of the game. Jennifer O'Neill's shot was on early, but she persisted in making stupid decisions with the ball- bad passes, over-dribbling, too much hesitation- and stagnated her team's offense.
Samarie... DeNesha... you are both fairly seasoned players starting at a top-notch SEC school. One of you came from UConn, the other from Cal, neither exactly what you would call bad or badly coached. Why am I seeing both of you have issues with taking and hitting lay-ups from the weak side?
Just in general, after Mathies hit the free throw that gave Kentucky the lead, and after UConn remembered that hey, they can play really good defense too, Kentucky seemed to forget how to play basketball, while UConn could smell blood in the water and brought everyone (well, except Heather Buck) to the feast.
I left the game before Buck got in, but I sincerely doubt she did anything. Morgan Tuck continues to impress me for a freshman, though I think the spirit of Tiffany Hayes possessed her through her jersey on that three-point shot. I like her build, and if the knee heels up so that she doesn't need the brace, she'll be a force to be reckoned with. And of course, you've got to love a big who can hit her free throws. Bria Hartley played a lot of minutes off the bench when KML had foul issues and for Caroline Doty in general, and she looked more like the player she once was, quick with her hands and breaking loose for lay-ups in transition. Moriah Jefferson put on the afterburners, and her block on Thompson had the crowd roaring in approval. She's adorable, yet terrifying in her ability to sneak under the dribble. Kiah Stokes got some good minutes; her lay-up in the paint got the crowd going.
Stefanie Dolson grabbed ALL the rebounds. Now, the placement of my seat meant that I couldn't see most of the action under the basket at either end, because the stanchion was in the way. But I remember seeing that big ol' 31 a lot. And then she bicycled her way to New Orleans- no, seriously, she was working the daylights out of that bike. Caroline Doty did pretty much the one or two things she's still capable of doing at a UConn level, then got out of the way. I didn't think she was able to go that fast anymore after all the knee injuries, but she had one zoom-zoom drive. Kelly Faris... if I have to have her on a New York team, can I draft her to the Jets instead? They need someone who can make interceptions in the open field and hard tackles like she did. She's a hard-nosed player, and I respect that, but I feel like I'm complaining about her tackling someone every time I see her play, and that's not necessarily a good thing. And she did not display that tendency not to make mistakes that so many people laud in her. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis continues to intrigue me with her increased willingness to be more than just a lethal three-point shooter- she's using that blocky build to get inside and body up on defenders. I'm starting to see a little Epiphanny Prince in her game- am I crazy in that regard? (I know better than to ask whether I'm crazy. I already know the answer to that one.) And then Breanna Stewart decided to be the player that everyone's been saying she could be, and it was kind of amazing. She made moves with both hands. She slapped the daylights out of shots. She went in. She went out. She did in fact shake it all about. She looked like she wanted to be the star.
UConn turned it up another gear. They made stupid mistakes (after one Faris pass, I thought Geno was going to flip out), but they didn't let those mistakes get to them. The difference between an Elite Eight team and a Final Four team, I guess.
Officiating could definitely have been worse, could definitely have been better, but though they let them play, it didn't go to the extremes we saw in Oklahoma City.
A rumor was going around the crowd that Kevin Ollie was in attendance, but I received no confirmation either way.
To the woman behind me, who complained twice that Kentucky wasn't letting UConn bring the ball up: that is, in fact, one of the core principles of their defense. You idiot.
I feel like I can't give a complete report, since I missed the last three minutes. On the other hand, we're on the third page of notes, so maybe I can.
See you in New Orleans, Huskies.