And we are cleared for takeoff. I repeat, we are cleared for takeoff. The NCAA women's basketball season is underway. Your intrepid blogger is, of course, overdoing it a little bit, because that's how we roll here at Swish Appeal and the Game Notes of Doom. We'll be coming to you in surround sound and Smell-O-Vision from three different facilities in two different states and three different conferences.
First up, and I mean this about as literally as I can mean it without properly checking an NCAA schedule, is Iona at Fordham, at the unspeakable hour of 11:30 on a Friday morning. Fordham will be raising their A-10 conference championship banner, and I will be feeling supremely uncomfortable if no one else shows up for Iona (since Fordham has now introduced iself into the complex mesh of loyalties that is my basketball life).
It's 10:12 and we're crawling through the tunnels somewhere south of Dyckman. I don't think I'm going to make it to Fordham at 10:23 like HopStop claimed I would. Why do you lie to me, Internet? (Because once the A train gets north of Harlem, it crawls instead of speeding. I do not approve!)
Made it to the game. I forgot how beautiful a campus Fordham has. I am clearly not the only one who agrees with this assessment, since someone was filming something there while I was walking by.
Note to self: if you're going to come watch the banner-raising, sit on the opposite side from the banners, rocket scientist. I suspect the effect will be somewhat less impressive from the back.
Iona looks so tiny next to Fordham. Tiny guards, slight guards. Fordham has a lot of bulk to them. I barely know any of these people. It's disconcerting.
This 11:30 start time is really not working for Fordham, unless they're queuing up the annoying little kids outside, to break upon the seats like a tidal wave. I'm not taking bets on that, though. That would be against NCAA policies, rules, and general ethics.
A capella anthem from a campus singing group. I approve.
There was no banner ceremony, and I am sad. (I am also sad that this game is at buttcrack o'clock of the morning because the men have the night session for a game against a D-III school. Really, y'all?)
So. This is the halftime score I expected, except that I thought Fordham would have the 42 points and Iona would have the 24 points. But Iona has Damika Martinez, and Damika Martinez has 20 points, and Iona holds the 42-24 lead. Joy Adams, despite missing chippies in ways that make my head explode, is also solid for the Gaels, with 13 points and five boards.
Okay, DOT, can we talk about the potholes on the Cross Bronx and the service road thereof? Because this thing is rattling like a '70s jalopy and it's very hard to type when one hand is holding the computer on my lap and the other is holding the screen in place.
There were moments in the second half when Fordham looked like the defending A-10 champions that they were, looked like they were going to get back in control, looked like they were going to make this a game, looked like they were going to take advantage of Iona's mistakes and come back. But for the most part, they weren't ready for the fight, and Iona took it right to them.
Please, please, Iona, keep the killer instinct. Maybe this will be the year that I thought was going to be last year.
Kristin Mahoney was the late sub for Damika Martinez, and I liked her willingness to hustle. Philecia Gilmore gave spot inutes in both halves, and while her conditioning needs work, I like her ball instincts. She seems pretty vocal for a freshman, too. Always a good sign. Aaliyah Robinson couldn't get her shot to fall, but made up for it with defense, assists, and rebounding- she was the team's best rebounder on the inside from the bench. This is a bad sign for the tall center who came off the bench, Karynda DuPree. I want to like her. She's got a phenomenal basketball body. But there is no quicker way to make me dislike a player than to have her be diffident, be careless, be soft, be passive, be scared- especially when she's a post, and especially when she's a tall post who can be a gamechanger for her team if she finds some cojones. I can't stand seeing players give up a step or two early on a play, or stand around on the outside like decorative statuary in a garden and jack up bad threes. I feel like I'm being harsh on her, but when your star guard is waving you to come around and set the pick, and you don't move, you're going to end up with me (and Damika) being harsh on you.
I didn't realize until I looked at the roster that Marina Lizarazu had transferred to Iona, and I didn't realize until lineups were announced that she was immediately eligible. She's going to go a long way towards filling the gap that Haley D'Angelo's gradation left in the backcourt. She's not the perfect point guard- she's a little too hesitant, she takes too long to trigger the ball inbounds (I think she got dinged for two five-second calls), and she is way too reliant on her left hand. But she's good at getting the ball to where it needs to be (translation: to Joy and Damika) and she doesn't make too many other mistakes. She came up with some nice buckets to change the pace up from the one-two punch of Damika and Joy. I suspect Cassidee Ranger's position in the starting lineup is not 100% settled yet- she was splitting time with Karynda and Aaliyah. She didn't get a lot of looks, but she took advantage when she did. I'm just not sure there's a spot for her in the rotation, unless someone can convince Karynda she's not the player who should be taking threes. Aurellia Cammock did not impress me this year, but she came on in this game with a lot of heart, a lot of hustle, a lot of offensive rebounding, and an ability to take advantage of opportunities she was handed. Some players can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and today she was one of those players. I'm not sure if she's a full-time starter, either, since she was splitting minutes with Karynda and Aaliyah. (In terms of position, I suppose technically Cassidee was splitting time with Aaliyah and Aurellia was splitting time with Karynda, but the rotation usually started with Aaliyah going in for Aurellia, so.) Joy Adams kills me sometimes when she misses shots that she should be hitting- she had one beautiful fast break that fell apart when she put up a shot more fitting to a hammer thrower), and I don't think I like her handling the ball on the perimeter as much as she does, but she's such a phenomenal athlete and she rebounds so well. And then there was Damika Martinez, who did the things she does so well. She was hitting both her jumpers and her lay-ups, and her gambling on the passing lanes worked well. She needs to be a little more careful with her hands- she got called for a lot of fouls in the second half.
Fordham put a lot of bench players into the game, and that makes me wonder if Stephanie Gaitley was taking it as seriously as she should have. Khadjiah Gibson gave good minutes in garbage time, though one must consider that it was, in fact, garbage time. But I liked how she got to the basket. Asnate Fomina can shoot a little bit, but I'm not fond of her defense- she was a little more physical than I would have liked in a guard. Taryn Durant played big minutes off the bench, running the offense and being very vocal. She actually started the second half for (I think) Tiffany Ruffin. I don't have clear recollections of Aaliyah Jones or either of the Danielles (Burns and Padovano).
I'm not quite sure how to pronounce G'mrice, but I get the feeling that I'm going to have to, because I'm going to be hearing it a lot, because G'mrice Davis is pretty damn good. She has that freshman propensity to commit stupid fouls, but she's got a good body, she's got good ball instincts both on offense and rebounding, and she's got some moves. I like her. Emily Tapio was the star of the game for Fordham, getting inside for baskets and poking away rebounds. She's tough. She's one of those players you love to ittybitty pieces when she's on your team, but that sort of makes you want to punch things when she's playing against your team. Sort of like Plenette Pierson, but to a lesser extent. Samantha Clark filled up space on the inside, and pulled down some decent rebounds, but Iona shut her down pretty well. She was much less of a factor than I was expecting. Alina Gjerkes has a nice shot from the side of the arc. Tiffany Ruffin was solid all around- she brought the kind of experience and leadership that you expect from a graduate student.
Fordham seemed determined to take threes, despite missing one of their best shooters from last season in Hannah Missry. It wasn't doing much for them.
The officiating was uneven, especially in the second half (the worst was the blatant trip that Tapio got away with that led to one of her baskets). To be fair, I think Iona was getting the benefit of many of the procedural calls.
It's okay to sit Damika if you're up 20 with less than ten minutes to go in the second half, Coach. You can bring her back in if you're panicking, but when she got the fourth foul, I would have pulled her for good. (She did sit in the end, but about five minutes after I would have pulled her.)
Play of the day, and one that I attempted to nominate for the Sportscenter Top 10 Joy Adams rifles a hard pass to Aaliyah Robinson, Aaliyah touches it back, Joy goes to the hoop, gets hammered, gets the shot to fall, and gets the foul call. It really got the Iona portion of the crowd going.
I don't know if this play is sustainable for either team. I expect better from Fordham, and I don't know if Iona can keep doing this to their opponents. I hope Iona keeps this up; I hope Fordham doesn't.