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Backcourt play leads St. John's over Binghamton

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Bearcats came in feisty, but the guards stepped up for St. John's once more in a 67-51 win over Binghamton. Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant had 19 points each to pace the Red Storm; 15 of Handford's came in the first half, while 12 of Grant's came in the second. Jade Walker (11) and Amber Thompson (13) fueled a 51-26 edge on the boards. Jasmine Sina had 20 to lead Binghamton, with Imani Watkins adding 18. For swag, turkey comas, mild worries, guards guards!, gearing up, and fan hypocrisies, join your intrepid and flushed blogger after the jump.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Good afternoon, ladies, gentlemen, and other sorts of loyal readers! Your intrepid blogger has done her Black Friday shopping here at Carnesecca Arena, and now awaits the St. John's-Binghamton game.

The jersey selection wasn't as good as in previous years, so we claimed our Pink Zone jersey (#15, Jennifer Blanding from the era) and a couple of shirts. Aliyyah Handford is awesome and I would love to wear her jersey, but she and Amber Thompson both only take medium, and my chest does not accept mediums.

Everyone was kvetching about having to wait outside for the gates to open, and most people found excuses to cajole their way into the building early. In a dose of irony/cruelty, the person who had the most trouble getting in was the pizza delivery guy. SMH. Whiny suburban moms can get in, but the guy with the food has to be cross-examined.

One peeve about the rummage sale: no socks. I want the Under Armour cityscape socks so badly and I still can't get them. I am willing to give people money for them. I'm not even asking for a freebie. I want to buy socks. Let me buy your socks!

Since the men are playing at the Garden, the band and cheer squads are split. The band is supplementing with alumni.

Dude in Seton Hall Paradise Jam shirt, you had a pretty awesome week, but you are just a wee tiny bit lost. Trust me on this one. I've learned to tell the difference. (As it turns out, Binghamton's lead guard is the sister of a Seton Hall men's player, so a bunch of people have turned out for her. I'm not taking any bets on any of these people showing up for the Thanksgiving tournament tomorrow at Walsh, though.)

It's 35-24 St. John's at halftime, after a first quarter that was closer than it needed to be. Jasmine Sina, the aforementioned Pirate sister, was hot to start for the Bearcats, but Aaliyah Lewis has stepped up the defense on her. Aliyyah Handford has 15 of the 35. Amber Thompson has pretty much all the rebounds. (No, really. Just looked at the box. Amber has 11. Binghamton has 10.)

St. John's turned it up in the second half to pull away, but I have to admire Binghamton's fight. When they got down, they didn't get emotionally down. They got angry, and they made a couple of little runs to keep the margin under twenty. I have to respect that.

Binghamton doesn't have a long roster anyway, and they were even shorter-handed than their roster would suggest; only nine players were in uniform, and only seven of them played. Our PA guy had a lot of trouble with Gintare Surdokaite's name, which makes me think someone forgot to get the pronunciation guide out in time. I think she played most of her minutes in the first half. I don't have many clear memories of her. Kylie Libby was first off the bench- I think she was mostly in the second half. I seem to remember her on the boards.

(By the way, this is why I prefer jerseys with names on them. It's a lot easier to remember who you are if your name is on your back. Otherwise, it's easy to mix you up with a player who wears a similar number and quite possibly has a similar build to you.)

Jasmine Sina lit us up from the outside in the early going. She's very small, but she's excellent for her size. Aaliyah Lewis locked her down on defense in the second quarter (as a shorter form of saying "in the latter stages of the first half", I'm well aware that college doesn't use the quarter system). As her teammates became more effective in the second half, and as the defense shifted in response, Sina was able to get open again for the long ball. She's a feisty little thing. Imani Watkins took advantage of the lane in the second half and really drove hard to the basket. Kristin Ross got whatever rebounds Amber didn't. She was the Bearcats' size not necessarily directly in the middle, but in the post. Kim Albrecht did a little bit of everything, and seemed to be doing a lot of the right things at the right time on the floor. (It's more of a hockey phrase- "doing something good with the puck"- but it can be adapted for basketball.) Sherae Swinson was mostly quiet, though there were some strong moments down low.

Play I was most impressed with: Sina's last three-pointer, high and sweet and perfect over the long arm of Amber Thompson.

You may add to my list of things that frustrate me about Kyra Dunn the inability to grasp a rebound once she's on the case. She tipped out a lot of balls. Teaming her up with Amber might be better than teaming her up with Jade- she can tip the balls and Amber can catch them, because Amber catches all the rebounds. Crystal Simmons played big, solid minutes with Aliyyah Handford out for much of the second half. That created some interesting backcourt dynamics with Aaliyah Lewis, with Aaliyah almost seeming to move to the two while Crystal handled more of the ballhandling. Imani Littleton got her time in the second half, and seemed strangely unbalanced, ending up on the floor a surprising amount of times. She lurked around the basket and got buckets. Tamesha Alexander ran point for stretches in both halves and seemed fairly steady, but as a placeholder, not as a playmaker. That last turnover on her was not a fair call- that should have been a trip on Binghamton.

Today we saw what happens to a two-player team when one of those players can't hit the broad side of a barn. Danaejah Grant was not getting good shots in the first half, and was taking bad ones. There were at least two occasions where she ignored a player calling for the ball and instead took and missed a shot. She got a little better in the second half- I think she realized that without Aliyyah in there she was going to have to be the primary scoring threat, and made better decisions. Amber Thompson backed off a little bit in the second half, but in the first half she took down everything that looked like it might even consider being a rebound, with phenomenal positioning and great ferocity. Jade Walker stepped up her offense in the second half, with soft midrange jumpers. She was as fierce on the boards in the second half as Amber was in the first. Aaliyah Lewis stepped her game up. I know I keep saying she's growing on me, and part of that may be my feeble, futile hope that she'll sprout a few extra inches somewhere along the line, but I'm impressed with how she's developed at the beginning of this season. Her passing vision still needs a little work, but that should come with time. Aliyyah Handford had a fantastic first half, including some long jumpers, and since I've been saying that she needs to develop her jump shot if she wants to be the next Johnnie in the WNBA, I'm happy with that. She took a hard hit near the end of the first half and spent much of the second half on the bench with a towel over her head like a Russian grandmother's shawl.

One of the Binghamton (or possibly "Binghamton" fans) in the next section over wouldn't stop riding the refs. Every. Single. Possession. Every single possession he was either complaining that there hadn't been a foul on Binghamton, that there had been a foul on St. John's, or that a violation of some sort had occurred. Not that I haven't had my share of disagreements with officiating, and not that Amber didn't get away with a couple of shoves, but you've got to know when to pick your battles. (Such as the travel called on Tamesha that should have been a trip. Or Aliyyah getting hit in the face.)

Player families, or at least the specific subset that I tend to call "Team Jersey", have started helpfully labeling themselves- Danaejah's family had t-shirts with her name and number on them, Aliyyah's mom had a sweatshirt, Amber's mom was rocking a nifty shirt.

I still think the prize for the shopping spree game should have been whatever the kids could get into the cart.

I think Jade and Aaliyah proved in this game that they have the capability to step up if one of our backcourt diarchy is out of the picture, whether that was Danaejah with the bad shooting in the first half or Aliyyah with the injury in the second half. Aaliyah especially was huge, in so many facets of the game.  That's bigger than any rough opening against a team that shouldn't have been a challenge for as long as they were.