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Backcourt duo leads St. John's over Auburn

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Behind 22 points from Aliyyah Handford and 19 from Danaejah Grant, the Red Storm came away with a 56-49 win over Auburn. Khady Dieng and Tra'Cee Tanner each had 12 to pace the Tigers, with Tanner adding 10 rebounds. For traps, questionable coaching decisions, subtle touches, literary references, mistaken identities, presents, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand twins, join your intrepid and sugared-up blogger after the jump.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning! Well, I'm not a morning person, so any morning where I'm not in bed is not a good morning; on the other hand, any morning where I get to see my team is a good morning, so it's a wash. Anyway. We're at Carnesecca Arena for the first half of the Chartwells Holiday Classic, featuring the host St. John's and the Auburn Tigers out of the SEC.

I like the War Eagle on the back of Auburn's jackets. Small, subtle, but intrinsic to who they are. Oh! It's also on the sleeve of the long-sleeved warm-up tops, near the right cuff.

Not that we got in early, but the scorecards aren't out and SMU was doing their walkthrough. It was a little confusing to walk into Carnesecca and see the scoreboard done up SMU style.

This box-out drill Auburn is running is pretty intense, and I like the concept. Why do other teams always run more interesting drills than my teams do?

St. John's holiday sweater shirt. Not sure if want, but it's pretty cool.

Amber's mom is doing this whole Madame Defarge knitting at the guillotine thing, and it's a little disconcerting. That might be the point, though.

We have Buffalo! I don't know why we have Buffalo, but we have Buffalo. As in, the women's basketball team of the State University of New York at Buffalo is in the next section over. Oh, please don't let this end up like St. Francis did, we don't have a MAC team in the city and I don't want to deal with any more hugging. (No, this time I can't find the degree of separation link. Help me, Kevin Bacon!)

At halftime, it's 32-22 St. John's, in a first half full of runs. Auburn got a 6-0 hole shot, then St. John's ripped off a 21-4 stretch, and then the lack of guard substitutions started to get to us. That, and some really bad clock management. Aaliyah Lewis appears to have forgotten about the 10-second rule.

We've got a few Johnnies around- a couple of the men are here, and so is class of 2014 Briana Brown (she of the three-pointer to beat USC) (among many other things, oh our captain). I kind of wonder if the kid in the 12 jersey realizes she's sitting three seats down from its former owner, but I think she and her sister (?) in the 20 jersey do. D'awwwwwwwww. (Also spotted Nadirah McKenith and classmate Jennifer Blanding in the crowd. Big Love said I could keep her Pink Zone jersey that I bought at the rummage sale!)

I'm not comfortable with how we managed it, but we pulled it out. Joe's got to stop running the starters into the ground and have a little more faith in the bench. It's going to backfire one of these days. This was not that day.

Auburn did their homework on us, and I don't think it was all because Williams-Flournoy knows us well from her Georgetown days. Their defense was strong, and they knew to be ready for Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant on the break. There were a lot of block/charge calls because of that.

I'm not sure if Auburn has a one-Jones-on-the-floor rule, but I think the only time Jessica Jones came into the game, her sister came out. I mean, you could argue that twins who play the same position are redundant, but it still seems kind of strange, especially in contrast to the Froling twins for SMU in the second game. Asia Robeson had an impact in the relatively few minutes that she played- a big post with a nice touch around the basket and good instincts. Katie Frerking appears to be the designated three-point shooter, and we kept leaving her open, and eventually she hit one. I was starting to worry that that would be the start of a hot streak for her, but she missed the next one (pretty badly, if I recall correctly). Hasina Muhammad took a lot of questionable shots, but was a match-up nightmare, playing against our backcourt players with her height. She was better defensively than offensively, and I can see why she killed us last year. Neydja Petithomme played a few minutes in the first half, and was unmemorable.

I was very impressed with Tra'Cee Tanner down low. She was having her way with Amber Thompson, which is not a thing that happens very often, both taking shots and getting rebounds. That is a lot of woman in the middle, and she uses that build well. I thought Jazmine Jones played more than she did, even factoring in the inevitable confusion of twins. Brandy Montgomery's baskets came at key times for the Tigers, but so did her misses. Kiani Parker was solid all-around- I like her for Auburn. Khady Dieng appears to be the designated "someone still has not gotten the memo about hand-checks" player that every team has. (Ours is usually Jade Walker, but Sandie Udobi is also guilty of this when she's active.) She hit some very nice jumpers and was active on defense.

I don't know if Auburn has the offensive firepower to be a strong contender in the SEC. I don't know if they have a go-to player for when the chips are down and the clichés are out. But their defense, especially their press and their backcourt trap, is on point. They'll make a lot of teams' lives miserable at that end of the floor.

Selina Archer got a lot of minutes off the bench because of the foul trouble for Amber Thompson. I like how vocal she is on both ends of the floor, but I cannot get past her inability and/or unwillingness to grab a rebound. It makes me furious. Kyra Dunn was more of the same, except with even less effort. She relieved Selina a couple of times, and went back out just about as quickly for lectures. Tonoia Wade got some minutes at the end of both halves just to give someone some relief, and did nothing of note. Crystal Simmons saw time in the second half when Aliyyah Handford finally got to sit down, which was a decision I was screaming for in the first half- I thought Crystal would give us a better shot of escaping the trap. She looked a little scared of it, but she seemed to handle the pressure better than Aaliyah Lewis.

Amber Thompson didn't look 100% out there- she wasn't going as hard or as strong for rebounds as she usually does, and near the end of the game she looked like she was about to be sick on the court (sadly, this is a thing I have seen in my life). I suspect some of the rebounds she was credited with were... generous. Aaliyah Lewis should not have been playing the full 40 minutes on whatever foot injury had her wearing a boot halfway up her calf after the game. She had a lot of trouble seeing around the taller Auburn defenders in the backcourt, and I lived in fear of a ten-second violation- we came close a few times. Jade Walker came up big early on offense and pulled down some good boards in the second half. She brought it today, and we needed her. Danaejah Grant was an outside threat and a tough rebounder (well, when Kyra let her be- part of why Kyra got benched was because she kept impeding Danaejah, and don't impede Danaejah). And Aliyyah Handford continues to be awesome, though she's lost a step on defense from the beginning of the year, which is what happens when you overburden your starters.

Officiating was so-so, but I'm used to it.

In addition to the subtle touches of War Eagle on different parts of the uniform, Auburn has amazing letter jackets with a retro Aubie on the sleeve. We wished them luck and urged them to beat Alabama. (Which is probably overkill in that rivalry, but seriously, Alabama can go kick rocks with no shoes.)

I hope we're sufficiently rested for tomorrow, and that Joe shows a bit more willingness to work the freshmen into the rotation.