Hello again, faithful readers! We come to you in stereophonic sound from beautiful Carnesecca Arena, where Auburn and SMU face off in the consolation game of the Chartwells Holiday Classic.
The teams have switched colors from yesterday. Auburn is in their home whites, trimmed in navy and orange, with orange shoes that are unfortunately more of a Volunteer hue. SMU has kept their two-tone blue Nikes and gone to their road blues, with a red stripe down the side and along the cuffs of the shorts. And I will stop channeling John Sterling now.
I like the Auburn-colored tiger-striped scarf the woman across from me is wearing.
At halftime, the halftime clock has not started and it's 35-18 Auburn. SMU has not looked good, and Auburn has gone pretty deep into their bench. Both teams have a lot of energy and are very vocal.
Kiani Parker took out the SMU radio guy. That's how badly SMU is getting beat- even the radio guy is getting his butt kicked.
We're still working out some kinks in the sound system. /crackle crackle squawk
Because Kiani Parker is apparently the source of all face-palm moments today: she blew a defensive assignment, and from somewhere on the Auburn bench there was a call of "Kiani, NO!"
Auburn's defense has forced SMU into two timeouts on the sideline. (Up to four at the end of the game. Rhonda Rompola has no faith in her team.)
No, seriously, it is stunning how little faith SMU's coach appears to have in her players. After they laid that egg in the first half, the Mustangs came out with five reserves to start the second half. Gabrielle Wilkins really rubbed me the wrong way- her on-court attitude was really obnoxious. Cocky on offense, disinterested on defense- this is a combination that is not going to make you any friends. Taylor Brame had a nifty basket on the inside in the first half, but she was most memorable for whirling the red rally towel whenever any of her teammates scored. She wasn't ready for it in the second half, when the starters were back in and Alicia Froling scored SMU's first second-half basket- she had to run to the scorer's table, get a towel, run back to her seat, and whip it around before sitting back down. Stephanie Collins never looked comfortable on the floor- she missed some easy shots down low and let herself get moved around despite her superior size. The freshmen guards, Mikayla Reese and Aurmani DeGar, were unremarkable. Raven Short saw extended time in the second half and seemed to be steadier than her teammates.
I really don't like Alicia Froling. She has some nice moves on the inside, but I'm not a fan of instigators, and she baited Tra'Cee Tanner right out of the game. She bothered me yesterday, and now I know why. Morgan Bolton didn't get a lot of time, or if she did, she didn't do much with it. Keely Froling stepped up after her sister fouled out, but was a late re-entrant into the game in the second half. Destynee Hives-McCray was a little more effective in this game than she was yesterday, getting inside and getting good looks, but she's got to hit those shots on the inside if SMU is going to rely on her. Kiara Perry came up with a couple of big shots, but was kind of all over the place on defense.
I don't know what happened in the SMU locker room at halftime. I don't know if I want to know. But there was some bad body language on that bench in the early going. And I don't think Rompola trusts her freshmen, and I don't know if the upperclassmen trust the underclassmen, or what the story is.
Small thing about SMU that bothered me: their small guards rarely crashed the glass, to the point where I was wondering if they were being told to hang back for the long rebound. Someone needs to tell them that those aren't guaranteed.
Kiani Parker, as mentioned above, was the source of a lot of face-palms for her team. Top prize in that regard was getting into the game and immediately committing a foul on defense. She's a bit of a wild thang out there, not so much as a shooter but in general impetuosity. Khady Dieng played intense defense, sometimes too intense. She committed a lot of dumb reach-in fouls. That's something she's going to have to work on. I like her game, though. Brandy Montgomery was kind of up and down all through the game, making good plays and making bad plays. She got a lot of encouragement from her teammates. Jazmine Jones was unremarkable, though she kept getting hit in the head with the ball, once by her own sister during a scrum. Tra'Cee Tanner was solid on the inside, though she missed some makeable shots, and ultimately let herself get het up by Alicia Froling for the flagrant 1 that DQ'd her from the game.
Auburn's defense was solid, but they don't like being at the other end of the backcourt trap and the press.
So here's how it looked like it went down between Tanner and Froling: they were going at it in the post, and I remember thinking that the jersey pull by Froling would have been a ticky-tack fifth foul, but a foul nonetheless. Going back up the court to SMU's end, they were jostling each other- the usual kind of post tactics: shoulder blocks, hip checks, coming up against each other like the chariots in Ben-Hur as they came back to Auburn's side of the floor. I didn't see what Froling did, but she knocked Tanner enough off balance that Tanner flipped her lid and delivered a two-hand shove to Froling's back for the flagrant 1 and the fifth foul. Froling eventually fouled out as well, so I was somewhat relieved, but I felt like Froling should have been called for instigation, or whatever the basketball equivalent to that hockey term is.
Auburn has a lot of complementary pieces, but I'm still not sure that they have a go-to player to complement.