Good afternoon, everyone! We're coming to you from our post-holiday food coma at Walsh Gymnasium, where Seton Hall faces the Bulldogs of Georgia. This is the big one, kids. Time to prove that we are who we think we are.
There are a few Georgia fans across the court from us, but not many. We'll see how that develops at game time, though, since it's half an hour before tip.
Newark is very depressing. Lots of gates down, for-rent and for-sale signs abounding. It forces an examination of white privilege when traveling. Probably a little too heavy for game notes.
I think Aleesha Powell is taking advantage of her inactive status to look as much like a pirate as she can. The broad headband and the hoop earrings remind me a little of the old Hampton women's logo. (One of the few female-specific references I appreciated.)
Val Ackerman in the house! Come on, Pirates, get it done!
Andy Landers's hair is even shinier up close.
At halftime, Seton Hall is up 33-25. Ka-Deidre Simmons has 15 points, because Didi is a constant and a balm on wounded spirits. Daisha Simmons is, like, 0 for a billion. I love watching Bra'Shey Ali rebound. It's been intense and physical here. Seton Hall has to finish their shots. They've been getting a lot of looks right at the basket.
Georgia made a run to start the second half, and fatalist that I am, my reaction was okay, here we go, here's where Georgia proves why they've been relevant for decades and we prove why we're a joke. And then Tabatha Richardson-Smith popped open a can of you-know-what, and the Pirate ship was duly righted.
Georgia didn't necessarily go deep into their bench, but they got very good minutes when they did. Pachis Roberts was very efficient in her time, hitting midrange jumpers and most of her free throws (the one she missed had a really weird hitch in it). She was tough on defense, too, so you can imagine that we were relieved when she fouled out. Erika Ford was a late-in-the-half offensive specialist who fired up a lot of jumpers that either just missed or missed badly. No in-between. Mackenzie Engram showed promise, using her size decently well for a freshman and taking advantage of height mismatches. Haley Clark's judgment was not particularly sound. Halle Washington was a body inside, but not much more.
Shacobia Barbee got into early foul trouble, and I think that and the Seton Hall defense really took her out of her rhythm. The Pirates threw a couple of different defensive looks at her, going quicker in the first half and bigger in the second half. Tiaria Griffin got more looks because of this, and was able to take advantage. She took a lot of shots, both early and late, including a three-plus-1 (though I think she missed the free throw). I was actually most impressed with Merritt Hempe, who rebounded well, making a lot of plays on the inside and using her body to create space. She made some great defensive moves, too, including at least one resounding block. Krista Donald picked up a lot of rebounds on the inside, taking advantage of her teammates' height advantage to pick up tips and taps. Marjorie Butler ran th epoint, but there didn't seem to be a lot of organization to the Bulldogs' offense.
I think Georgia expected to have more of a size and speed advantage than they did. And they showed some of it in the early going of both halves, going hard after the ball and forcing turnovers. But they had no discipline and couldn't stay with Seton Hall on offense.
This was my first time seeing Tiffany Jones, and I was very impressed. She moves well and has both inside and outside game. Her offense was a big part of the push Seton Hall made in the second half. Chizoba Ekedigwe, other than the foul on Griffin's three-pointer, played solid defense, sealing well on the inside. Jordan Mosley spelled pretty much everyone in the backcourt. She was better in the second half than the first- she missed some makeable lay-ups in the first half. Lubirdia Gordon gave good minutes in the post- she had a couple of bad fumbles, but also came up with big boards and stole one right away from Georgia. Gotta hit your free throws, though. Kathleen Egan came in for some defensive minutes late in the first half; she might list as a guard/forward, but on defense she's a pure four and a tough one. Tara Inman and Teresa Kucera were both subs at the end of the game, when the outcome had pretty much been decided (though Tara, bless her heart, almost got us a tech for too many players on the court, mistiming her entrance- she was coming in for Daisha Simmons, who was on the free throw line).
Ka-Deidre Simmons is really the pulse of this team. She's steady and she's usually pretty calm. She took over the offense in the first half, driving the lane and getting fouled. In the second half, Georgia was able to force her into some bad shots, but that was when her teammates were able to step up around her. There's something reassuring about her having the ball in her hand; she makes good decisions and good things happen around her. Daisha Simmons started off shooting really, really badly, getting easy looks and missing them short; we were starting to wonder if her Alabama days were getting to her, convincing her that there was no way of beating Georgia. But she shook it off in the second half- once her first jumper went down, she seemed more confident and focused on the court. Bra'Shey Ali rebounds all the things and I love watching her rebound all the things. I don't like when she does cockamamie things like take threes, though. Janee Johnson's minutes were more limited than usual- this was not a good match-up for her. But she pulled down a couple of big rebounds at the end of the game when her team needed her. Tabatha Richardson-Smith is a firestarter, only you don't know when her fuse is going to go off. It went off early in the second half, and from there Georgia was doomed. She's kind of a "no, no, no, YES!" player- she'll shoot it from halfway across New Jersey if you give her a moment, and then it'll go down. And once she starts hitting her shot, then everything falls into place for her- she roves more quickly on defense, she rebounds harder, she moves more confidently.
It would have been easy for Seton Hall to fold the tents after Georgia took the lead back in the second half, and maybe a year or two ago they would have. But they regrouped and then some, tightening up on defense and forcing bad shots.
Officiating was uneven. You could almost tell when the whistles were going to start and stop on each team based on the number of fouls each team had, not by the actual flow of play.
The crowd was fantastic. There was a little student section, and the band was into it, and our usual band of merry miscreants made plenty of noise.
I'm trying to think of the last time I was this proud of a team, and it might well have been the day Shenneika Smith hit a corner three at Gampel. This is a big win for Seton Hall, and a big win for the Big East.