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Grant takes control for St. John's

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Danaejah Grant put up 23 points, and St. John's came on strong in the second half to put away Xavier 65-42. Amber Thompson added six points, 14 rebounds, and six blocks. Briana Glover led Xavier with 10 points. For palming, distractions, crazy eyes, crowd noise, relay races, free swag, duck puns, and contentment, join your intrepid and cleaned blogger after the jump.

Good evening, ladies, gentlemen, and readers of all ages! We're coming to you in surround sound from the cozy confines of Carnesecca Arena, where St. John's is opening their conference slate with a tilt against Xavier. (Which, I suppose, also counts as the opener for Xavier's conference season, but I really don't care about Xavier.)

Fundraiser tonight for Lauren Hill- I think that's happening wherever Xavier plays. So we bought ducks. Jillian, Marcus, Quizz, Giggy, Teemu, Bombay, Louie, Tanya, Mallory, Drake, Adam, Cathrine, and Shaquala quack hi.

St. John's is up 28-25 at half. I'm worried about a couple of things, though. Danaejah Grant was grabbing her shoulder early and took a tumble in the middle of the first half, and she's been in and out all game, switching with Crystal Simmons. There's been virtually no post rotation, either; Coach only went to Kyra Dunn late in the first half after Jade Walker got her second (stupid) foul.

The European tour jerseys are boss. So are the #22 patches on the warm-up shirts for Lauren Hill. The shorts are resisting all Kyra's attempts to roll them up. She's trying nobly, though. Not that that's a good thing. (Okay, the jerseys were boss until Amber's #2 fell off the front. Then they were less boss, though the outline made an interesting effect. It's still not appropriate to drop a number 2 on the court.)

Xavier made a lot of hockey-style substitutions, especially early in the game, almost as if the coach were trying to determine what players and combinations were working well. Made it a little hard to keep track of everyone, especially with Xavier's lack of names on the jerseys. I was really bummed that Maddison Blackwell got hurt, especially since it looked pretty bad- foot or ankle, and she couldn't put weight on it. She mixed it up well on the boards. Anniina Äijänen hit a couple of late free throws, but was mostly playing mop-pup minutes. Maleeka Kynard drove the lane and was one of the guards who was all up in Aaliyah Lewis's business. I expected more, or at lest something, out of Aliyah Zantt, after her performance against us last year, but she seemed quiet. Kindell Fincher took over a lot of the offense in the second half, forcing contact and getting to the line.

Marquia Turner is a very small guard, and yet she still needed to find someone her own size to pick on- she kept knocking over poor tiny Aaliyah Lewis. Foul trouble kept her off the floor for stretches in both halves, and I'm pretty sure one of Zantt's fouls was a pass foul from her fifth. Briana Glover intrigues me as a very smooth, graceful forward- but her shots were just not going down. She rebounds nicely. Jenna Crittendon made some nifty defensive plays, poking the ball out and picking pockets. I genuinely do not remember Leah Schafer or Raeshaun Gaffney.

Xavier packed the lane against the drivig guards of St. John's, and did cause a lot more hesitation and passing around the perimeter. Other teams are likely paying attention to this. They also occasionally seemed to be playing sports that weren't basketball, such as football (tackling), hockey (checking), wrestling (leg whips), and volleyball (setting).

Oh, hey, it's time for the kids! Tonoia Wade showed off some defense in her end-game minutes- she did that Sugar Rodgers quick step to suddenly be all up in the ballhandler's face like a hyperactive puppy. Crystal Simmons was called upon to play big minutes in the first half, with Danaejah Grant having limited availability, and while she was not a factor, neither was she a liability, which is what you're asking for from a freshman being asked to replace a superstar. Kyra Dunn is going to spent the rest of this year frustrating me, but at the same time being strangel fascinating. She can't hold on to the ball- but she has remarkable recognition of where her teammates are so she can tap it out to them. She's got pretty good synergy with Aaliyah Lewis on that especially. And she has an intriguing underhand hitch in her free throw motion, as if she's debating whether this will be the shot where she goes Rick Barry on the line. Imani Littleton got up on the boards. Tamesha Alexander looks like she's working well with her classmates, which is a good sign.

Amber Thompson blocks all the things, and those things she doesn't block, she rebounds, up to and including an opponent's head. (I think that was an accident, though.) She also did nicely dishing off when the guards drove the lane. Danaejah Grant, despite the shoulder armor and despite the early pain, came through in the second half with jumpers and defensive plays. I know she's gotta be hurting- her arm got hooked a couple of times. Aliyyah Handford wasn't getting her jumper to fall- it's still a work in progress- and was quiet until deep into the second half, when she seemed to awaken and take over the game for a short stretch to put it out of reach. Aaliyah Lewis continues to be a steady hand, and she took a lot of contact in this one. I like her more and more with every game. Jade Walker... I do like watchin gher, and I think she's adorable, but this was a "love with a 2x4" kind of game- bad shots, bad decisions, bad fouls. Not that Jade wno't get called for a foul at any given opportunity no matter how bad a call it is, but she opened herself up to a lot of opportunities tonight.

I have to admit, the game flow did not go the way I was expecting. I thought Xavier had kept their players fresh enough to give us a fight in the second half, especially with the limited substitutions for St. John's. Instead, St. John's came out strong on both side sof the ball in the second half, and I don't think Xavier had a game plan beyond "get in the way".

RedZone showed out today, as did one of the frats. I think it was Sigma Chi Beta, but don't hold me to it. I'm only good with Greek letters when writing in Greek.

We got free glasses! They were very nice. They will be excellent additions to our fan cave.

This was a nice opening to conference play. Now let's see if we can keep it up for the rest of the non-conference slate.