Hey, everybody! It's the day Liberty fans have been waiting for for months- years, even. We're home again, on a black and green court, in our proper place, back in black and back in the New York groove.
No, we actually are back in black. The jerseys are reversed tonight, with the Sky in white and the Liberty in black. I don't like how Chicago essentially Zerg rushed off the floor all at once. Too many rookies I'll never catch.
The pregame entertainment was less than inspiring. Do not re-write "We Are The Champions" for your pre-pubescent shriek band. Don't. You're lucky my mom got distracted by the Rangers and re-runs of her favorite Jeopardy! episodes, or she'd kick your little butts.
The strobe lights are kind of painful, guys.
The "Back in Black" shirts are boss. I approve this message. And they glow in the dark.
This Maddie-yonce thing they're doing at halftime needs to have the costumes burned and the tape deleted. No, no, no, no no nonononononononooooooooo. It's running entirely too long, too. We're coming up on three minutes and most of the team is on the court waiting for it to end.
At halftime, Chicago is up 43-35. Elena Delle Done is doing what ESPN is surely happy about her doing, with 16 points. Tina Charles has 11 and five rebounds. The fire is a bit more scattered, less focused. We're not getting as much out of DeLisha as we did yesterday, which shouldn't be a surprise.
It's not quite a proper sellout of the lower bowl- there are huge swathes of empty seats behind the basket in front of the Liberty bench.
Katherine May Smith, what in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster's noodly appendages are you wearing, and why did you steal it from Kim Mulkey's closet? I'm not sure what's worse- the snakeskin pattern, the fact that it has leggings, or the fact that I can see her bra through the back.
I guess "never before seen" in the intro means a torch. No, an actual torch. With fire. We could feel the heat from our seats. Impressive. The video before the intro was very cool- you know you've dug deep into the Liberty annals when they mention Trena Trice and Lindsay Bowen. We basically spent the whole thing going "OH MY GOD RHONDA BLADES. OH MY GOD MICHELE VAN GORP. OH MY GOD ICISS TILLIS. OH MY GOD SYDNEY COLSON" and laughing hysterically at all the obscure bench players they used.
So that kind of did the exact opposite of what the Connecticut game did. I can't say I'm surprised. Our starting 4 is 39-point-something years old, and her sub is 33 with a bum knee. Our starting point guard has probably never played a back-to-back set in her life. There's a lot of wear and tear on these players. Chicago, on the other hand, is ridiculously young- when Tamera Young is their most experienced active player, they might have a young team. Not that there weren't problems with the Liberty, but I don't know if they were 15-point problems.
Aaryn Ellenberg came into the game at the very end, and she is just so adorably tiny. You can't have her and Jamierra Faulkner on the floor at the same time- not only would the size advantage be a tactical disaster, but your own team would be paralyzed by the adorability of the pocket-size backcourt. Faulkner's speed was very evident tonight, possibly even more than it was at Southern Miss, but she still has some work to do when it comes to adapting to the W. Once she gets to know her teammates better, though, she'll be an excellent reserve for them. I don't know if she can ever be a starter strictly on her size, but she's a good change of pace and a solid player. Markeisha Gatling didn't play a lot in this one. She's tough, physical- don't know how skilled she is, because she was mostly called upon to clog the middle against the Liberty posts. I don't think they ran a lot of stuff for her to score, and the stuff they did run was missed or deflected. Courtney Clements scored off a jumper, so there you go. Chicago got something out of the trade. Her eyebrows scare me a little bit. Allie Quigley was tenacious on defense, and hit a couple of shots when she was left open, which happened a lot. I understand why it happened a lot, but at the same time, she's a Quigley from DePaul and we have four Big East players on our roster. Big East players should remember that Quigleys from DePaul hit threes. All gods know I remember six years of it. Gennifer Brandon's minutes were extremely brief but highly athletic. Also, she hit a midrange jumper, so the world might be ending. JSYK.
Good gracious, Elena Delle Donne. Said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again, but she's entirely too good for anyone else's good. She's lost some of her fear of going inside, and of course she can shoot the outside J, and of course she has the deep range, and she can handle the ball a little, and now she sets mean screens, and I'm sure she does a spectacular job selling popcorn too. And she's pretty. And she's sweet. Are we sure her real name isn't Mary Sue? Tamera Young hustled hard for rebounds and loose balls, but she still has the single ugliest shot that I've ever seen in a professional athlete. She looks like she should be competing with the other Young in a field meet- Toni can do long jump, Tamera could do the shotput. Jessica Breland burned us, as all posts drafted by the Liberty someday do. We kept leaving her open for the long J around the free throw line, and she kept hitting it. Sometime around the fifth or sixth time, we finally defended it... by wasting a double-team on her and leaving Goodlett open under the basket. Sasha Goodlett hit people a lot and missed easy shots. Courtney Vandersloot ran a solid offense, did some ankle-breaking, and penetrated hard in the lane.
Chicago's post defense solidified in the second half. I think their posts got their second wind and we lost ours.
Poor Kamiko Williams not only doesn't get to sit on the bench, not only has to argue with her friends and neighbors to get an aisle seat for her braced leg, but doesn't even get the free t-shirt that the fans get and that the team wore during warm-ups. C'mon, at least get Miko a shirt.
Toni Young did nothing of note. I would really like to see some basketball IQ develop at some point in the near future, or I'm going to have to hope she gets packed off to some team for an aging guard a la Chandi Jones. Having all the tools does sweet Fanny Adams for you if you don't know how to use a hammer. Chucky Jeffery brought some nice energy off the bench late in the game, and unlike some Liberty players I can think of /coughAlex/ she was able to foul Delle Donne before she got the shot off. Sugar Rodgers, bless her heart. At least she showed that she can shoot a little. But she makes such dumb decisions that I spend more time calling her Ta'Shauna than Sugar. Alex Montgomery brought the defense, but not so much the smart offensive decisions. We did not see much of the good, hustling, impassioned Kara Braxton tonight. We didn't see too much of the hair-pulling-out, "how are you even smart enough to breathe?!" Kara either. Just a biiiiiig load of nothing, albeit a nothing that occasionally attempted to distract the opposing posts with jiggling. Plenette Pierson brought the vocal leadership, and she got on the glass well, but she wasn't mobile, and she saw what was for her limited minutes. I suspect the knee was bothering her more than she might have wanted to let on.
Anna Cruz looked a little run down- you don't see a lot of back-to-back games in European leagues, not unless you're on one of those teams that plays in national and Euroleague or Eurocup competitions. She distributed well, but she backed off shots that she should have taken. I didn't think she played as much as the box score indicates. DeLisha Milton-Jones seemed a step slow. She still had some of the good offense and moments of the good defense, but she wasn't as intense as she was yesterday, and I don't think we had any right to expect her to be. Tina Charles was hot. It was good to see her going to the basket strong and pulling down big rebounds. I'm worried that she and Cappie Pondexter almost seem to be taking turns as to who gets the ball- for long stretches, I mean, not from possession to possession. Pondexter took a lot of dumb shots, the kind of forced shots into multiple defenders that she took when she really was the only thing we had that remotely resembled a scoring option. She was good when she hit, but she didn't hit a lot. I'm a little worried about Essence Carson. If she's not physically 100%, she needs to be mentally 100%, and she's come close to making some basic procedural errors- almost running the baseline on throw-ins where that's not permitted, lack of clock awareness, timing issues, the kinds of things a smart player like Essence should be keeping close track of. She had the same issues yesterday, so it's not exhaustion.
We had a lot of fire through much of the game, but I honestly think the turning point was when Cappie decided she had to be the heroine of the comeback and proceeded to take some of the dumbest shots I have ever seen her take. One-on-two, one-on-three, forced jumpers, two straight possessions, then another two straight possessions, when she had teammates in position. We need to move without the ball, and we need to do a better job of indicating that we're available.
Officiating was the usual dog's dinner. Jessica Breland takes a lot of steps. I think this crew was trying to make up for some of the bad non-calls against New York yesterday.
The crowd was really into it. I saw a lot of old friends I hadn't seen in Newark, and plenty of black gear, whether it was the Champion jerseys, the name and number tees, the bootleg Pondexter throwbacks, or other T-shirts. Not a lot of blue, and not a lot of blue-era stuff. Not that we've been waiting for this day for a while. We're done with the might-have-been players of the blue jerseys. Now we just need to get our heads on straight- good thing we've got a week to do it.