Quick turnaround for your intrepid blogger, as the Liberty host the Washington Mystics on a warm Sunday afternoon in the Big Apple.
Lots of people in Rangers gear around, as Game 3 is tomorrow, and maybe we can stop blowing two-goal leads to LA? Just a thought? Please? They're building the set for the studio show in the lobby.
Ivory Latta is absolutely hilarious and adorable. She almost literally made someone ROFL. And she comes right up to the height of the rail that protects the court and tunnel from the front rows, so when someone wanted a picture she was on tippy-toes and beaming. She's as curious a split as DeLisha Milton-Jones, in her own way- you love her off the floor and want to stomp her face in on the court.
Poor Tianna Hawkins. It took five minutes for her to extricate herself from fans to enjoy her Jolly Rancher. T-Hawk, I hope it was the best Jolly Rancher in the universe, because you deserve it.
I just love UConn fans who scream and chant for Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, but don't know who Kalana Greene is and get Essence Carson confused with Tina Charles. You know how it is. All those Liberty people look alike anyway, right? Or something like that?
The torch that has accompanied intros is not present today. Either they're worried about melting the ice for the game tomorrow, it's being used for the barbeque after the game, or they got an OSHA complaint after that time Kara almost walked into it. (You may have noticed my astonishingly low opinion of Kara Braxton's intelligence.) (Apparently they needed a break. Thing is expensive.)
I should ask Barb Farris where she got that top. 's pretty.
Still not talking to you, Mike Thibault.
Well, that's much more what we were expecting from the combination of Cappie Pondexter and Tina Charles. At halftime the Liberty are up 54-32, and the offense is flowing spectacularly. They're hustling for loose balls, sparked by Alex Montgomery. Sugar Rodgers has three assists, which I think is equivalent to her sophomore year production at Georgetown. Everyone's doing their part. Cappie has 15, Alex has 11, Tina has 8 with four boards. Everyone's doing something.
The bench wasn't able to maintain quite so much of the lead, but it was good to get some reps for them, and when your second and third quarters are as good as ours were, the fourth quarter is almost an afterthought.
Free food today! They found a way to wrangle the season subscriber barbeque that was basically the only redeeming quality of the three years in exile. Expect random fashion notes sprinkled in amongst the ramblings.
Kalana Greene finally got to play! We still love her around here, so it was nice to see her get some run (helps that the blowout was in our favor, instead of us getting blown out). She made some nice defensive plays. Monique Currie tried to force things in the fourth quarter, and while she drew contact to get to the line, she was also getting called for fouls on the other end, and good ol' Scowl-and-Foul came out to play. Tianna Hawkins got less time than I was expecting- I think she might have been effective against the work we were doing in the paint (obviously I approve of Mike Thibault not doing things that could help his team beat mine). She bodied up well enough. Kara Lawson killed us from outside in the first half, especially in the first quarter- her shot to end the first quarter could have been a heartbreaker if Washington had been able to capitalize on the momentum. But if she's your top scorer on a team that's dominated by rookies and sophomores, you might be doing a few circuits on the Dreaded Treadmill of Mediocrity. (Would that be the Dreadmill?) Stefanie Dolson did a little work on Tina Charles, but Tina did even more work on her, and she was moved around pretty easily even by our deep reserve posts. She got the second half start over Meesseman, in Thibault's effort to shake something into his team. Bria Hartley also started the second half, over Jelena Milovanovic, and she looked like a rookie out there. She was easily shaken on defense and worthless on offense. It was clear that Milovanovic was not the secret weapon that she was down in DC, but Hartley was not the answer, or at least not the answer to that question.
I didn't know Serbs played a lot of hockey, but Jelena Milovanovic checked Alex Montgomery pretty hard into the boards late in the game. Unfortunately, basketball courts don't have that particular kind of boards, and some poor kid sitting in the front row got wiped out. Alex was very concerned about the poor kid. A lot of the offense ran through her in the first quarter, since she was so effective in the game down in Washington, but she was missing the shots that she hit in that one, and we were much more prepared for the mismatch. Emma Meesseman did not have her head in the game. I don't know what was up with her, but she seemed especially bothered by Plenette Pierson in this one and reacted with uncharacteristic pettiness. She didn't seem to be looking for her proper place on the floor and didn't look to be into the game. Ivory Latta hit a three early, but I don't remember her being on the floor at any other time, and that's saying something for Ivory Latta. Kia Vaughn was inconsistent- sometimes going to the basket for the sweet bank shot, sometimes standing there and looking decorative. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt cut to the basket nicely once, but otherwise was invisible.
(Hey, cool, things are actually happening. We've been here for a good fifty minutes, and the food has been sparse. But this host is really, really annoying. Dude, you do realize Bill doesn't like to talk about the Pistons days during Liberty stuff, right? He's giving Barb Farris all the credit for this one, though that may be with a dose of his usual sarcasm. I also think it's a good idea to let the players eat in privacy first before unleashing fans on them.)
Shanece McKinney fouled a lot and couldn't shoot. Shanece, stop proving the fans wrong about bringing you back. That #24 is serious business. Avery Warley-Talbert- I'm still getting used to that confounded hyphenation- rebounded well in her limited minutes, but needs to go up strong when she goes up. Don't be scared- you weren't when you were a Flame. I love the myriad ways in which DeLisha Milton-Jones gets in the way of her teammates' defensive assignments, dancing along the lines of moving screens and offensive fouls but avoiding the whistle. She got the second quarter started right with those long jumpers she likes, and kept the young'uns from playing too out of control. Alex Montgomery was phenomenal, hitting big threes, sneaking in for boards, and hustling for everything. She made plays happen. She made a lot of things happen. (And yet she has a -1 +/-, which is a pretty good sign that single-game, single-player +/- is a load of horse manure.) Toni Young seemed to be experimenting more with her jumper in that ongoing attempt to switch her to the 3. It's not working. Sugar Rodgers actually passed the ball well in the first half, which surprises me as a Johnny fan. In the second half, she reverted to the player who was committing dumb fouls and chucking shots like she was trying to steal Ms. Jeffrey's preferred nickname. But in that first half, I could see the player Bill thinks she can be, the lead guard who can create offense for her teammates as well as herself. Chucky Jeffery is not a point guard. She's somewhat better at handling the ball in the backcourt than Sugar, but she is not a point guard. It also amuses me that her only defensive setting is "HI I'M IN YOUR FACE I'M IN YOUR FACE I'M NOT GOING AWAY HI HI HI HI IMMA PRESS YOU NOW", even in a blowout.
(Chucky is wearing polka dots. I'm not sure what to think of this. So far no fashion disasters. Then again, the starters haven't come out. Ooooh, Toni has really cute earrings.)
(Good God, Katie's eyes are blue up close. She came over and said hi to our table, and her eyes are ridiculously blue. She cleans up well.)
(Shanece is working that shirt. Plenette is a ninja- dodged the microphone. I'm not feeling the bottom of that outfit, though. Either go full length on the pants or go skirt. Like I said- wait for the starters on this squad to come out before the fashion disasters hit. I don't know if I'm feeling the stripes on DeLisha, but she's working them okay. Also, one tray of ten sliders is not sufficient to feed seven people, guys. Also, DeLisha, 'doing shots' does not mean what you think it means. Also, annoying host dude, Shanece did not play at Louisiana Tech, you're thinking of Venus Lacy. Also, Libs, silver Sharpies are fail and rub off. Also, annoying host dude, there is a difference between cooking and baking.)
This is the Cappie Pondexter we were looking for. This is the superstar who can carry a team to a championship. Whatever they did to that Achilles she's been kvetching about- and it looks like it was good and thoroughly taped up- they need to do it more often, unless it's not legal. She was hitting those jumpers beautifully and leading strong breaks. When she's on, she's a joy to watch. Essence Carson was very quiet, but we didn't need her to be loud. I thought she moved well on defense, and she had one of the plays of the game, one that would have gotten her an assist in hockey- she set up Anna Cruz, who whipped a pass to Cappie, who drained the three and got the place rocking. Plenette Pierson did a little too much shooting from the outside, but she has a thing for that shot, I really don't get it. She was all up in Meesseman's head- nothing too extreme, but little nudges that put her off balance. Tina Charles was solid. I question her shot selection a little, but when she went to the basket, no one was stopping her, and she cleaned the glass very well. Anna Cruz did a little bit of everything (and then the annoying host dude expected her to take the mic; y'all do realize Anna no habla inglés muy bien, right?), but what stood out to me most was her ability to read long rebounds, which allowed the offense to flow more quickly.
(Toni made an effort to circulate around back. That was sweet. She really is a nice kid.)
It's an ill wind that blows nobody good: Alex got knocked down hard on the Liberty side of the court and needed a little time to get back. Meanwhile, 4-on-5, the Liberty made a great defensive play, and DeLisha took the opportunity to outlet the ball to Alex for an instant fast break.
Alex falls down a lot. She lost a contact in the first half and ended up having to call time while Dolson was hassling her and not getting called for the foul she had so clearly committed. But that kind of hustle is why we love her.
The crew let them play in the first half, tightened up in the second. Some questionable out-of-bounds calls, and at least two situations where a player fouled her own teammate. (Poor Ivory Latta was on the receiving end of an elbow drop from Kia Vaughn, and Tina got shoved into Essence for what could have been a blocked shot.) Neither coach was pleased, though neither coach tends to be pleased with officials.
Someday, with all this stuff that's delivered by UPS in timeouts and sponsorships, there's going to be an InfoNotice on the scoreboard because UPS can't figure out how to make the delivery.
Even when it got tighter late in the fourth quarter, there was a minimum of panic. The kids did all right for themselves. Now we need to build on this for the softer stretch ahead. Tulsa's not necessarily easy, and home-and-home with Connecticut has bitter rivalry in it, but these are games we should take. See what happens when y'all work together, Libs?
Coda: the damn restaurant ran out of sliders. After two hours, some mingling, and one slider apiece, we bailed on the party. We suggested to Kristin Bernert that they might want to find another venue for the next one.