And here we are again at the Pavilion at Villanova, this time for the Red Storm's visit to Philadelphi.
It's "We Back Pat" day here at Villanova, with the Wildcats wearing "We Back Pat" shirts and special socks from Nike- purple with a neon orange stripe down the back. Ancillary staff are also making attempts to wear purple or purple accessories. "We Back Pat" placards are placed across from the benches to form the phrase.
The road reds are fire and I really really want those socks. Someone find me a qay to buy those socks. I don't care if they're used and washed.
Danaejah Grant has attached braids to her 'hawk. This is going to end in someone getting whiplash, I know it.
Everyone knows Harry Perretta. He's currently perched on our bench chatting with Joe Pellicane. He looks deeply wrong in a long-sleeved t-shirt.
I don't see Kyra Dunn as of yet. Sandie Udobi and Selina Archer don't surprise me, since they're injured, but Kyra could theoretically be useful.
Gospel choir sang the anthem, but not particularly gospel-like.
At halftime we have baton twirlers. I'll give Villanova credit: they don't care what body type you have if you have the talent.
Villanova is up 41-35 at the half behind 14 points, including four threes, from Caroline Coyer. Aliyyah Handford has 10 for St. John's. We need to consider maybe we should guard the arc. Tonoia Wade is having herself a first half.
Tamesha Alexander, being a Philly kid, has a bunch of family here- they're in the row behind us. Some folks from Piscataway are here for Danaejah, too.
Hey, Villanova PA guy, Lauren Hill ain't dead yet. The game at Cintas wasn't even close to her final game.
What do you mean I have to be coherent? I don't want to be coherent, I want to run around and swear at things and possibly hit Jade Walker upside the head with my clipboard. But you expect better of me, and I should hold myself to a higher standard, so I'll ignore the idle games open in my browser and try to be coherent.
Tamesha Alexander- or Sox, which is her nickname and much shorter and more fitting- got some time in the first half and pressured the endless dribbling of Villanova. I'd have liked to see her and the rest of the reserves late in the second half, when the game was out of reach- getting some cheap pop from Sox's Philly people might have helped, and the frosh need all the experience they can get. Tonoia Wade was the designated post reserve today, and she played well. Her jumper isn't pretty, but hey, she hit one of 'em. More importantly, she brought the defense and she crashed the boards hard. She needs to work on her positioning, but that will come with time.
Imani Littleton didn't play, but I think she ended up hearing more from Joe than anyone else on the roster. You wonder if she eventually starts tuning him out because he keeps yelling in her direction. He did turn the volume down in the second half, but still. Kvetching at people who haven't done anything wrong, and who haven't gotten a chance to do anything wrong, is counterproductive.
Jade Walker had some pretty jumpers, but at the same time, she was soft defensively- she came out of the game after giving up a couple of bad plays in a row, Joe was about ready to blow his top, and Tonoia all but catapulted off the bench. Aliyyah Handford's handle was a little sloppier than usual, and she looked like she was running out of gas- you can see where she's trying to conserve energy as she comes up and down the court. She was still somewhat active in the passing lanes, and showed her vertical trying to block Nova threes. Aaliyah Lewis had trouble seeing over taller Villanova defenders, and there was a play in (I think) the second half where St. John's almost got burned- Aliyyah was open on the baseline, but Aaliyah couldn't see her, and the play needed a couple of close passes in the paint before we got a basket out of it. She was our long-range threat, but that's not saying very much, given our overall lack of three-point shooting. (Which in turn is not to denigrate Tiny Aaliyah's threes. She looked good- it's just that we take so few threes and Villanova takes ALL the threes.) Danaejah Grant looked more comfortable than I've seen her in a while with that enormous black brace hugging her shoulder like some sort of Borg thing. She missed a lot of makeable shots, but that feels like the story of my life as a Red Storm fan.
This was the kind of game that made it look like we've fallen a step behind the top teams in the conference, and a step behind of who we once were. There were defensive breakdowns, there were a lot of missed chippies, there were lazy pases and casual ballhandling. Those aren't the mistakes you make if you want to win a conference with the history of the Big East. Those aren't the mistakes you make if you want to get into the NCAA tournament, and certainly if you want to do more than put another year on the banner.
The boxscore says that Samantha Wilkes played, but I have no memory of anything that she did, and Nova's announcer is not good at announcing substitutions. Alex Louin changed things up with her height. I like the way she holds her hands on defense- bladed, like a runner minimizing drag or a judoka about to deliver a chop. Jordan Dillard brought some speed off the bench. Of course, no discussion of the Villanova reserves is complete without Taylor Holeman, the microwave player for their offense, the one player who doesn't seem to shoot threes. She hit soft midrange jumpers and shook every defender we tried to put on her. She's scary good. She should show up in a WNBA training camp, and she should have a good career in Europe if she wants it.
I don't like Katherine Coyer. Hitting Tiny Aaliyah in the face is uncalled for and uncouth. Pick on someone your own size, Katherine. She went off for her points in one fell swoop in the second half- I think it was between the first two media timeouts. Suddenly she was cutting into the lane and hitting easy lay-ups. I don't like Caroline Coyer either, but that's exclusively because she burned us like hydrochloric acid beyond the arc. Different flavor of distaste. She has a pretty stroke, and she gets it off quick enough- not necessarily super quick, but that's where screens help. Taylor Holeman freed her up for one in the first half, either her third or fourth of the game. I don't recall Lauren Burford strongly- she brought some height, then surprised us with three-pointers. Well, surprised the Red Storm players and coaches- no one taking a three on Villanova surprises me unless it's Harry himself. Kavunaa Edwards was the starter who didn't play the starter's minutes- she scored early and was tall, but other than that was not memorable. Then again, I'm writing these notes at seven o'clock on a northbound bus. Emily Leer hit one of those pretty pretty hook shots, and generally caused chaos and consternation among the defense- again, a size mismatch, and those don't end well when your post players don't get out to the arc, because then you're asking tiny guards to defend big forwards, and that doesn't work no matter how fierce the tiny guard is.
Villanova's ball movement, when the ball moved, was very crisp. They used screens well to get the shooters free. But when they built the big lead after a spurt in the second half, then it ground to a screeching, agonizing halt as the Nova offense turned into the Let's Watch Caroline Coyer Dribble The Ball For Twenty Seconds Show. Honestly. If the refs could count, they would have dinged her for five seconds (the closely guarded variety, not the throw-in variety). Their three-point tendencies were less evident in this one, thanks to the work of Holeman and Leer down low, and Katherine Coyer cutting through the defense in the lane.
Officials can't count, film at eleven.
Squee of the day, part one: as mentioned above, Sox had family, friends, and school buddies at the game. When she got ready to check in, naturally they cheered. Tonoia looked back at the sudden sound and smiled in a way that registered as "d'awwwwww".
Squee of the day, part two: The shootout contest had a little girl, whose mission was to hit a lay-up, free throw, and three-pointer in thirty seconds. Lay-up she got on the first try, free throw on the second. The first three missed short, so she did it as a run-up the way an adult takes a halfcourt shot. Missed the next two. One shot left... it bounced around and went in at the buzzer. The crowd went wild... and then one of the refs gave her a fist bump as she came off the court.
So two out of three ain't bad. Would still rather have gotten the win over Villanova for St. John's, but all in all, a good road trip for your intrepid blogger.