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St. John's vs. Seton Hall: Red Storm stands firm against Pirates

Just the Facts, Ma'am: St. John's took a big lead in the first half, lost it, then held their ground in the second half to claim a 59-50 win over Seton Hall. Danaejah Grant had 17 points to lead all scorers, while Amber Thompson had 12 points and 20 rebounds, in the process breaking the St. John's career record for rebounds. Tabatha Richardson-Smith had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Seton Hall. For 30% Simmons content, feelings of purple, auld acquaintance ne'er forgot, impassioned rivalries, splutting with the enemy, and so very much defense, join your intrepid and awkward blogger after the jump.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the first of two games annually your intrepid blogger refers to as The Awkward Bowl! Round one has Seton Hall visiting St. John's, and your intrepid blogger sitting with her mother. My darlin', your dashing reporter on occasion, is over on the Seton Hall side, and now you know why I call it The Awkward Bowl.

This feels SO WRONG OH MY GOD. My team is over there, but my team is over there, and Tony is on the St. John's bench (and that would have solved everything) and my husband is over there and this just is not right and Tabatha Richardson-Smith is probably going to kill me at the next game.

The giant yellow print on the screen seems to indicate that the telestrator is working properly. They should probably clear it before gametime, though.

At halftime, St. John's is up 31-26, but Seton Hall is making a late push by speeding up the game and pressing on defense to take advantage of the Red Storm's freshmen. Danaejah Grant has 10 points for St. John's, beating the buzzer twice. Janee Johnson has eight for the Hall.

Seton Hall has a huge fan contingent here. They're cheering and chanting. They have signs. I think some of their dance team, the Sapphires, are here in civilian clothes. Fortunately, we brought reinforcements too.

We need to stop giving the ball to Janee Johnson. She doesn't play for us! We gave Seton Hall the ball a lot. I know the New Jersey ties run deep, but we kept giving the ball to people named Simmons who were not Crystal.

One team cracked under the pressure. It wasn't the team I was expecting. One phenomenal backcourt got into foul trouble and was never quite the same. It wasn't the backcourt I was expecting.

Tara Inman was in for her ability to press on the ball, and she was solid there, but she blew two lay-ups with bad, bad fundamentals. Tiffany Jones had some nice moves on the inside, but was hampered by foul trouble, since if there's an opportunity to call a foul on Tiffany Jones, a foul will be called on Tiffany Jones. Chizoba Ekedigwe came in in the second half for rebounding and defense, and I was surprised that she didn't play more to try and counteract the Red Storm's tendency to drive the ball (plus Amber Thompson's tendency to rebound all the things). Jordan Mosley spelled the Simmonses in the backcourt and was off on her shot- to be fair, a lot of the shots she took were under time pressure, as SHU was trying to get off threes to cut the lead.

I think Coach Bozzella outsmarted himself with his bench. SHU has a depth advantage on SJU, but they really didn't go into it.

Daisha Simmons looks taller in her road uniform, though that might also be because she tended to leave her jersey untucked. She committed a lot of travels, but also hit a lot of jumpers, especially in the first half. She lost her head in the second half on a clash with Amber, and drew a technical that booted her from the game as her fifth foul. That, in turn, threw Ka-Deidre Simmons off her game down the stretch, and that was part of the difference in this game. She was hitting her shots early, but fumbling and making mistakes late. Bra'Shey Ali came up with some great boards and one big block, but was out of position more often than I expected her to be, and got addicted to outside jumpers. Shey, you are an awesome rebounder and a beast on the inside- why are you taking a three? Tabatha Richardson-Smith was the force on the boards that I expected Shey to be, and she got on a bit of a hot streak in the second half, but down the stretch we put Aliyyah Handford on her to get up in her face, and that did the trick. (Also, Tab: pick on someone your own size, don't be putting a forearm into Aaliyah Lewis's throat.) Janee Johnson had a really good game, rebounding, defending, and hitting her long shots. She was more defensive than offensive in the second half, and she had fewer touches.

Kyra Dunn played briefly in the first half and tapped over a couple of rebounds- she's not credited with them, but without her we don't get two boards. Crystal Simmons (to the best of my knowledge, not related to any other Simmons in this game) is terrified to shoot, and that makes her a liability. On the other hand, she's very athletic and played solid defense when we needed her. Tonoia Wade saw time as a defensive specialist, and she provided good hustle.

Much was asked of Aaliyah Lewis today, and she delivered. She defended much bigger players- she pulled down a nice board right in front of Tab- she ran the offense, she got to the line. She did demonstrate an unfortunate tendency to throw the ball to Seton Hall, but that was a common problem. I do wish we'd stop running her into the ground. Amber Thompson rebounds all the things, but you already knew that. She's now the all-time leading rebounder in Red Storm history, and that's with, like, fifteen games to go. Jade Walker was hot early, hitting outside jumpers, but I think she got a little tight later in the game. Danaejah Grant rebounds well, and we needed all of her offense, but I do wish she'd stop being so lackadaisical on defense. She was late closing on Daisha Simmons twice. Aliyyah Handford started hot, got into foul trouble, cooled down a little, then came up big at the end of the game. When she blocked Tab, I knew the game was over.

Defense wins ball games. Seton Hall had chances, but St. John's stepped up the defense and took the ball away, especially in the last few minutes, when the Pirates were down their Simmonses. St. John's never really stopped making mistakes, but they were able to force Seton Hall into more and worse ones.

I admit to spending much of the second half distracted, though. Shenneika Smith, she who hit one of the biggest shots in Red Storm history against UConn yea all these many years ago, was at the game... with Brittany Webb, a former Pirate who is, er, extremely loyal to her team despite having been kicked off it. And they were both very, very into the game. Shenneika almost fell off the bleachers at one point. I think it was right after Amber got the technical.

Unfortunately, the game turned into a ref show in the second half. There were dicey offensive foul calls on both sides, and I don't even know what happened in the incident with Amber and Daisha, or why they got technicals. The end of the first half was the first sign that the ref show was starting, with such heavy contact not called on both sides that I thought the coaches were going to have to fight to see who was going to fight the refs.

I think Seton Hall adjusted better in the third quarter, for lack of a better term, but we stood our ground defensively in the fourth quarter and forced a lot of bad passes and bad shots. Going to a slightly smaller, slightly quicker lineup with Tonoia Wade for Jade Walker might have helped.

I don't know if I'm looking forward to the rematch, though...