And here's the big match, UConn and St. John's.
We're currently in the intermission, where Maggie Dixon (may she rest in peace, at least until she sees a bad call from the heavens and lets the refs know) is being honored. Five thousand seems like a chintzy donation, though. Five thousand from each school seems more reasonable.
There are a lot of empty seats around us, but that's because of the genius idea to have the reception about Immaculata and Queens start at halftime of the first game and run into the first quarter of the second game.
My team! Why are you so far away, my team! *reaches out from the nineteenth row*
There are people behind me with a selfie stick. I am ashamed of humanity. Oh, God, I think they're recording a Vine.
Some genius did not tell the band where they were supposed to be, and some other genius sold those seats to fans, so now our band is out of position and I think they're a bit irked. Especially since the regular band section is utterly empty. Someone dropped the ball badly.
Look, guys. I get that I've technically been abandoned on the UConn side of halfcourt. But if you're wearing UConn gear, and you come over here to talk about the Liberty, I don't want to talk to you. I'm a St. John's fan, and I'm here to support St. John's, not to talk about the lack of news for the Liberty.
Why did Kym Hampton have to sing "God Bless America"? Did ESPN tell MSG they needed to fill a few extra minutes before tip?
At halftime, UConn is up 38-31 on St. John's, and I am not disappointed. We're taking some really bad shots and showing questionable shot awareness, but we're coming up with good defensive plays in the paint. Danaejah Grant has taken over scoring duties for St. John's with 13, after Aliyyah Handford started off hot. Moriah Jefferson is on fire with 14 points, both from long range and from navigating the paint like a boss.
The people behind us have turned out to be funny and knowledgeable, so I'll take it.
Lady in the pink UConn shirt, stop turning around and judging me. It's not my fault the Liberty season subscriber section is on the UConn side of halfcourt.
Here's the thing when you're playing UConn and you're not, like Stanford or South Carolina or a super double-plus elite team: you're not measuring yourself as much against the scoreboard as you are the schedule. Losing by 16 is always disappointing. But that's less than DePaul. Less than UCLA. Less than Duke. Less than Notre Dame. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis looked bad. Aliyyah Handford looked good. The defense was sharp. UConn barely made 70. You take these moral victories.
UConn got very little from their bench, which surprised me. Saniya Chong's shot looked bad, and I'm pretty sure bad things happen to you at UConn if you go 0-2 from the line. Kiah Stokes was solid defensively and cleared the glass (she boxes out really well), but a non-factor on offense. Gabby Williams played briefly in the second half, but she did nothing memorable. Geno cleared the bench in the last minute or two, bringing on Courtney Ekmark, Briana Pulido, and Tierney Lawlor. (I will take this too as a moral victory.)
Kia Nurse looks pretty composed for a freshman. I think she might have gotten a little rattled in the second half, with sloppy passing and fewer good shots. Moriah Jefferson was on fire in the first half, as referenced above- she was driving the lane with the speed and deftness of a test course driver navigating obstacles, and when she wasn't going to the basket, she was hitting threes. Our perimeter defense tightened up a little bit, and she became more of a distributor. Morgan Tuck picked up the slack. When my team, or a team that I like, is not playing UConn, I love to watch Morgan Tuck work. She goes over that other shoulder beautifully. She doesn't take a lot of threes, but she has a knack for hitting them when she does. She uses her body really well. I seriously love to watch her play. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis may have played her way out of the #1. She's a shooter, and when she's on, she's so good that you can overlook her flaws. But when she's off, you suddenly remember that she's a tweener on size, and doesn't defend well, and doesn't really rebound for her size unless her shot is going. You can't take a player like that as the top player in the draft. Breanna Stewart proceeded to remind everyone that she is tall, and not just a shooter, and not just a scorer. She worked well on the inside on both ends of the floor, defending the basket like Dikembe Mutombo in that Geico commercial. (Seriously. I think she had three blocks in the first two minutes of the second half. Penetrate, block. Penetrate, block. Penetrate, block. What's a learning curve?) The people behind us were praying pretty loudly that she goes to the Liberty in 2016, and I think I'd be okay with that. Well, except for either epic failing the 2015 season or for whatever trade we would have to conclude to get her.
One of the things that actually makes watching UConn games enjoyable is watching Geno make adjustments when things aren't working, because it's usually pretty obvious when he makes a change. But if anything, his team got sloppier and less attentive as the game went on. Maybe that was just fatigue, or disinterest, but usually they get that knocked out of them.
We actually got to see a little of Tamesha Alexander running the point, and I think she's the kind of PG who could grow on me. She's not much of a shooter, but she's good at causing havoc on defense, and she's a good distributor. Imani Littleton spelled Jade Walker whenever Jade, er, needed a teaching moment- she's got to hit her shots, but I think (and hope, and pray) that that will come with time. Crystal Simmons saw time in the first half to spell the dynamic duo, but she's got to hit her free throws, and she can't be afraid to shoot. All the athleticism in the world isn't worth a bucket of warm spit if you can't score. Joe threw up the white flag with about a minute and a half to go, putting in Kyra Dunn, Selina Archer, and Kimberly Spruill. I think the bench would have exploded, in a good way, if Kimberly had taken the three instead of passing off to Crystal.
Jade. Oh, Jade Walker. Bless your heart, because someone has to right now. Not that I don't love when she hits the little midrange jumper, but she was really off her game today. She got pulled a lot for short periods of time during which she got lectured. She was out of position a lot and let herself get pushed around down low. Amber Thompson started slow, but hit the boards harder in the second half. Tuck and Stokes did a good job of sealing her off. Aaliyah Lewis got her feet under her as the game went on, and I hope she was watching a lot of Moriah Jefferson's moves- that's the kind of player she needs to emulate if she wants to be successful. She was jacking a lot of threes, but given our lack of three-shooting, that's something we're going to see a lot of. Aliyyah Handford was hot early and hot late, making plays and getting some pretty boss rebounds. Took a lot of shots, but that's what she has to do for us. Danaejah Grant got good looks at the basket, and I think I might have liked seeing her do more from the perimeter and less in the paint, but I think she's hurting. Her stamina seems to have decreased, and she's backing off a lot of plays on defense. That worries me. But her shoulder worries me more.
Officiating was a non-factor, albeit one of dubious competence. But it was consistent. That's about all I've come to expect.
UConn's band is good. They only brought dance, not cheer, so we didn't get to see a lot of their best tricks; conversely, we only brought cheer, not dance, so we didn't get to show off some of our fancy moves.
I didn't expect to win. But I think we put together a respectable showing against one of the best teams in the country. I think we rattled them a little bit. I walked out of there with my head held high, and the St. John's on my chest clear and bright. I love my team.