Good afternoon, loyal and disloyal readers alike! Your intrepid blogger comes to you today from the MAAC Game of the Week at the Hynes Athletic Center on the campus of Iona College, where the Gaels play host to the Red Foxes of Marist.
I'm worried it's going to be one of *those* days, given that we missed the last bus that would have gotten us there before the tip, so we had to take a cab. Then again, I'm almost certain it was the same cabby who took us to Iona the last time we had to resort to that.
Early yet, but already that familiar core of Marist fans and family has settled in behind the visiting bench. Today's a double-header with the men, but it appears to be separate admission, which is the worst of both worlds- you get all the agita that comes with a men's game, and none of the people. Fortunately, unlike last time, we have friends in useful places, and we're in our usual spot.
Judging from the shorts, I think one of the guys from Marist came to support the women's team. Given that they're the better basketball team in Poughkeepsie by far, I can't say I'm surprised.
Lost Marist tourist, Imma need you to stop wandering around behind our bench. You are being a creepy creeping creeper who creeps.
Oh, stop playing New York songs, Iona. You're in Westchester County, that's not New York City.
Seriously. Okay, we're at 20 minutes before tip, but there are seven people behind Iona's bench. And one of them is the student charged with making sure no one rushes the court
ahem, Mama Martinez. We're up to ten now!
Okay, things have improved between now and then. The Iona folks have shown up, including Damika's incorrigible family (I don't know what we're gonna do next year without them to liven things up). Marist is up 32-30 behind 12 points from Tori Jarosz, who has been abusing Karynda DuPree down low. Joy Adams has 10 points and nine boards for Iona, who can't resist the urge to shoot themselves in the foot whenever possible. Officiating hasn't helped, but hasn't been as much of a factor as the partisans around us believe.
There are rally towels. They are bright yellow and screen printed. Student workers were originally trying to reserve them solely for the students, but yeah, that's not happening. Not when most of the ardent fans aren't students, and not when y'all start waving them around us.
Killian, you're a darling, and I really appreciate that you've been at more games this year, but could you not stand in front of us? Thanks.
Not that Damika rides the hell out of the bike, but it's still going a good thirty seconds after she jumped off.
So that fell apart at the end, and it's sad. I like Iona, I really do, but it's really hard to root for them sometimes. The dysfunction is real, and it's painful, and it's making y'all miss out on two phenomenal players.
Marist is not what Marist used to be. It's strange to say that, stranger still to see it with my own two eyes instead of intuiting it from box scores and W-L records. Brian Giorgis is still a fantastic coach, and if a game comes down to Xs and Os, or having the right player on the floor to be at the right place at the right time, that's a game Brian Giorgis's team is going to win. But he's not getting the players he got when they made their name over Ohio State. He doesn't have a Corielle Yarde, a Rachele Fitz. He has a lot of players who still seem to be finding their way.
Katharine Fogarty gave a big body in the middle, getting one decent-sized run in each half. I have a basket down for her, and I thought she was the one who hit a little turnaround over Karynda DuPree, but the official box score has no shots attempted for Miss Fogarty. I'm going to have to take a closer look at the numbers. Brittni Lai came in to run point and seemed to be playing a lot when the game was close in the first half. She had a nice steal in the second half that she turned into a fast break lay-up, and she was generally hitting shots, and why can't I remember her clearly? Payton Birchmeier, cursed at birth with a hopelessly preppy name, came in to relieve Toni Jarosz when Jarosz was tired of conquering everything in her path, and did a little work down low. Her three-point shot needs work, though I'm not sure how many of those her team really wants her to take. Just enough to keep a defense honest, I presume.
Sydney Coffey took a lot of shots, and seemed accustomed to taking and making a lot of shots, but I think her more important role in this one was locking down Damika Martinez. I can see the look on your face now, because I'm cursed with second sight: "How do you define locking down a player by letting her score 19 points?" And my answer is that 19 is below Damika's average and about four or five of those came when the game was in hand. So if I'm Marist, I sigh at the missed shots, but I take the defensive energy, and in a way that sort of defines the Red Foxes: if they're not beating you one way, they're beating you the other. I expected Madeline Blais to be a little more of a factor, so I was relieved when she got the two fouls early on, but other than hitting some late shots from the corner, I didn't see a lot from her. Natalie Gomez-Martinez seemed to be handling a fair amount of the play-calling, but was quiet overall. Allie Clement made a splash early, and with Marist, I have a healthy respect for a freshman who cracks their starting lineup. But the undisputed star of the game was Tori Jarosz, who bullied Iona down low. She came out of the SEC, and she played like a player who's dealt with the physicality of the SEC. Iona had no answer for her. I don't think Iona's had a player who could legitimately answer her since Martina Weber (though Sabrina Jeridore would have at least blocked some of those shots).
Marist looked pedestrian, and that's a word I've rarely used for the Red Foxes. But they get in your head if you've seen them often enough. Just look at the notes and how often this team is compared to the past. Now imagine you've lost to Marist over and over again. They're the boogeyman. You expect them to win even when they're losing. (I suspect part of Quinnipiac's early success in their new conference, along with talented players and their hockey-style system, is not having the boogeyman in their heads, not having the history and the subconscious expectations.)
Philecia Gilmore gave decent minutes off the bench when both Damika Martinez and Kristin Mahoney were in foul trouble. Aurellia Cammock at least fought inside, but she was out of her class with Jarosz, and didn't seem ready for the pressure of a big game. Cassidee Ranger can only score in threes, it appears- even when she takes twos. She had a basket in the lane and got an and-1 off it. I'm not sure she's being used as effectively as she could be, but they don't pay me the big bucks, so we'll just have to go with what we have.
I think half of Iona's problems would be solved if we could find a way for Karynda DuPree and Aaliyah Robinson to swap bodies. That way, the 6-4 forward with a strong body that every 6-0 power forward dreams of could contentedly stand on the perimeter and jack threes, while the 5-11 guard who crashes the boards without fear could really, really dominate. Honestly, though, Karynda makes me want to smack her with my clipboard. She shies away from contact inside, and she doesn't post up at ALL on offense. All her shots were long outside jumpers, and she backed down every play on defense. Aaliyah, meanwhile, had a couple of bad rolls and a few bad shots, but fought hard on the boards and on defense. (A Karynda-sized Aaliyah would be scary. Like, play for a top 10 school scary. I'm dead serious.) I'm glad Marina Lizarazu has recovered from her concussion, but I think she's still a little gun-shy- scared to drive, afraid to take contact, hesitant to hit the floor for loose balls she would normally pursue. On the other hand, she took far fewer stupid shots than she was taking before. That just sounds like I'm a horrible human being for seeing the silver lining in a concussion. Damika Martinez is learning the hard way more and more with every passing game that heavy lies the head that wears the scorer's crown. Marist doubled her every time she got the ball. And then they threw more defenders at her to increase the pressure until she inevitably coughed up the ball. Her ball security today was awful. Don't throw the ball to people on the other team. Joy Adams went into beast mode today. She owned the boards. She almost single-handedly outrebounded Marist (25 rebounds for Marist, 24 for Joy). She slithered through defenders like she was getting her Neo Anderson on.. She even threw up a desperation three near the end of the game and it went in perfectly. She had trouble hanging on to the ball, but that's because Marist will swarm the ballhandler if they see any signs of weakness, and heaven knows Iona will show signs of weakness.
I've compared Marist to piranhas before, but it's not quite appropriate. Driver ants, maybe? Bees? Hyenas?
There were some interesting non-calls on Marist (poor Damika) and some questionable procedural calls (pretty sure you can have your hand under the ball if you're catching it, but I could be wrong). The folks around us hated every call against Iona and wanted a call on every play against Marist, but they're partisans, they're allowed.
Your LOL of the day: when Damika Martinez crossed over Natalie Gomez-Martinez and blew by her, the cry went up from Damika's family: "Gotcha, fake Martinez!" (Not that I personally am impugning any claims to the name.)
Iona student section, I love your enthusiasm and your passion, but do not taunt happy fun Marist fans, that never ends well.
I feel like I've been waiting four years for Iona to take that next step. I'm starting to wonder if they ever will.