Hello, loyal readers! Your intrepid blogger is currently coming to you live and in stereophonic sound from the lobby of Walsh Gymnasium, where the Seton Hall faithful are starting to gather for the bus that will take us to Gampel Pavilion, on a collision course with the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.
You won't be getting in-game notes from me, as Gampel frowns upon both backpacks and laptops. (Moose, however, are strongly encouraged, so Moooose is in the bag with our Seton Hall gear.) At most, if Gampel has wi-fi, you'll get tweets.
I'm rather enjoying the evisceration of C. Vivian Stringer that our boosters are engaging in. Apparently she tried to bar the SHU band from the WNIT game last year, and the WNIT was all, uh, no, you can't do that.
This was not how the story was supposed to end for Daisha and JJ and Chiz and Didi. This is not how it was supposed to go. This wasn't what was supposed to happen, and all I can bring myself to do at the moment is rail at the heavens, because this is not fair and it's not right, and yes, we partially brought it upon ourselves, but not entirely. And as hard as these seniors have fought to be in this place at this time, to have it taken away not entirely by their own hand is heartbreaking.
Gampel Pavilion's security is ridiculously strict. I brought a totebag to carry my clipboard, Moooose, and a few small things. They told me no. It's maybe 14" x 12" x 4". In front of them, we took everything out of the bag, stowed the small things in our pockets, picked up Moooose and the clipboard, and rolled the bag into a tube the size of a tossed t-shirt. Seriously, guys, you need a hobby.
(Also, I don't want to say that the "no flag" policy was strict, but the SHU cheerleader who normally does the flag run had to use an imaginary flag.)
Kathleen Egan gave a few spot minutes at the 4. Jordan Mosley was the sub for Ka-Deidre Simmons when Didi got in foul trouble, and showed guts going after a Rachel Hollivay shot. (She got her hand on it and it still went in.) Lubirdia Gordon brought size down low, primarily in the first half, but seemed a little tentative. Then again, so were most of the Pirates. Tiffany Jones was one of the few people not afraid to attack the basket. I think early on she thought she was going to be more effective from beyond the arc, but someone knocked sense into her, and she went more towards the basket as the game went on. Tara Inman showed spunk, but not always common sense.
Chizoba Ekedigwe was stiff in the middle, and not in the stalwart kind of way. I think she actually played a minority of the critical minutes. She's normally a defensive stopper, but she just couldn't seem to get moving. Daisha Simmons was solid, though she did a lot of unnecessary passing. Janee Johnson was hot from outside. I think she knew what this game meant and wanted it worse than anyone else in a blue jersey. Tabatha Richardson-Smith was solid offensively and made a couple of great, aggressive defensive plays. I could do without the shots from somewhere in the vicinity of Metuchen, though. I've said before that as goes Ka-Deidre Simmons, so goes Seton Hall. And tonight Didi didn't have it. I don't know what was wrong with her. Maybe we'll never know. Maybe it was simply the doubles and triples Rutgers was constantly throwing at her, grinding her down. But she showed only flashes of the fearlessness that has been her trademark, constantly passing when she had interior looks, throwing up bad shots out of desperation, losing the vision that marked her as a point guard to be feared. This was not the Didi who led us to the top of the table.
Accidental funny but shouldn't be funny but funny anyway: Tab chased a loose ball into the Rutgers bench and landed hard on Coach Stringer, and may have gotten a foot to her gut. Later, she would fall into referee Tiara Cruse with the aid of momentum. I am positive Tab meant no harm, but it was a bit cathartic.
Rachel Hollivay came off the bench, though I think she might have started the second half. The PA guy wasn't really clear on announcing subs. She was strong, but her motion seemed limited. Cynthia Hernandez fired off two quick makes in the first half, and thereafter we were forced to devote somewhat more defensive attention to her. She doesn't look like your prototypical three-point specialist, but she's got a nice shot. Christa Evans played brief minutes when both Butts and Hollivay had picked up quick fouls. Shrita Parker has a lot of speed. I'm not sure how much common sense she has on the floor, but she has speed and she has guts.
Betnijah Laney has clearly heard the aspersions cast on her professional prospects due to her lack of a perimeter game at her size. She'll never be asked to participate in a WNBA three-point contest, but she was stroking them today. I'm not completely certain how many of them were fully behind the line, and she needs to get that extra foot or so in the next couple of years. She cleaned up the boards that extra step away from the basket- not necessarily the ones directly at the rim, but a little ways off. Tyler Scaife brought the pretty, pretty offense in the second half, hitting jumpers and getting looks. I can tell from the box score that Briyona Canty did things, but I don't remember her doing things. Kahleah Copper was a matchup nightmare- she ate our backcourt alive. She was too big for either of the Simmonae to handle and too fast for Tab. She's so athletic. Ariel Butts boxed out well, but didn't really make an impact.
I am not a trained official, but my impression has always been that if a player is touching the ball while her feet are in contact with the floor out of bounds, then she and the ball are out of bounds and it's a turnover. This crew managed to mess that up twice in the first half. Unless there is some new rule I have not been made aware of, and the painted area on the far side of the baseline is now part of the floor, this is a load of hooey. The officiating seemed to deteriorate further in the second half, though honesty compels me to question whether the officiating changed, Seton Hall changed, or my perception changed.
Seton Hall brought about two busloads, more or less. Rutgers may have brought more. There were even a few brave St. Francis fans there to bear witness to the carnage to come. The UConn fans seemed friendly enough.
The ice cream stall was extremely popular. What is wrong with you, Connecticut, there's still snow on the ground!
Damika Martinez of Iona decided, 'you know what, I'm going to the tournament, even if my teammates don't come with me'. We saw her walking the concourse at halftime.
We played our hearts out. It wasn't enough. And I grieve for our seniors, that they had only this night on the big stage. I wanted so much for them. I wanted them to exact satisfaction on Rutgers for last year and for the slights this year, and then who knows? The sky would have been the limit. Why not Seton Hall?
But that's the question for next year now. Why not Seton Hall? Why not Tab and the Pirates?
For this year, though, I'm left saying words I thought I'd never say. Go UConn. Destroy Rutgers. I'm petty, what can I say?