So we sat and marinated in our fury and frustration for twenty minutes, waiting for the second game to begin. We debated leaving because we knew it was going to be a blow-out, but we paid for the ticket and our dinner reservations weren’t until 5:15, so there was no point in going anywhere. We chatted up the UConn fans around us, some of whom commiserated with us about the previous game. Then Elvis entered the building and it got hard to do much of anything.
I don’t want to be a UConn fan- I love my team, I’m happy with my team, I think we can do great things- but I want something like what UConn has. I understand that it takes time to build a fan base like that, and that there’s a bit of a perfect storm in Connecticut, given their placement between the New York sphere of influence and the Boston sphere of influence with no real outlet for those passions nearby. But the feeling of sitting in an arena for a women’s basketball game and being surrounded by thousands of cheering fans… it’s good for the soul if you’re a fan of the game, and not just of one particular team or another. It’s something to aim for.
I swear Kayla Alexander felt she had something to prove. I don’t know who she wanted to prove it to, given that she made the All-Freshman team and it’s pretty obvious that she’s going to have to fill in when Nicole Michael graduates. She showed some nice moves inside, though her propensity for elbows will probably not serve her well in later years. Carmen Tyson-Thomas also showed me something, though perhaps it was just the ability to not look like someone who had never played basketball before when confronted with the machine that is UConn, which I suppose is a moral victory. Tyler Ash started getting fearless late. There comes a time when it’s hard to really care. Lampkins fancied herself a three-point shooter- haven’t seen enough of the Orange to determine if she normally hits those and tonight was just not her night, or if she just can’t shoot.
Maybe Syracuse just gave up, but their starters didn’t seem to be in the game at all- both literally, by not playing a lot, and figuratively, by not having their heads in the game. Michael barely got any touches, which you would think would be unusual for Syracuse’s all-time leading scorer. The way Tasha Harris played today, I’m surprised she was even in the first twelve for the Lieberman. Maybe it’s the lateness of the hour or the quality of the game, but I’m having a hard time remembering Syracuse doing much of anything other than missing even the easiest of shots that UConn gave them.
That’s the scary part. UConn gave up 19 offensive rebounds, and Syracuse still couldn’t get it in the hole. They had two or three chances at some shots and could get nothing. That’s the scary part- this was far from the best game UConn has played this year, and they still curb-stomped a Syracuse team that’s on the bubble. That’s the most terrifying thing about UConn. They’re just that good.
Their bench didn’t impress me, but I guess they didn’t need to. More to the point, I’m not the one they need to impress. Kelly Faris, especially, looked very ordinary, and I was given the impression that she was the next big thing from UConn. I also thought Gardler was a smarter player than she showed today; you’d expect that from a coach’s kid, right? McLaren… uh, has she put on weight? I completely have no right to ask this, I know, but she looks bigger than she did last year. Dixon’s still a little out of control. Perhaps there’s just some sort of peculiar plague afflicting the Christ the King alumnae? Should we check on Bird or Doron to make sure they haven’t been replaced by aliens? Buck looked really uncomfortable out there. Fernandes at least looked somewhat comfortable, even if she didn’t meet the high standards basketball fans have come to expect from folks wearing UConn jerseys.
But hey, who needs a bench when you have Tina Charles? That was one of the most dominant performances I’ve ever seen from a post player. Her moves in the paint were ridiculous, and her blocks powerful. Her free throw shooting could use some work, but no single person is perfect. And Maya Moore brought it too. Slick, graceful, and acrobatic. Tiffany Hayes got into foul trouble early and really couldn’t get going. Doty couldn’t hit a shot, but she was brilliant passing on the break. And Kalana Greene is a great Robin to the Batman/Superman combo of Charles and Moore. She takes advantage of the space she gets because they get so much respect from the defense.
I’ll tell you, it’s really hard to do a player-by-player breakdown of UConn. They come at you in groups. When the ball comes off the glass or the rim, there are two, three, four players crashing the boards like their lives depended on someone from UConn coming down with the ball. Same deal with loose balls. Their passing is crisp and slick. They work as a unit like no team I’ve ever seen. They work harder than just about any team in the game, looking like they have to work for every loose ball in order to win. I think sometimes they pretend not to know they’re talented so they keep working like this.
Not that it would matter with a margin like this, but if the refereeing was biased, it was biased against UConn. There were a couple of odd out-of-bounds calls that I thought should hae gone to the Huskies. And I’m not sure about Moore’s… third foul, I think it was, though if it wasn’t, I claim the excuse that it’s 1AM and I’m in my nineteenth straight hour of consciousness. It was either the third or the fourth that I thought was pretty questionable.
So let’s review. The guard who usually shoots pretty well went scoreless (though she had seven assists). Her running mate only had seven, and only one field goal. The bench was substandard. The passing game early on wasn’t as sharp as usual. They hit barely half their free throws. They got the short end of the stick from the referees. And they won by 36. They scored more in the first half than the other team did in the game. In the Big East tournament, against a Syracuse team on the bubble.
I saw the monster last year- quite a few times, in fact, given that we went to the Trenton Regional and St. Louis for the Final Four, as well as the home game at St. John’s. Somehow, they’ve gotten even better after graduating Renee Montgomery. This is scary, guys. This is really scary.