Fordham Men Stumbling; Now 6-17, 2-7 in A-10


Ally White/The Ram Freshman Mandell Thomas played well against Saint Louis, scoring 22 points.


Ally White/The Ram Freshman Mandell Thomas played well against Saint Louis, scoring 22 points.
Ally White/The Ram Freshman Mandell Thomas played well against Saint Louis, scoring 22 points.

With each passing day, the chances that Fordham will qualify for the Atlantic 10 tournament become increasingly slim. After losses to Saint Louis and La Salle, the Rams sit at 2-7 in-conference, two games behind the 12th and final tournament spot.

Fordham’s Feb. 6 game against Saint Louis started out well for the Rams. With 5:51 left in the first half, Fordham trailed by only two, 25-23. But then the Billikens’ Cody Ellis caught fire. Ellis scored 17 points in the first half, 11 of which came in the final six minutes.

At 6’8” and 245 lbs., Ellis is difficult to match up against defensively. He is too big and too strong to be defended by a guard, but too athletic to be guarded by any of Fordham’s bigs. He spent the first half terrorizing Fordham from beyond the arc, shooting 5-10 on three-pointers.

“Their bigs are really skilled and crafty, and our bigs are really young and big,” Fordham head coach Tom Pecora said with a chuckle. “Guarding guys around the perimeter is not their cup of tea.”

Pecora said he knew coming in that Ellis was a dangerous player.

“It’s the second week in a row that we’ve earmarked shooters,” he said. “Against VCU we talked about not letting [Troy] Daniels get good looks, and tonight we talked about not letting Ellis get good looks, and both nights our young guys didn’t execute the gameplan.”

“He’s a really good player, Ellis,” Pecora added. “He had his way with us tonight.”

Late in the second half, Pecora turned to sophomore forward Luka Zivkovic, who has played only sparingly this season but is more athletic, to try to neutralize Ellis. Zivkovic succeeded in that regard and even hit a three-pointer of his own.

Fordham’s lineup for much of the second half consisted of Zivkovic, three guards and one big man (either freshman Travion Leonard, or sophomore Ryan Canty). Zivkovic played good defense on Ellis and managed to minimize his impact. But, having Zivkovic on the perimeter to guard Ellis created problems on the interior for Fordham. Saint Louis’s Dwayne Evans killed the Rams down low, scoring 20 of his 24 points in the second half, mostly on layups.

Even with Evans playing well in the post, Fordham was still within striking distance until the middle of the second half.

“One of the things that concerned me — I think it was at about the eight-minute mark — it was [a nine or ten point deficit],” Pecora said. “[I said], ‘Guys, we’re not down 20 here.’ But that’s an immature team. We were two possessions away from [Saint Louis] feeling the pressure, and us being down five or six.”

Pecora’s team is young, and he knows that.

“It’s a broken record: I’m asking a lot of freshman and sophomores,” he said. “But when that’s all you’ve got out there, who are you going to ask it of?”

Saint Louis was finally able to pull away in the latter stages of the second half and cruise to a 90-73 victory.

After the loss to Saint Louis, Fordham traveled to Philadelphia for a game against La Salle, where things did not get any better. Fordham was absolutely eviscerated by the Explorers. The Rams trailed 56-25 at the half, and saw the deficit climb to as many as 45 in the second half. They would go on to lose by a final score of 89-53.

After losing to La Salle, Fordham’s record in road games dropped to 0-12. Pecora knows that a couple of close home losses will end up costing his team.

“We gave away two games that we had a chance to win at home — UMass and St. Joe’s — and that will come back to bite us in the tail at the end of the season unless something special happens,” he said.