By Matt Rosenfeld
After defeating Hofstra and Delaware, the Fordham women’s basketball team traveled to San Antonio to take part in the UTSA Thanksgiving Classic. The Rams were able to beat Incarnate Word 74-42 before losing to Drake 62-56 in the championship game of the four team tournament.
Fordham came into the Classic riding a three game win streak, collecting wins over Mount St. Mary’s, Hofstra and Delaware, the last of which came on the road. The team’s success was buoyed by the stout defense that Fordham has been known for these past few years. The Rams held all three of their opponents to under 50 points.
“We learned a lot from the Iona game,” head coach Stephanie Gaitley said of the defense. “We got on our heels in that game and [Iona] put numbers up quick. The kids finally understood that if we want to be successful this season, we needed to have everything dictated through our defense.”
Fordham cruised past Incarnate Word in its opener in the Thanksgiving Classic, never trailing the entire game. The Rams jumped out to an early 9-2 lead behind five points from junior forward Samantha Clark and four points from graduate student Tiffany Ruffin.
From there, the defending Atlantic 10 champions continued to jump on the Cardinals from San Antonio. The lead would expand to 23 points in the first half at its peak, when Fordham went up 36-13 after a three from sophomore Hannah Missry with just under four minutes remaining in the first.
And while the offense lit up the scoreboard early on, the defense was the one that flexed its muscles, holding Incarnate Word to just 25 percent shooting from the field and 19 points in the first half.
There was no letting their foot off the pedal in the second half, as the Rams simply would not let their opponent close the gap. After going into half with a 17 point lead, Fordham did not allow Incarnate Word to cut the deficit to less than 15 points for the rest of the game. The lead ballooned to 30 with 3:36 left in the game, and Fordham would see its lead stay above 30, with the final score 74-42.
In the deciding victory, Fordham set new season highs in rebounds, blocks and assists, with 44, five and 18 respectively. Every player dressed for the game scored, with Missry leading the team with 16 points and Clark just behind her, scoring 15 to go along with her 12 rebounds. Freshman Asnate Fomina was the other Ram to reach double digits in scoring. She had 11 points in the contest.
“We shot well, everybody got in the scoring book and we won convincingly,” Gaitley said. “But, everything is kick-started through our defense.”
Fordham’s reward for beating Incarnate Word was a matchup with the Drake Bulldogs in the championship of the UTSA Thanksgiving Classic. Drake was able to defeat the host Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners 69-61 in its opening game of the tournament.
Drake would prove to be too much for Fordham, ending the Rams’ four-game win streak in a tightly contested game in the Convocation Center in San Antonio.
The two teams would go back and forth on runs in the first half. Drake continuously went up by four points over Fordham, only to see the Rams surge back. The Bulldogs led 10-6 five minutes into the game when Fordham ripped off a 7-0 run behind buckets from senior Emily Tapio, sophomore Alina Gjerkes and Ruffin.
Drake extended its lead to six late in the first half, but a late offensive surge led by Clark, Tapio and Missry had the Rams leading 29-28 at half.
Fordham and Drake traded baskets early in the second half, fighting each other to a tie at 38 when the Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run in the span of a minute and 20 seconds that forced Fordham to take a timeout. Showing their classic resiliency, the Rams countered with a 7-0 run of their own to tie the game at 45 with just over nine minutes remaining.
After gaining a three point lead though, Fordham’s offense went cold in the final five minutes of the game. What was a 50-47 lead for the Rams became a 59-50 lead for the Bulldogs with a minute to go. The deficit proved too much for Fordham, with the final being 62- 56.
“It’s hard, because when a team plays zone, you can’t dictate who gets your shots,” Gaitley said. “You can try and set up for people, but you’ve got to hope different people step up and hope you get second shots on the boards. We went cold in the last four minutes, but that wasn’t the issue. We fell asleep defensively, and that’s what got us.”
Fordham also struggled with turnovers, which has been the theme in its losses this season. The Rams gave up 17 points off of their 15 turnovers against Drake.
Missry again led the team in points, scoring 17 points including five three pointers. Tapio, Ruffin and Clark each pitched in 10 points of their own in the loss.
The 1-1 trip to San Antonio brings Fordham’s record to 4-3 on the season. The Rams host Seton Hall on Friday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. in Rose Hill Gym.
MAtt Rosenfeld is the Sports Editor for The Fordham Ram.