Rams Hold Off Siena, Snap Four-Game Skid


Freshman Eric Paschall had 19 points and the game-winning block in the final seconds in the Rams’ win over Siena. Drew Dipane/The Ram

Freshman Eric Paschall had 19 points and the game-winning block in the final seconds in the Rams’ win over Siena. Drew Dipane/The Ram
Freshman Eric Paschall had 19 points and the game-winning block in the final seconds in the Rams’ win over Siena. Drew Dipane/The Ram

By Max Prinz

Entering play Monday night, the Fordham men’s basketball team was caught in a downward spiral. The team had lost four straight contests and one of its most important contributors, sophomore guard Jon Severe, had recently taken a leave of absence from the team.

The Rams managed to find the surface Monday night, holding off the Siena Saints for a thrilling 69-67 victory.

The win was particularly important for the Rams, who were very disappointing in a pair of home loss- es to UMass Lowell and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The bounce-back effort greatly satisfied head coach Tom Pecora.

“I thought we did a good job playing with great intensity for the majority of the 40 minutes,” Pecora said after the game. “I’m very proud of them. That was a good win.”

The team’s youth was startlingly obvious at times against Siena. The Rams struggled to open the game, falling behind 13-5 in the first five minutes following a number of defensive lapses.

Pecora and the Rams managed to regroup following a timeout and the Rams went on a run. Fordham held Siena scoreless for almost eight full minutes, scoring 18 unanswered points to regain the lead. At the half, Fordham held a 30-23 lead, buoyed by nine points from freshman Eric Paschall and a whopping 12 rebounds from junior Ryan Rhoomes.

The Rams kept their momentum going in the second half, pushing the lead as high as 13 points at the 13:45 mark of the second half.

Siena, however, refused to back down. Led by point guard Marquis Wright, who scored a career-high 31 points, the Saints clawed their way back into the game. Just 10 minutes removed from being down 13, the Saints trailed 63-61 with just under three minutes remaining.

The Rams executed down the stretch to hold off the Saints’ comeback and win the game. Pecora had his team, leading by three points, foul in the game’s final seconds, refusing to give Siena a chance to tie the game from behind the big line.

“There’s a guy last year who did a study on [fouling instead of giving up the three-pointer] and he converted me,” Pecora said. “So that’s something we practice and that we do.”

Despite executing the foul strategy, the Rams were unable to make their free throws and put Siena away. With just nine seconds remaining and the Rams ahead by two, redshirt freshman Antoine Anderson missed his second free throw attempt and Siena grabbed the rebound.

The Saints ran on the fast break and managed to get a good look at the basket, but Paschall made yet another highlight play, blocking the shot at the rim before the horn sounded to seal a Fordham victory.

The block was another outstanding effort from the young Paschall and was given the No. 3 spot on Sportscenter’s Top 10.

“It sure looked like that shot was going to tie the game,” Pecora said. “[Paschall’s] a big-time athlete and he’s got a great future. I love that he has no fear. He’s not afraid of fouling somebody and he can go up and make a play like that.”

In addition to Paschall’s scoring and highlight rejection, the Rams were keyed by a strong performance from Rhoomes. Rhoomes was dominant down low, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking five shots. Rhoomes said afterward that coaches had stressed his need to rebound.

“We wanted to get a win big, more than they did,” Rhoomes said. “I knew I had to step up and I did tonight.”

While Rhoomes provided the veteran leadership, the Rams also got solid production from their underclassmen. For the majority of the game, Fordham had three freshmen on the court at the same time. The trio that logged the most minutes, Anderson, Paschall and Christian Sengfelder combined to score 40 of the Rams’ 69 points.

“We need our veterans to lead the way for our freshmen,” Pecora said. “I thought the freshman were fearless. The veterans were too, but I expect that from our veterans.”

The Siena win was a huge victory for the Rams. The four-game losing streak, in addition to the absence of Severe, was threatening to end the season before it really even started.

Now out of the slump, the Rams get a nice break before their next matchup, which comes on Wednesday, Dec. 10, against Monmouth University.

Max Prinz is the Sports Editor for The Fordham Ram.