All streaks must come to an end.
Fordham Women’s Basketball saw their unprecedented start in conference play come to an end this past Saturday in a 54-50 loss at Saint Louis.
Before traveling to the Midwest, Fordham hosted UMass on Kids’ Day on Wednesday afternoon at Rose Hill Gym. In front of over 2,200 fans, mostly grade school children, the Rams defeated the UMass Minutewomen 65-42 to cruise to 6-0 in conference, a mark never reached before.
“It was a great overall team victory,” Head Coach Stephanie Gaitley said following the win over UMass. “I thought the kids stepped up and played great defense. I thought we did a terrific job taking their best player out of the occasion early and having her eventually foul out.”
Great defense has been a theme thus far for the Rams. Fordham leads the conference in multiple defensive categories, including fewest points allowed per game, opponent’s field goal percentage and opponent’s three point field goal percentage.
Last Wednesday, it was both great defense and tremendous shooting that put the game in Fordham’s hands early on. In perhaps their best half of the year, the Rams shot 64 percent from the field and 75 percent from three. Eight different Fordham players scored in a first half in which the Rams outscored UMass 40-17.
As for the defensive end, not only did Fordham give up less than 20 points, but it was able to hold the Minutewomen to just 26 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded UMass 19-13.
The individual star of the day was graduate student Tiffany Ruffin, who had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes. The Boston College transfer struggled in the prior game against VCU, but got right back on track against UMass.
“I talked to a lot of the coaches,” Ruffin said. “I am typically my own biggest critic, and they helped me through that to realize that it’s a game of runs and possessions, and that I’m going to make mistakes. It really helped my mindset.
“I just let the game come to me [against UMass]. Attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line is what I do, so it came easy for me.”
The second half was much rougher than the first for Fordham. The Rams could not buy a bucket, allowing UMass to cut the lead to 13 at one point, 52-39. But, a quick 9-0 run by Fordham dashed any hopes the Minutewomen had at a comeback.
“I thought we got sloppy in the second half,” Gaitley said. “I think part of that comes with having a big lead and playing a lot of kids. Once we were able to get over that one hump when they cut it to 13, we regrouped.”
Unbeknownst to Fordham, a sloppy second half is exactly what would lead to their defeat this past Saturday.
The Rams traveled to Saint Louis to take on the Billikens in their seventh A-10 game of the season. Fordham played its traditional brand of basketball in the first half, hounding Saint Louis with ferocious defense and jumping out to a 20-9 lead. Sophomore Danielle Burns led the way on offense for Fordham with nine first half points.
Saint Louis worked its way back into the game in the first half, but Fordham’s dominant 27-10 rebound advantage along with the Billikens connecting on only one of 13 three point attempts helped Fordham carry a 29-19 lead into half-time.
“To be honest, in the first half, [Saint Louis] just didn’t make shots,” Gaitley said. “They got open looks and didn’t make them.”
The second half began and the Billikens were out of the gate fast. They jumped on Fordham, starting the half on a 13-0 run to take a 32-29 lead. The two teams would trade buckets back and forth until the game was tied at 44 with just under four minutes remaining.
From there, Saint Louis went on a 7-0 run, giving it a 51-44 lead with 80 seconds remaining. Missed free throws and a Billiken turnover allowed the Rams to cut the deficit to one point, 51-50, with 35 ticks to go. After another missed free throw from Saint Louis, Fordham had the ball with 25 seconds left and a chance to take the lead and possibly win the game.
Out of a timeout, junior forward Samantha Clark missed a three, and Saint Louis made three free throws as time ran out on Fordham’s six game win streak, losing to Saint Louis 54-50.
“In the second half they were much more aggressive on the boards,” Gaitley said. “They got a lot of second chance opportunities. And the shots that they missed in the first half, they made. Then, we went on a cold spell.”
Fordham gave up an uncharacteristic 35 points in the second half. The poor defensive effort combined with the Rams shooting just 31 percent from the field in the second half were too much to overcome. Another Achilles heel for the Rams, turnovers, reared its head against Saint Louis. Fordham had 19 turnovers to Saint Louis’ 11.
Next up, Fordham is on the road at Davidson, the newest member of the Atlantic 10 conference, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 28. The Rams currently sit 14-6 overall, and are second in the conference at 6-1. Following Davidson, Fordham will host Duquesne on Jan. 31.