Fordham basketball gave Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, a reason to be proud this past weekend. The Rams improved to 2-0 against Jesuit schools this year, defeating Saint Joseph’s 69-55 for their second Atlantic 10 Conference win of the season.
The win was the Rams’ second straight at the Rose Hill Gym, giving the team an even .500 home record for the year.
“Obviously, I’m very pleased with the effort,” head coach Tom Pecora said after the game. “It looks like we learned something about closing out games, which we talked about after Wednesday night’s loss at Richmond.”
The Rams fell to the Spiders 73-71 last Wednesday, for the team’s 16th loss of the year. Fordham held a one-point lead heading into the halftime break, but failed to execute down the stretch.
“We could have won had we closed it out,” Pecora said.
Despite the loss, there were flashes of strong play from two of Fordham’s young guns, freshmen Eric Paschall and Christian Sengfelder. Paschall was the Richmond game’s leading scorer, dropping in 24 points, while Sengfelder notched his second career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Rams used momentum gained from the Richmond loss against Saint Joseph’s on Sunday. Fordham played stifling defense, holding the Hawks to just 34 percent shooting, and controlled the paint, winning the rebounding battle 40-27.
“Our goal was to protect the paint,” Pecora said. “Our defense is getting better and better and holding them 34 percent, I think that’s the best week we’ve had defensively.”
The Rams also put their passing skills on display, passing up shots for cleaner looks and finishing with 19 assists.
“We made the extra pass on the play to get the shot,” Pecora said. “I thought we were very unselfish in that sense and that’s why we have 19 assists to 11 turnovers.”
The box score showed the blueprint for a Fordham victory, as the Rams received great efforts from three of their veterans. Junior Ryan Rhoomes racked up 12 rebounds, senior Bryan Smith scored 12 points and added four assists and junior Mandell Thomas scored a game-high 20 points to go with six assists.
“You can only be as good as your upperclassmen,” Pecora said. “Every day in practice, they’ve been pushing and the young guys really respect them.”
Paschall, who shot 3-14, was the only Ram to struggle through a rough day.
“He’s three of 14, but he still gets 10 points and eight rebounds for us,” Pecora said. “For a rough day for a freshman, that’s not so bad.”
The win improves the Rams’ conference record to 2-11.
“We finally got Saint Joe’s and we should have had Richmond,” Smith said. “We’re making good pushes for the A-10 Tournament.”
Thomas’ play was especially key to the Rams’ victory. His transition to the point guard this season seems to have helped the Rams turn the corner.
“Every day in practice I’ve had to get used to it,” Thomas said. “I’ve talked to Branden Frazier (who graduated last year) a lot, we Facetime a lot and he gives a lot of advice.”
Next up for the Rams is a road game against George Mason this Wednesday, Feb. 18.
“Now we’ve got to go find that elusive A-10 road win,” Pecora said. “We’ll go down to Mason and see if we can bring that same intensity and toughness.”