The men’s basketball team came very close to ending its 2014-15 season on a high note. Entering play last Wednesday, the team had won four of its last seven games, all in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Rams were unable to keep that momentum going, losing their final two games of the regular season. Fordham dropped its last home contest to Duquesne, 81-66, on Wednesday, and then lost at St. Bonaventure, 66-52, this past Saturday.
The Rams’ matchup with Duquesne, which took place on Senior Night, was full of postseason implications. A win would have moved the Rams ahead of the Dukes in the A-10 standings. Unfortunately, things got a little bit harder when Fordham’s leading scorer, freshman Eric Paschall, injured his ankle in practice during the week and was ruled out of the team’s final home game.
“We talked about, knowing Eric wasn’t going to play today, that we were going to have to find 17-18 points,” head coach Tom Pecora said after the game. “Guys got opportunities to step up and play, with Eric out there were a lot of shots to be had, and it didn’t happen.”
“There was a lot at stake and we didn’t play with that sense of urgency,” Pecora added.
For the first 15 minutes of Wednesday night’s game, it looked like the Rams understood all that was on the line. Fordham blitzed Duquesne’s 2-3 zone defense with some slick passing, particularly from freshman Christian Sengfelder and junior Ryan Rhoomes, and held a twelve-point lead with 5:13 left to play in the first half.
Sengfelder and Rhoomes showed a new level of chemistry against the Dukes, working a delightful high-low passing game on offense. The pair combined for 21 points and 13 rebounds in the first half.
The Dukes, however, refused to lie down. Duquesne started to knock down three-point shots and went on a 18-3 run over the last five minutes of the first half. The Rams allowed a trio of threes over the last two minutes and went into halftime trailing 38-35.
“They raised the intensity to close out the first half and we just didn’t respond,” Pecora said. “They went to the foul line 25 times and we went eight–that tells you who played harder.”
The Rams never regained the lead after Duquesne’s run, scoring just 31 points in the second half to the Dukes’ 43. Duquesne finished the game with a sparkling 45.5 shooting percentage from deep. After the game, Pecora was unhappy with his team’s fight.
“Guys who are on the bench always say ‘I should be playing more,’” Pecora said. “Well, tonight they got a chance and didn’t respond.”
Unfortunately, the Rams again failed to respond on the road against St. Bonaventure. Playing their final game of the regular season, the Rams followed their most common script, blowing a halftime lead en route to their 20th loss of the season.
Junior Mandell Thomas was the Rams’ top performer against the Bonnies, scoring 20 points for the fourth time this season. His teammates, however, struggled mightily. No other Ram finished in double figures and the team could not overcome a slow start in the second half.
Despite being up five at halftime, the Rams came out of the break cold and St. Bonaventure took advantage. The Bonnies outscored the Rams 19-2 during one stretch in the second half to take a 52-38 lead with 8:16 remaining and, from that point on, the game was all but over.
Although the Rams lost their final two games, they have some hope heading into the A-10 tournament. Fordham will face off against George Mason on Wednesday night, a team they beat in last year’s A-10 tournament. This season, the Rams got their lone A-10 road win against George Mason, defeating the Patriots 80-68 back in February.
Fordham and George Mason are scheduled to tipoff at 6:30 p.m. this Wednesday at the Barclays Center.