Last Saturday marked the beginning of a new era for Fordham Men’s Basketball. The Rams’ season opener in UT Arlington’s College Park Center was their first game under new head coach Jeff Neubauer, who spent 10 seasons with Eastern Kentucky before arriving in the Bronx. While his team turned in an impressive 46-point effort in the second half, Fordham could not catch up and fell to the Mavericks by a score of 77-72.
While the contest did not carry as much weight as Fordham’s upcoming conference games, it still served as an important test for the incoming coach and his team. “I scheduled this game,” said Neubauer. “This isn’t a game that was left over. I scheduled this game thinking it would be a great opportunity for our young team to come in and compete.”
While the final result was a negative one, the Rams displayed plenty of skill under pressure toward the end of the game. Trailing by 17 points with eight minutes to go, Fordham began to stir. A layup from sophomore guard Antwoine Anderson helped spark a 15-2 run as the Rams trimmed the deficit to just four points with 4:20 remaining. Senior guard Mandell Thomas led the way for Fordham over that span, draining three shots from beyond the arc.
After trading a couple of blows, UT Arlington turned the ball over, allowing sophomore guard Nemanja Zarkovic to hit a three-pointer. With just under four minutes remaining, Fordham was within one point of the lead.
What followed was a dramatic period of fouls and free throws, but — until the game’s final minute — the margin stayed the same. After UTA guard Erick Neal missed a second free throw attempt with about 40 seconds remaining, his team grabbed the rebound, but Fordham freshman guard Joseph Chartouny stole the ball, providing the Rams with an opening. Thomas attempted a layup but missed. Mavericks forward Kennedy Eubanks grabbed the rebound with five seconds left and was immediately fouled.
Eubanks missed both of his free throw attempts, but UT Arlington recovered and found itself back at the line when Neal was fouled beyond the arc with two seconds to go. The guard sank all three shots to put the final score at 77-72.
Despite Fordham’s prowess in the endgame, the team was done in by its 11 turnovers in the first half.
Thomas paced the Rams in scoring, making five of nine shots from beyond the arc and finishing with 21 points. He added three assists and a pair of steals.
“Obviously he shot the ball in, and his value for the ball was terrific,” Neubauer said of Thomas after the game. “The three things we ask our guys to do are defend, have value and make open shots. Mandel did all three of those.”
His backcourt-mate, junior guard Jon Severe, also had a productive night, scoring 16 points in addition to grabbing five rebounds.
“I was really pleased with some of the things that Jon did,” said Neubauer. “If you take the two scrimmages we had [along with this game], he played his best game tonight.”
Anderson, coming off the bench, added 12 points in 22 minutes. Senior forward Ryan Rhoomes contributed 10 points, including a couple of vital ones at the free throw line toward the end of the game. He also added seven rebounds and three blocks. Sophomore forward Christian Sengfelder scored eight points and grabbed nine boards. Chartouny, making the start in his Fordham debut, scored just two points.
While several Fordham players turned in solid performances, they fell short of securing a victory for Neubauer in his Fordham debut. Neubauer, 44, is no stranger to the Atlantic 10. He served as team captain of the La Salle Explorers in the early 90s and was an assistant coach at Richmond soon after graduating.
For the last 10 seasons, Neubauer was at the helm of the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, piloting them to a pair of March Madness berths. A proven winner with a career head coaching record of 188-134, he should inject some new life into a program that has struggled in recent years. The men’s basketball team has gone 27-66 over the past three seasons. It has finished better than .500 just once since joining the A-10 in 1995.
And yet, hope springs eternal as we head into another season. With three seniors on the roster, the team is structured to compete this year. Once again, the A-10 will be a competitive conference, but anything can happen at the conference tournament. In any event, Neubauer has plenty of time until then, and only time will tell if this really is a turning point in the history of Fordham Men’s Basketball.
On Tuesday night, just prior to publication, the Rams opened the Rose Hill Gym for the first of 18 home games this season.
Facing off against the Division II Queens College Knights, the Rams quickly jumped out to a 14-1 lead, in large part due to Sengfelder and Severe. The Rams maintained the double-digit lead at the break and held a 41-27 halftime advantage.
The second half was played tighter as the Rams only outscored the Knights by five in the frame to go on to win 76-57.
Four Rams ended the contest in double figures as the team shared the ball en route to its first victory of the season. Sengfelder led the way with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Severe contributed 14 points and three steals. Rhoomes finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Thomas turned in 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. The team committed 15 turnovers, while forcing 23.
The squad is next in action when they host Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday at 2 p.m.