While most Fordham students spent their Thanksgiving breaks decompressing from the daily grind, the members of the women’s basketball team had bigger fish to fry. The Rams traveled across the country to Las Vegas for the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout, held annually in South Point Arena.
While they went winless in their two games, the women’s showdowns with a pair of first-rate programs provided valuable experience.
“This weekend was a great learning experience,” said head coach Stephanie Gaitley. “It gave us an opportunity to identify our weaknesses and prepare for future Atlantic-10 games.”
In the week before heading to Nevada, Fordham emerged victorious in a pair of local games. On Nov. 18, the Rams tangled with cross-Bronx rival Manhattan. A hotly contested battle for most of the game, Fordham led by just two through three quarters but took control in the fourth, winning the game by a score of 60-49. Sophomore forward G’mrice Davis led the way for the Rams with 19 points.
On Nov. 24, Fordham hosted the Lafayette Leopards in the Rose Hill Gym. The Rams showcased their defensive prowess, holding their opponents to just 29 points in the first three quarters. Lafayette was more productive in the fourth, outscoring Fordham by two, but it was far from enough as the Rams won 61-49. Both Davis and senior forward Samantha Clark notched double-doubles in the effort.
With those two victories under its belt, the team appeared to have a good amount of momentum as it traveled to Las Vegas. However, just like during the Penn State game from earlier this year, the Rams were overmatched against a pair of top notch programs — they were outscored by a combined 36 points in the two games.
On Friday, Fordham faced off against Texas Tech. The first half was a tale of two quarters; the Rams were behind by 12 after the first but scored 24 points in the second to work their way back into striking distance. Even so, they lost more ground in the third quarter. Trailing by eight points at the start of the fourth, the Rams went on an 8-4 run to close the gap significantly; freshman guard Alexia Douglas hit a decisive jumper to bring her team within four. That was the high-water mark for Fordham. The Lady Raiders went on a 10-0 run to close out the game and won by a margin of 14, 62-48.
Junior guard Danielle Burns was the most productive Ram in the contest, scoring 10 points and adding three steals. Otherwise, Texas Tech’s defense was just too stingy, preventing anyone else from hitting double digits. For its part, the Lady Raiders’ offense was outstanding. Dayo Olabode and Japreece Dean — both coming off the bench — scored 19 and 14 points, respectively.
One day later, the Rams faced off against No. 23 Syracuse in one of the marquee matchups of their schedule. Once again, Fordham held its own for most of the game, but the nationally ranked Orange ultimately proved to be too much to handle, breaking the game wide open in the fourth quarter and winning by a margin of 22.
Thanks to a sluggish start, Fordham fell behind quickly, but the second quarter proved to be a turning point. Trailing by 11, sophomore guard Aaliyah Jones and freshman guard Lauren Holden hit back-to-back three-pointers; Burns hit another jumper to cap the 8-0 run, putting the Rams within three.
Syracuse pushed back, re-stretching its lead to eight, but another 8-0 run, highlighted by more three-pointers courtesy of Holden and junior guard Hannah Missry, tied it up with about a minute remaining. To its credit, the Orange hit a pair of threes of their own at the end, giving themselves a six-point lead at the half.
Davis was Fordham’s most productive player in the second half. The Philadelphia native contributed 10 points in the third quarter, including eight in a row, to keep the Rams in the game. At one point, the score was tied at 40-40, but Syracuse seized control from there. The Orange’s relentless full-court press was too much for Fordham, which turned the ball over 31 times in comparison to Syracuse’s 19. By the end of the game, the Orange’s margin of victory stood at 22 — not at all indicative of the competitiveness of the game.
When asked about her team’s fourth quarter debacles, Gaitley invoked what she called the team’s motto, “Focused For Forty.” “In order to beat [a] national level team, we need to put together a 40 minute game,” she said.
Missry, Davis and Holden scored 12 points each, the most of the Fordham players. Syracuse’s top player, Alexis Peterson, had a banner day, scoring 25 points and adding eight assists.
Fordham’s overall record is now 2-3, but all three of those losses have come against major conference schools. The Rams will get a chance to face off against some more comparable opponents this week. Delaware will be visiting the Rose Hill Gym on Thursday, while Delaware State will do the same on Saturday.