After a rough winter break, the Rams recovered by taking one of two games at home.
The Rams played six games over the winter break, and they did not fare well. Starting with off a neutral site game at the Barclays Center against Boston College on Dec. 22nd, they lost 64-55. They then opened up Atlantic 10 conference play at George Washington University, their first true road game since the season-opening loss at University of Texas at Arlington. The Rams lost this game as well, 69-63. The Rams returned home on Jan. 6 and played La Salle, which resulted in a 66-61 Rams victory that extended their home winning streak to 10. That streak would be snapped in their very next game, when they hosted University of Richmond, and lost 93-82. The Rams closed the winter break with two more away games that resulted in two more losses, an 88-54 drubbing at the hands of Virginia Commonwealth University, and another against Saint Joseph’s, 80-55. At the end of the break, the Rams were 10-6, but just 1-4 in A-10 play.
The Rams were hurt in two separate ways over this stretch. Firstly, their defense was clearly lacking. The Rams gave up 93, 88 and 80 points respectively over the last three games of their winter break. This lapse is out of character for this season’s Rams, as head coach Jeff Neubauer has had the team playing inspired defense all season.
The other issue hurting the Rams was the injury of freshman guard and two-time A-10 Rookie of the Week Joseph Chartouny, who missed all but the Boston College game. Coach Jeff Neubauer put it simply, and best: “Having him on the court makes us better.”
The Rams seemed to be rejuvenated, however, by a return to Rose Hill in front of the rest of the student body on Wednesday, where they took the lead early against a weak George Mason team and never relinquished it.
On the first possession of the game, sophomore guard Antwoine Anderson threw down a dunk to take a 2-0 lead, a lead the Rams would never give up.
Anderson, who had been starting in place of Chartouny, played well enough to start even with Chartouny’s return to the court. “I learned a lot [while starting],” Anderson said. “Basically, just trying to keep everyone positive and trying to be a leader on the court.” He led all scorers with a career high 23 points on 9-10 shooting, including 2-3 from three, and 3-3 from the foul line. “Antwoine played terrific,” commented Coach Neubauer. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen him play, probably the best he’s ever played in his life”.
The Rams pushed the lead to as much as 12 with 2:33 left in the first half off one of sophomore forward Christian Sengfelder’s two three point baskets.
The second half was more of the same, starting with a steal by Chartouny, who then fed Sengfelder for a basket. George Mason eventually went on a brief run, cutting the lead to just four with 4:59 left in the second half. However, Anderson once again took control, scoring 10 more points over the rest of the game, including a three pointer with 16 seconds left to ice the 73-62 win.
The Rams also returned to their defensive strengths against George Mason, forcing 17 turnovers while turning it over just five times themselves.
Chartouny’s return to the court did not beget much offensively, but he still contributed. “He certainly will play better,” said Coach Neubauer. “We want him shooting the ball, but obviously… he helped us in other ways,” He finished the game with five rebounds, and led the team with five assists and three steals.
Outside of Anderson and Chartouny, Sengfelder also played a big role with one of his best games of the season, scoring 16 points on 5-9 shooting, including 2-4 from deep. With this victory, the Rams seemed to be turning things around.
On Sunday, the Rams faced a different level of competition, when the Dayton Flyers visited the Rose Hill Gymnasium. Dayton came into the game having received nine votes in the AP Poll, were 10th in RPI and in second place in the A-10. They certainly performed like it.
The game played out much like Fordham’s game earlier in the week, but this time the roles were reversed. The Flyers scored on a fast break layup just over a minute into play to start the scoring, and led until the final buzzer.
The game slipped away early, with Dayton leading 15-2 before the fans had fully settled in their seats. Most of this deficit was the result of turnovers by Chartouny and freshman forward Jesse Bunting. Dayton ended with 15 points off turnovers in the game. “To beat Dayton — this is the team picked to win the league — we can’t have any live ball turnovers for the game,” said Neubauer. “And we had at least three live ball turnovers in the first four minutes.” The Rams would end the game with 14 turnovers.
While they did lose, the Rams did not play that poorly overall, but they just could not recover from the early deficit. Fordham repeatedly rebuffed Dayton’s attempts to pull away, cutting the lead to just seven on a dunk by senior forward Ryan Rhoomes with 2:32 left to play. However, that was as close as they would get.
The real offender here was the Rams’ offense, as their defense was rather solid. “I loved our half-court defense in both halves,” commented Neubauer. “Both defenses… man to man and zone, were terrific.” Fordham managed to force 15 turnovers, and held Dayton to 38.1 percent shooting from the field in the second half.
Rhoomes had a solid game for the Rams, leading the effort with 14 points and six rebounds. This was Rhoomes’ 17th game with double digit scoring out of the 18 played.
The rest of the offense did not rise to the occasion, however, shooting only 37 percent from the field, and just 27 percent from three. Senior guard Mandell Thomas took 12 shots from beyond the arc, but only sank three, and a still rusty Chartouny was just 3-8 from the field.
With the split home stand, the Rams sit at 11-7 overall, and 2-5 in conference play. This is Fordham’s first time reaching 11 wins since the 2007-2008 season.
The Rams will look to get their first road win when they travel to take on the University of Rhode Island on Wednesday Feb. 22nd, at 7 p.m.