In its closest finish of the season, the men’s basketball team secured a victory on the road over La Salle on Wednesday night, winning 56-53. The win completed the Rams’ second series sweep of the season and put them 5-10 in the Atlantic 10, good for ninth in the conference. Their overall record now sits at 14-12.
The Rams continued their habit of slow starts and trailed 12-4 after the first seven minutes of play. However, they quickly turned it around, going on a 10-4 run to cut the lead to two with seven minutes left in the half.
The biggest moment of the half came two minutes later, when senior guard Mandell Thomas checked in for the first time in five games. The Rams had missed Thomas’ skill on offense, as he led the team in scoring prior to his injury. While he did not attempt a shot, he did have a steal and an assist in his eight minutes. It was a welcome sign for the Rams and for Thomas, who is in the midst of his final season as a Ram.
That two-point lead was as close as the Rams got during the half. Senior forward Ryan Rhoomes made a layup for the final bucket of the half, making the score 27-22. Both teams attempted a few threes off to close the half, but none found pay dirt.
The Rams shot just over 40 percent from the field in the first half. Sophomore forward Christian Sengfelder continued his breakout campaign, leading all scorers with 10 at the half, including two threes. As a team, the Rams pulled down 17 rebounds to the Explorers’ 12, but they committed eight turnovers to La Salle’s four.
The Rams came out firing in the second half. A three from freshman forward David Pekarek and an emphatic dunk from sophomore guard Antwoine Anderson knotted the score at 27 after just three minutes of play. After trading a few buckets, a three from freshman guard Joseph Chartouny at the 15-minute mark gave the Rams a 32-29 lead.
The Rams would eventually rattle off eight straight points to give themselves a 10-point lead, 46-36, with 7:35 left to play. However, La Salle began to chip away at the lead as quickly as Fordham acquired it. The Explorers went on an 11-1 run over the next three minutes to take back the lead at 48-47. The Rams did not attempt a field goal over that stretch, turning the ball over three times.
The Explorers pushed the lead to three, but a pair of free throws from Sengfelder and a Chartouny layup put the Rams back in front at 51-50 with two minutes to play. A three from Pekarek, along with a free throw on the next possession, made the lead five with 19 seconds to play.
La Salle was not about to back down, however. Jordan Price, who led the Explorers with 13 points, hit a three almost immediately, cutting the lead to two with 14 seconds to play. La Salle intentionally fouled Chartouny to send him to the line, and after converting just one of two, the Explorers had a chance to tie the game and go to OT with a three. However, La Salle was unable to convert on a wide-open look, and the Rams escaped with the win.
Fordham shot much better from the floor in the second half, converting 48 percent of their looks. The defense also stepped up, holding La Salle to just eight field goals in the half.
The main reason for the Fordham’s victory was the rebounding margin, which Fordham led 38 to 25. It was an impressive effort by the big men, with Rhoomes pulling down 11 and both Sengfelder and Pekarek snagging 8 apiece.
Sengfelder led all scorers with 16 points, hitting five of his 11 attempts and two of five from beyond the arc. Pekarek chipped in 12, and Chartouny contributed 11. Rhoomes scored just six, only his third time this season without double-digit points.
While the Rams were able to pull out a win, Neubauer had to have been unhappy about the number of turnovers the Rams committed. They had 18 turnovers, seven of which were steals. The last time the Rams had that many turnovers was in their loss against VCU back in early January.
The Rams have just three games remaining on the season. Their next game will be at home against Davidson on Saturday at 2 p.m.