By Tyler Freire
After starting conference play 0-3, the Fordham Men’s Basketball has won two straight games, including a thrilling buzzer beater victory in overtime against one of the A10’s best teams, Virginia Commonwealth.
Fordham opened the game on an 11-2 run thanks to three pointers from graduate student guard Javonte Hawkins, sophomore guard Joseph Chartouny and junior forward Christian Sengfelder, and ended the period on an 11-4 spurt, taking a 32-20 lead heading into halftime.
However, VCU did not go away, chipping away at Fordham’s lead and getting it down to 51-50 with 3:33 left in the game.
Hawkins put Fordham back up three 16 seconds later, but on the other end VCU nailed a jumper with 1:15 remaining for the game’s first tie.
Chartouny then sank a three with just under a minute left, giving Fordham a 56-53 lead. The teams traded buckets as VCU’s Justin Tillman completed a three-point play, knotting the game at 56 with 41 seconds left in regulation.
A layup from senior guard Antwoine Anderson with 21 seconds left gave Fordham a short-lived lead, but VCU tied it again when Mo Alie-Cox hit two free throws with 14 seconds remaining, sending the game to overtime.
VCU took a five-point lead a minute in on Tilman’s midrange jumper and 36 seconds later, a Tillman three-point play gave VCU a 63-58 lead. Two trips to the free throw line from Hawkins and a lay-in for Chartouny then gave Fordham a one-point lead with just 2:04 left.
Fordham held a 67-65 lead with under a minute left following a contested layup from Anderson. The Rams had a chance to extend their lead a few seconds later but could not convert on the charity stripe.
VCU rebounded the missed free throw and put the ball in the hands of their best play maker, Tilman. He got fouled on the made layup, giving VCU the chance to go up one with just 15 seconds remaining.
Tilman missed the go-ahead free throw, leaving the game tied at 67, which gave Fordham the chance to end the game at the buzzer.
Chartouny rebounded the miss and got it to Anderson. He took care of the rest as he drove to the top of the key and nailed a shot at the buzzer. Fordham’s bench stormed the court, mobbing their overtime hero.
The Rams out-rebounded VCU 37-30, and are now 5-1 when they out-rebound their opponent. The Rams also recorded double digit steals for the 13th time in 19 games this year behind NCAA steal leader Chartouny, who swiped six in the contest, just one shy of his career high.
Hawkins finished the game with 22 points and six rebounds, and Chartouny added 15 points along with six assists and six steals.
“This is as proud I am about any win I’ve been in my twelve years of coaching,” said head coach Jeff Neubauer.
Fordham could not enjoy it for long as the Rams continued their conference schedule by traveling to Amherst, Massachusetts over the weekend to face UMass.
It started as a back and forth affair, which has been a trend for Fordham this year. Fordham held a 67-66 lead with just three minutes left in the game. Both teams went scoreless over the next two minutes until Anderson missed a jumper with the shot clock running down. Luckily for the Rams, sophomore forward Prokop Slanina was there to tip in the miss.
Slanina’s basket gave Fordham a 69-66 lead with just 46 seconds remaining in the game, but a pair of free throws from UMass moments later made it a one-point game once again, 69-68.
On the next possession, the Rams worked the shot clock down before Anderson drove and put up a layup attempt that missed. The Minutemen then drove the ball down the court and missed a layup themselves, but the ball was out off of Fordham, giving UMass another shot to win the game with just five seconds left.
UMass could not get a good look and missed a shot that was rebounded by Sengfelder, who then iced the game with a pair of free throws for a game-high 20 points. UMass got one more shot with three second left, but their desperation three at the buzzer bounced off the backboard, giving the Rams 71-68 victory in the Mullis Center.
Fordham grabbed a season-high 15 offensive rebounds and have recorded double-digit offensive rebounds in six straight games. The Rams also tallied 14 steals, which is just one shy of Fordham’s season-high.
“This win is a credit to our team, not one individual,” said Neubauer. “The fact that we are still competing and playing so hard is a credit to our team. For us to fight after going through such a hard time, I’m really impressed with our guys.”
With the back-to-back wins – and third in its past four games – the Rams improve to 9-11 overall, 3-4 in the Atlantic 10. The Rams return to action next Saturday, Jan. 28, as they host the conference rival Davidson Wildcats at the Rose Hill Gym at 12:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.