Women Fall in Two Close A-10 Contests

By Sam Belden

 

Anna Kelly drives to the basket. She had 16 points in the loss to VCU. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Anna Kelly drives to the basket. She had 16 points in the loss to VCU. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Syllabus week is usually an exciting time for college students, but for the Fordham women’s basketball team, the first week of the new semester was not a positive one. The Rams lost back-to-back close games against Saint Joseph’s and Virginia Commonwealth University, ending their conference winning streak at five games and falling to 15-7 on the season.

The Rams kicked off their week with a Wednesday road game at Saint Joseph’s. Entering as the Atlantic 10’s top team, they struggled to make shots and narrowly lost what ended up being a slow-burning defensive battle.

“When you start conference play off [undefeated], everybody’s coming after you. We had the early win against Duquesne, we started off 5-0, and then you become the hunted,” said head coach Stephanie Gaitley. “With that just comes a target on your back. I don’t feel that there was complete focus at practice, and I think that showed up at Saint Joe’s.”

The scoring was sluggish out of the gate, and with four minutes gone in the first quarter, the score was just 2-2. From there, the offensive pace somehow grew even slower — neither side made another field goal for the rest of the period. The Rams led 4-3 at quarter’s end.

The scoring picked up in the second quarter. The two sides traded buckets for the first few minutes, but Saint Joseph’s soon went on an 8-2 run, picking up a five-point lead with six minutes left in the half. Scores from Missry and Davis on the Rams’ ensuing possessions kept them close, but as time began to dwindle, so too did their offense. Fordham was held scoreless over the final three-and-a-half minutes, while Saint Joseph’s scored four unanswered points to finish out the half with a six-point lead.

The Fordham offense continued to struggle at the outset of the third, but began to find their rhythm towards the end, winding up trailing by just two at the buzzer.

The Rams started off the final quarter with a huge team effort to knot the score. Senior forward Danielle Burns artfully stole the ball from Fioravanti, and after missing a jumper, Davis was able to convert on the put back. However, the Hawks regained the lead on their next possession and never relinquished it, going on a 6-1 run that gave them a sizable lead with time winding down. Fordham’s defense soon began to stir, but the offense had reverted to its early-game productivity level, leaving the period scoreless for nearly two minutes.

With just under four minutes remaining, a pair of free throws from Davis cut the Saint Joseph’s lead to four, but a three-point play on the next possession left Fordham with some work left to be done. The Hawks missed several important free throws down the stretch, but the Rams lacked the time to make a successful comeback. The game ended with a 47-44 win for the home team.

Despite the Fordham loss, Davis delivered the performance of the game, scoring 22 points along with 19 rebounds. Through Tuesday, Davis’ 12.5 rebounds per game ranks second in the country.

Gaitley was effusive in her praise of Davis. “She’s grown up a lot, she’s maturing, and she’s become a better leader,” she said. “I think all those things that have helped her personal self is really reflected on the court, as well. I think she takes pride in being one of the nation’s best rebounders. That’s something she goes into every game knowing and feeling very passionate about.”

The Rams returned to Rose Hill looking to rebound from the tough loss, but they instead ran into a tough VCU squad in Saturday’s game. Fordham out played the Rams of VCU for much of the contest, but a big 3rd quarter VCU to take a narrow victory.

After going up 9-8 early, the Rams caught fire towards the end of the first quarter, finishing on an 8-1 run to take an early 17-9 lead.

The second was a tale of two runs. The first was another impressive run for the Rams, who extended their lead to the double digits thanks to a Missry three-pointer, eventually holding a 32-16 lead with just under three minutes left in the half. However, VCU soon turned on the gas, finishing the quarter on an 8-0 run to make the halftime score 32-24.

The second half was already shaping up to be a competitive one, but no one could have predicted what VCU did next. They were hot out of the gate in the third quarter, forcing multiple turnovers while converting on almost all offensive opportunities. By the time the dust had settled, VCU’s run stood at 24-2, stretching all the way back to the second quarter. Leading 40-34 midway through the third, VCU allowed Fordham to inch back a bit, finishing the period up 46-43.

For the second time in a week, Fordham started off the fourth quarter with a bucket to tie the game — this one a three-pointer from Burns. Solid shooting by Davis and a three-point play by freshman guard Anna Kelly helped the Rams stretch their lead to four with 4:26 remaining. However, they failed to convert on their next two possessions, allowing VCU guard Isis Thorpe to cut the lead to one with a three pointer. The two sides then traded layups, keeping the margin to a single point.

Thorpe fouled out on Fordham’s next possession, sending Davis to the line. She missed the back end and VCU’s Bria Gibson grabbed the rebound. After another trip to the line, VCU grabbed the lead thanks to a timely layup from forward Curteeona Brelove. Kelly kept Fordham in it with a basket of her own, but the Rams were shut out from there. VCU pulled off a hard-fought win, 61-58.

Fordham turned in an improved shooting performance, but they also allowed VCU to shoot 45.1 percent from the field. The visitors went 9-for-12 in the third quarter. Fordham also committed 17 turnovers in the loss.

Kelly led the Rams scoring with 16 points. Davis and Burns chipped in with 12 apiece. She is also in a tie for fifth for most three-pointers in A-10 history.

Fordham’s next game is on the road against the preseason favorite Saint Louis Billikens, who sit just half a game behind Fordham in the A-10. Tipoff is set for this Saturday at 7 p.m.

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