By Sam Belden
Last week, Fordham Women’s Basketball head coach Stephanie Gaitley suggested that her team had become “the hunted,” thanks to early season success. After a Saturday showdown in Saint Louis, it seems that characterization was confirmed. The Billikens offense was explosive from beginning to end. This propelled them to a big 82-58 victory over the Rams, who have now dropped three straight.
Playing in front of a packed house inside Chaifetz Arena, Saint Louis had it going from beginning to end, shooting 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point land. The Rams simply could not muster the same firepower — they were outscored in all but one quarter and made just two out of 20 attempts from beyond the arc while playing subpar defense on the other end.
“We have to play defense to be in a position to knock off the top teams in the conference,” said Gaitley. “I felt we were really disconnected defensively. They are very good team and they had a crowd of more than 6,000 behind them.”
Still, the game was not devoid of bright spots for Fordham. Junior forward G’mrice Davis continued her barrage of double-doubles with a 20-point, 10-rebound performance to earn her 14th of the season. Meanwhile, freshman guards Kate Kreslina and Anna Kelly scored 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Billikens kicked off the action by going on a 12-2 run, setting the tone for the remainder of the game. As the game progressed, the Rams began to loosen up and convert on some opportunities in the paint, but they could only tread water against the explosive Saint Louis offense. At the end of the quarter, they still trailed by 10 points.
Fordham was strong out of the gate in the second quarter, with a three-pointer from Kreslina and a layup from sophomore guard Lauren Holden cutting the lead in half within two minutes. However, Saint Louis then managed to go on a 9-0 run, with the Rams missing two shots and committing a turnover, over the minute-and-a-half. Trailing by 14 with 3:39 remaining in the half, they tried to recapture some momentum but missed a pair of three-pointers, allowing the Billikens to keep their distance. Kelly’s four points in the final minute provided a small amount of damage control, though, making the halftime score 39-29.
At the half, the two sides had the same number of rebounds and turnovers — it was shooting that really made the difference. While Saint Louis managed to convert on half of its attempts, Fordham shot just 37.9 percent.
This discrepancy would become even more extreme in the second half. While the Rams regressed to 34.4 percent from the field, the Billikens upped theirs to 62.5 percent, allowing them to cruise to an easy victory. Solid shot selection from Kreslina and a dead accurate jumper from junior guard Asnate Fomina allowed Fordham to cut the lead to eight with 7:19 left in the third quarter, but Saint Louis’ Jenny Vliet made a three-pointer 30 seconds later to push it back into the double digits, where it would remain for the rest of the game.
The Rams continued to fight hard but struggled to capture any momentum. Saint Louis seemed to have an answer for every Fordham point, and by the end of the third quarter, the score stood at 62-43.
The story was much the same in the fourth quarter. Davis was hot to start things off, scoring on three of the first five Fordham possessions, but once again, the Billikens refused to surrender any ground. Soon enough, the Rams began to run out of gas — they were shut out for nearly three minutes in the middle of the quarter, and by the time they found their rhythm again, there was not nearly enough time to mount even a miracle comeback. The final buzzer sounded, the score standing at 82-58.
Saint Louis’ total of 82 points is the highest figure the Rams have given up in regulation this season. Four different Billikens scored 15 points or more, led by center Sadie Stipanovich with 22. Thanks to Davis’ efforts, the Rams were better on the boards, but no amount of scrappiness could make up for their offensive woes.
Despite the loss, the game did feature a couple of milestones for Fordham. Senior forward Danielle Burns became the fifth player in program history to appear in 120 games. Meanwhile, senior guard Hannah Missry moved into a tie for second for most starts as a Fordham Ram. She now trails former teammate Samantha Clark, FCRH ‘16, by just 14 games.
With Saint Louis in the rearview mirror, the Rams will travel to the nation’s capital on Wednesday for a showdown with the George Washington Colonials. Both squads will head into the game with the same conference record: 6-3. Then, Fordham will return to Rose Hill for a three-game homestand, starting with a game against St. Bonaventure on Saturday.
“In any conference, winning on the road is really, really tough,” said Gaitley.
“When you play at home, there’s comfort level, there’s familiarity, you wake up in your own bed, you get to do your own routine,” she later added. “That all helps. We need to focus on what’s on the court, not what’s off it.”
The Rams will continue their season at GW on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 12 p.m.