By Sam Belden
Even the most solid of programs can lose momentum over the course of a tough season. Recently, that was the case for head coach Stephanie Gaitley’s Fordham women’s basketball team, which lost three consecutive games to close out the month of January.
However, after dropping another road game to George Washington on Wednesday, Feb. 1, the Rams bounced back in a big way on Saturday, pulling off a decisive win over St. Bonaventure in the Rose Hill Gym. They now sit at 7-5 in the Atlantic 10, good for a share of fifth place in the standings.
“Coming off a losing streak where there’s some doubt involved, you have to fight through cobwebs early,” said Gaitley of the St. Bonaventure game. “Glad we were able to get it done.”
While the week did feature that cathartic home victory, things did not start out so well for Gaitley’s squad. Playing in a nationally televised game in George Washington’s Charles E. Smith Center, the Rams were leading through the first two quarters but struggled in the second half, ending up with their fourth consecutive loss.
Both teams delivered strong offensive performances in the first quarter, but it was Fordham that had a 13-10 edge after the first 10 minutes of play. Senior guard Danielle Burns, senior forward Danielle Padovano and sophomore guard Lauren Holden made a three-pointer apiece, accounting for the deficit, while junior forward G’mrice Davis, the nation’s leading rebounder, scored the Rams’ other four points.
The second quarter featured a noticeable back-and-forth dynamic, with both sides stringing together multiple successful possessions. Fordham was trailing 22-18 with 2:53 remaining, but a barrage of scoring down the stretch, which included a three-point play for Davis and three-pointer for Burns, put the Rams back up by four at the half.
With 20 minutes of regulation remaining, it was clear that the two teams were closely matched. They committed the same number of first -half turnovers, and the difference in score was mostly due to George Washington’s bad luck (0-for-7) from three-point land.
As the players returned to the court, fans were eager for the close game to resume, but what had only recently been a one-possession game was quickly transformed into a rout. George Washington caught fire out of the gate to start the second half, reeling off a 10-0 run that put them up by six. Padovano and Burns soon cut into the damage with three-pointers, but the Colonials were relentless, using their smart shooting to open up a 47-38 lead through three quarters.
The final quarter began as a defensive battle, with neither side scoring in the first minute-and-a-half. However, George Washington that gained the advantage once the scoring opened up, going on a 10-4 run to put it at 59-42 with 2:29 remaining. The Colonials were solid with their free throws down the stretch, resulting in a final score of 63-46.
While Fordham’s offense struggled to find the basket for the entire game, George Washington hit 15 of their 28 shots in the second half, allowing them to overtake the Rams. Fordham also committed a whopping 13 second-half turnovers to George Washington’s one.
With the sting of a second-half blowout fresh in their minds, the Rams returned to Rose Hill with a chip on their shoulder. Playing in its first home game in two weeks, the team appeared reenergized by the trip home and easily took care of St. Bonaventure, completing the season sweep.
The win was a team effort for Fordham, with three players — Davis, freshman guard Kate Kreslina and senior guard Hannah Missry — reaching double digits in points scored.
The Rams began the game with an explosion of offense, with both Missry and Burns hitting three-pointers within the first two minutes. While the Bonnies responded, more timely shooting from the two guards kept them at bay, and a couple of nice inside baskets from Davis put the Rams up 17-8 at the end of the first quarter.
While the Bonnies were sluggish on offense to start the game, they were much improved in the second quarter, starting it out with a 7-0 run to cut the Fordham lead to two. They never managed to even the score though, as solid defense and smart shooting from Padovano, Kreslina and freshman guard Anna Kelly allowed the Rams to maintain a slight lead. At the half, the score stood at 24-22.
It was in the third quarter that the Bonnies finally tied the game off a Gabby Richmond jumper, putting the score at 24-24. However, Fordham still refused to let the opposition take the lead, however, as Kreslina hit a three-pointer, her first of three in the quarter, after a couple of squandered possessions for both sides. Those threes, along with solid play in the paint from Davis and a nice drive by Kelly, allowed the Rams to take a 41-30 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Bonnies faced a big deficit heading into the final quarter, and a three-pointer from Missry to start things off did not help. While they did cut into the lead with serviceable defense and a three-point play with 2:17 remaining, it was not enough, and the Rams managed to hold on for the 57-45 win
“They were playing well, playing with a lot of confidence,” said Gaitley of the St. Bonaventure team, adding that the Rams’ previous win over the Bonnies did not temper her expectations for a tight battle. “I knew better, because they’re well-coached, they play very, very hard and have a tradition of success. They had a week off heading in, so we knew it would be a hard-fought game.”
Fordham and St. Bonaventure posted almost identical field goal percentages, but the Rams were on fire from behind the three-point line, hitting more than half of their attempts. In addition, Davis posted her 16th double-double of the year.
“It feels amazing to have everything flow, especially defensively,” said Davis. “There’s a lot less frustration. It’s a lot more fun to play when we do the things that we’re taught.”
Next up for the Rams is a Thursday matchup against the Saint Joseph’s Hawks, who have won eight of their last nine games, followed by Massachusetts on Saturday.