By Sam Belden
The Fordham women’s basketball team may have lost to St. Louis in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, but thanks to a favorable appraisal from the Women’s National Invitational Tournament Selection Committee, the Rams’ season did not end there. Instead, they hit the road, knocking off Georgetown by a score of 60-49 before falling to Penn State in the second round.
Exactly two weeks after losing to the Billikens, Fordham traveled to the nation’s capital for a showdown with Georgetown, who entered the game with a 17-12 overall record. While the teams matched up well on paper, the Rams were without their A-10 All-Rookie selection, Kate Kreslina, allowing senior guard Danielle Burns to start her first game in weeks. It took a while for the Rams to find their offensive groove, necessitating a second half rally in order to win.
Sophomore forward Mary Goulding made a shot down low to open the scoring, but Georgetown then went on a 7-0 run, setting the tone for the first half. The Rams attempted seven three-pointers in the first quarter, but none of them fell; meanwhile, the Hoyas made the most of their opportunities. By the end of the period Georgetown led 15-6, and the margin would have been ever greater if not for a couple of squandered possessions in the last minute.
The second quarter was similar to the first — the Rams started out well, but they ultimately failed to gain ground on Georgetown. Jump shots from Goulding and freshman guard Anna Kelly cut the deficit to five, but Fordham scored just four more points in the next nine minutes. Although the Rams trailed by just three with four minutes remaining, Georgetown scored eight unanswered points to finish the period and held a 25-14 lead at the halftime buzzer.
All told, the Rams made just 24.1 percent of their shots from the field in the first half, an abysmal rate. At 32.3 percent, the Hoyas were not much better, but they also grabbed more rebounds and committed fewer turnovers.
The third quarter saw the Rams rebound from their listless performance in the first half. They scored 27 points, nearly doubling their first half total and claiming the lead. Sophomore guard Lauren Holden got things started with a three-pointer, which became a major theme of the quarter — Fordham connected on five attempts in a row at one point, all of them coming from either Goulding or senior guard Hannah Missry. Junior forward G’mrice Davis also stayed productive, and by the end of the quarter, the Rams were leading 41-36.
“I got on them at the half,” head coach Stephanie Gaitley said of her team. “Typically at this time of year, I very rarely get fired up, [but] I was fired up because I felt we weren’t playing our level of basketball and our brand of basketball. I thought we were playing intimidated and we were letting Georgetown take to everything, and I think the kids took it to heart.”
The Hoyas tried to fight back in the final period, but Fordham was on cruise control, ably holding off the opposition as the seconds ticked away. Georgetown got a bit of offense near the end of the quarter, but the Rams were solid with their free throws and held on for the 11-point win.
Goulding and Davis led the way for Fordham — both women posted a double-double, with Goulding’s totals of 19 points and 10 rebounds and Davis’ marks of 16 point and 17 rebounds. The Rams made half their shots from the field in the second half.
With a bit of momentum in tow, the team headed to Pennsylvania for a showdown with the Penn State Lady Lions. The Rams once again struggled offensively to start, but this time, a second half improvement was not enough to compensate.
Davis got things started with the first bucket of the game, but the Rams stalled from there. They could only watch as Penn State scored bucket after bucket, and by the end of the quarter Fordham was trailing 17-4. The second quarter proceeded in similar fashion, with the Lady Lions kicking it off with a 10-0 run. Thanks to some timely scoring from Kelly, the Rams managed to battle back a bit, but they still finished the first half at a massive disadvantage, trailing 33-12.
The Rams made just 18.8 percent of their shots in the first half, compared to 48.1 percent for the Lady Lions. Thanks to Penn State’s stifling defense, Goulding was the only Fordham player with more than five points.
After scoring just 12 points in the first half, the Rams managed to put up 20 in the third quarter alone. Missry made a couple of three-pointers within a minute of each other, and another one from Goulding made it a 9-5 run. However, the Lady Lions managed to hold steady and maintain their lead, forcing Fordham to pray for a fourth quarter miracle.
The final period saw the Rams outscore the opposition, but it was not nearly enough to move within striking distance. While Missry demonstrated more hot shooting and Davis was as solid as ever, the defense was not up to snuff, allowing the Lady Lions to hold on for a 70-51 victory.
“The slow start kind of put us on our heels,” Gaitley said after the game. “If you look at the second half, we won the second half by two. I wasn’t really disappointed in our halfcourt defense, it was really not taking care of the ball. I think we had a better second half because we limited our turnovers.”
The Rams finished the season with a 22-12 overall record, as well as a 16-3 mark at home. Davis paced the team with 14.6 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, while Burns, Holden and Kreslina all averaged over eight points per contest. Davis finished her campaign as the nation’s second-leading rebounder.
Missry and Burns finished their time as Rams with the third and fourth-most games in program history, respectively. In addition, Missry is second on the A-10’s all-time three-pointers list.
“They really do typify the total student-athlete package,” Gaitley said of the senior class, which also includes forward Danielle Padovano. “All three having graduated, all three leaving here with their undergrad and their masters speaks volumes as both students and athletes.”
Davis, Kreslina, Goulding, Holden and Kelly are all eligible for at least one more year of collegiate hoops, so the Rams should be well-equipped to have another solid campaign next year. If Davis continues to develop, expect Fordham to be at the forefront of the race to the A-10 title.