Men’s Basketball 1-2 To Begin Atlantic 10 Play

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By CHESTER BAKER

Fordham’s prospects for the rest of the season will depend largely on how Chris Gaston’s injured left knee holds up down the stretch.

Fordham’s prospects for the rest of the season will depend largely on how Chris Gaston’s injured left knee holds up down the stretch.

Despite winning their first Atlantic 10 opener since the 2005-06 season with an 82-75 victory over Duquesne on Jan. 6, the Fordham Rams could be 3-0 if only a few different things had gone their way.

“I showed the guys six possessions over the course of two games that really changed the outcomes for us,” Head Coach Tom Pecora said. “It’s frustrating to come that close to starting off undefeated in the conference.”

Those six possessions came in Fordham’s losses to UMass on Jan. 13, 77-73, and to the Charlotte 49ers, who downed the Rams 74-68 on Jan. 16.

In the games against Duquesne and UMass, the Rams played at the Rose Hill Gym for just the fourth and fifth times this season, after a grueling non-conference schedule which consistently put Fordham on the road.

“As we move forward, I think we let a golden opportunity pass us by, since we could have had two home wins early,” Pecora said.

Although the team’s record currently stands at 5-13, Pecora sees some positives to playing the tough non-conference slate.

“It was way too tough a schedule for a young team to be playing,” Pecora said. “But it also shows their resiliency. Coming out and playing this way in the conference shows you that they haven’t been hammered down despite all of the road losses.”

Perhaps the biggest reason for Fordham’s encouraging open to the conference schedule has been the play of junior Brandon Frazier, who has been a revelation this season at point guard. Frazier led the Rams to a win over Princeton in the Barclay’s Center on Dec. 15, scoring 13 points in the final three minutes of the game. Since then, the Brooklyn native has been on a roll, posting games of 16, 21 and 23 points, respectively, in the three conference games.

Even more important than his point production in the opening A-10 games has been the way Frazier is taking care of the ball, as he turned over the rock only six times. When compared to his 20 assists, Frazier has one of the best turnover-to-assist ratios on the team.

“He just keeps getting better and better,” Pecora said. “That’s where his future is, with the ball in his hands. He is really coming into himself and he is developing into a great player and a great leader for this team, and I think that’s credit to how much he works on his craft.”

In the loss against UMass, Fordham showed some resiliency, coming back from a 14-point deficit in the first half to make it a one-possession contest in the waning seconds of the game. One of the key factors in the team’s inability to pull off the comeback was its struggles at the free throw line, where the Rams shot just 18-of-30.

Although fans may take some comfort in the fact that Fordham was able to make it a tight game after being down so big so early, Pecora sees things a little differently, going so far as to call his team “cocky,” according to the New York Post.

“I think we shouldn’t be happy with the idea of playing close games,” Pecora said. “That’s something a mature team doesn’t do. We need to jump on teams early and not take any possessions off.”

Fordham certainly showed some of its maturity in the loss to Charlotte, despite the team’s youth, which features only one junior and two seniors. For a game in which senior Chris Gaston scored only three points on 1-of-12 shooting, younger members of the Rams stepped up to keep the team in it, such as freshman guard Mandell Thomas, who chipped in with 13 points.

“I think that game shows that the young guys have developed,” Pecora said. “Anytime we can play in a close game where [Gaston] shoots like that shows you that we have some depth on this team, even if we are young.”

It is not clear whether or not Gaston has fully recovered from the knee surgery he underwent on Nov. 16, which kept him out until the Princeton game. Although Pecora confirmed that there is no swelling of the knee and for the most part the operation was a success, Gaston appears to still be hampered by the injury.

On Jan. 17, the senior tweeted, “Not playing at 100% people need to understand I’m not gonna be perfect every night ! Don’t be mad at the kid with one leg !”

Still, Pecora and the team are taking Gaston’s complaints seriously.

“Anytime somebody complains about their body you have to take it seriously,” Pecora said.

Gaston’s bad game in Charlotte was a rarity for the senior, who has been a top player for the Rams since he came to Rose Hill. His conference play got off to a stellar start, as he posted a double-double against Duquesne (18 points, 10 rebounds) on 9-of-12 shooting. He was also a catalyst for the Rams’ near-comeback against the Minutemen, scoring 20 points to go along with 13 rebounds.

It should be interesting to see how the senior’s knee holds up when Fordham tries to collect its second conference win against Dayton tonight, Wednesday Jan. 23.