Women’s Basketball Off to Historic Start in Conference

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Marah Strickland scored her 1,000th career point in a win over Richmond.

Marah Strickland scored her 1,000th career point in a win over Richmond.

There is a team around campus that is in the middle of a historic season in the 2012-2013 campaign. That team is the women’s basketball team, which, since Dec. 30, has won eight of its last nine games and is currently riding a six-game winning streak, the latter three of which have been in Atlantic 10 conference play.

Fordham, which was 7-4 near the end of last calendar year, suffered a tough loss at the hands of 4-7 Lafayette in the Fordham Holiday Classic. This defeat served as the catalyst to the team’s current success.

“I think the wake-up call was the loss to Lafayette,” Head Coach Stephanie Gaitley said. “The kids realized that you can get beaten at any given time and that you can’t take winning for granted. It was a humbling experience to lose in your own tournament in the first round.”

The consolation game against Colorado State proved to be the game in which Fordham caught fire. In a double-overtime thriller, Fordham came back several times to ultimately win 64-59. Seniors Marah Strickland and Arielle Collins each had double-figures in points, with 18 and 13 respectively, and junior Abigail Corning recorded a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

The 14 rebounds marked a career-high for Corning in a game that had multiple highlights. Junior guard Erin Rooney was a point and an assist away from recording the program’s first ever triple-double, as she had nine points, nine assists and 12 rebounds,  the latter two are career highs for Rooney.

“We showed great perseverance and grit against a good Colorado State team,” Gaitley said. “Getting over that hump and staying together without shooting the ball well, and just gutting it out defensively was a great start to the new year.”

After wins at American University and against Holy Cross that took the Rams to 10-5, Fordham prepared to enter the second part of their season, the conference schedule.

“It’s a new season,” Gaitley said. “We did well [in non-conference play], we had a record-setting 10 wins out of conference, and we used those games to figure out who we are. I think our kids understand the importance of conference games. They know only the top 12 [out of 16] teams make the conference tournament, and how important it is to get off on the right foot.”

Fordham did just that in its 59-56 win at Charlotte, which was 11-3 and at the top of the conference on Jan. 13.

The Rams held tight early in the first half, never falling behind by much and answering all of the 49ers’ baskets with scores of their own. A 9-0 Charlotte run late in the half, however, put the 49ers up 26-20 with a little more than two minutes left until halftime.

Fordham continued the trend of answering the 49ers’ attempts to pull away, scoring five straight of their own until a pair of free throws by junior guard Ny Hammonds gave Charlotte a 28-25 lead heading into the half.

Erin Rooney came alive for the Rams in the second half. Rooney scored 17 of her game-high 19 points in the second half.

The game looked to be in doubt, until a 9-2 Fordham run in which Rooney scored five points tied the game at 53 with just three and a half minutes remaining. After trading baskets and free throws, Fordham found itself down one until Corning hit a clutch jumper to give the Rams a 57-56 lead with 46 seconds left.

The defense then took over and forced a miss, which led to Charlotte fouling Rooney and her adding two free throws to the lead making it 59-56, which is where it would stay.

The game was a historic one for the Rams. It marked the first time since 1998 that Fordham won its Atlantic 10 opener, and it also marked the first-ever win for Fordham over Charlotte.

Fordham continued its winning streak at home against UMass on the 16th, securing its first ever 2-0 start in the conference in a 69-57 win. In a game that was never very much in doubt, Rooney scored 19 for the second straight game, including nine consecutive points in the second half. The lead grew to as much as 16 but ended up being a 12-point win for the Rams.

In its most recent contest, Fordham put its undefeated conference record on the line against Richmond and came up victorious again, continuing its historic start with a 47-40 win at the Rose Hill Gym.

The story of the day was senior Strickland scoring her 1000th point in the game, on a free throw that closed the contest out in the final minute of the game. Strickland had quite the game, scoring 20 points and grabbing five rebounds to help Fordham to the win.

Fordham’s defense also had a strong showing against Richmond. The Rams held the Spiders to 24 points below their season scoring average in what was one of their best defensive efforts of the season.

Coach Gaitley commented on the team’s tremendous conference start.

“It’s a collective effort to be honest,” Gaitley said. “On any given day someone will have to step up. Yesterday, Erin [Rooney] didn’t shoot well, so Marah [Strickland] picked it up. And Ace [Arielle Collins] made big free throws down the stretch. Our bench is a little thin because of injury, so different people have to step up and kids are being asked to do more. To be honest, I think the credit goes all the way down one through 14.”

Fordham, which currently sits at 13-5 (3-0 in conference) looks to make it four straight wins in the conference and seven straight overall on Jan. 23 when they travel to Ohio to take on Xavier.