Women’s Basketball Splits Against Saint Louis and Rhode Island

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Fordham Women’s Basketball is now 18-6 on the season (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

By Jack McLoone

Mary Goulding (above) makes a move in the post. Fordham Women’s Basketball is now 18-6 on the season (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

Winning on the road is difficult. Winning without your best player is difficult. Doing both in the Atlantic 10 is a big ask, yet Fordham Women’s Basketball almost answered the call, falling just short in a 91-85 double-overtime loss on Wednesday. The Rams bounced right back when they returned home and senior forward G’mrice Davis rejoined the lineup with a 76-64 win over Rhode Island.

The Rams are now 18-6 and 9-2 in A-10 play, putting them in third place in the conference.

Without Davis, an already-thin Rams team got that much thinner. Four Rams players average over 30 minutes per game, and Davis is third at 37.1 minutes per game. Freshmen Johanna Klug and Zara Jillings clock in around 20, while fellow freshmen Kendell Heremaia and Halei Gillis are in the 12 to 15 range. For the most part, this is a team built on their starters, so losing one – especially in a double-OT game – is tough.

Without Davis on the court, Jillings stepped into the starting lineup and played 40 minutes, a full regulation game. The fewest minutes played by a starter were Klug, who still logged 35. Senior point guard Lauren Holden, who leads the team in playing time at 39.4 minutes per game, played all 50 minutes. She played all 50 in the Rams other double-overtime game this season, a 67-64 road win against St. John’s.

As evidenced by the final score, overtime allows for some scores you don’t usually see in women’s basketball. Redshirt freshman guard Bre Cavanaugh took full advantage of her 48 minutes on the court, pouring in 37 points on 12-30 (40 percent) shooting, including 5-8 (62.5 percent) from deep. Those 37 points are a record for a freshman at Fordham, and it is the most points scored by anyone in the A-10 this season.

Fordham won all but one of the regulation quarters. Problem is, that third quarter loss was a 28-12 difference. The Rams were up 15 heading into that quarter, but the Billikens knocked down five threes in the quarter, which allowed them to summit that difference and head to the fourth quarter with a 55-53 lead.

The fourth quarter and first overtime were obviously very even. This even stretched to the final overtime, where the Billikens failed to score on only one possession, while the Rams came up empty on four trips in the five minutes.

“I was extremely proud of the effort at St Louis, in spite of the outcome,” said head coach Stephanie Gaitley. “I really do believe we took a few steps forward as a program.”

One has to wonder what that game would have looked like with Davis active, but there is no way to tell.

In the way any Gaitley coached team has, but particularly this year, the Rams were able to shake off the loss immediately. The only back-to-back losses the Rams have this year came on back-to-back road games at Albany and Boston College. They did not break that streak on Sunday, winning one of the many A-10 Battle of the Rams against URI, 76-64.

Davis returned to the starting lineup, picking up her customary double-double with 22 points and 15 rebounds. She mixed it up a little bit this time, pulling down seven on the offensive glass, tying her season high.

Fordham came out invigorated in the first quarter, flipping URI with a 31-13 lead. Fordham went up 11 at 15-4 with 5:54 left in the first quarter, and the lead never dropped below 10 after that.

“I think everyone was anxious to get back to our winning ways and we were focused on both ends of the court,” said Gaitley of the performance.

The home Rams were able to come away with the victory despite a 35-point performance from Nicole Jorgensen by only letting one other Rhody score double digits. Meanwhile, four of the five Fordham starters registered double digits: Davis, Cavanaugh with 20, Holden with 16 and junior Mary Goulding with 12.

A new look for the Rams involved Gilis and Klug, who pretty much split time – Klug started as she has most of the season and logged 15 minutes, while Gilis played for 10. Gilis played a lot more early in the season, but missed some time with a concussion and has only started to pick back up her playing time.

“We are basically using [Klug] and [Gilis] as one player right now. A lot of it depends on matchups. Halei is more physical and Joey is more finesse, so they compliment each other well,” said Gaitley of the rotation.

While the Rams led by double-digits the whole way, Gaitley was not satisfied with the whole 40 minutes.

“I think it is always difficult to sustain a large lead,” she said. “I think we got comfortable and relaxed. I challenged them after the game that we need to put teams away as the road is getting tougher.”

With a firm grip on third place in the A-10, the Rams have just five regular season games remaining. They travel to Davidson on Saturday, Feb. 10 for a 2 p.m. game before returning home to host the La Salle Explorers on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.