Men’s Basketball Continues Its Losing Stretch

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Men’s Basketball Continues Its Losing Stretch

Will Tavares (above) attempts a layup.  Fordham men’s basketball has not won a game since February 10th. (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

Will Tavares (above) attempts a layup. Fordham men’s basketball has not won a game since February 10th. (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

Will Tavares (above) attempts a layup. Fordham men’s basketball has not won a game since February 10th. (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

Will Tavares (above) attempts a layup. Fordham men’s basketball has not won a game since February 10th. (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

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By Alvin Halimwidjaya

Will Tavares (above) attempts a layup. Fordham men’s basketball has not won a game since February 10th. (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

Fordham Men’s Basketball came into this past week having won its last game on Feb. 10; unfortunately, that did not change. The Rams’ dry spell continued as they dropped games to George Washington and VCU to end their regular season.

Coming into their matchup against George Washington on Wednesday, Feb. 28, Fordham had built up a losing streak of four games. Their last loss came against La Salle, with head coach Jeff Neubauer pointing to swingman B.J. Johnson as a key factor in the Explorers’ victory.

“B.J. Johnson is as talented as anyone in our conference,” Neubauer said. “He’s had a really impressive year average, almost 21 points per game, and some of the shots he did make were tough ones; they were ones where we had a hand in his face. He also really competed well on the glass and gave his team extra opportunities. There were a couple shots in the first half where we just got confused and he got wide-open shots, so those are the ones that are disappointing. But he did show what type of player he is, going 8-11 [from the field] tonight, and he’s done that against a lot of teams.”

Against George Washington, the Rams fell the same way, dropping the contest 72-56, courtesy of forward Yuta Watanabe’s career-high 31 points. Junior forward Prokop Slanina led the Rams’ offense with 19 points and seven rebounds, while junior guard Joseph Chartouny and senior guard Will Tavares chipped in with 11 and 10 points respectively.

After Watanabe scored 11 points to push the Colonials to a 15-4 lead 5:40 into the first half, Fordham managed to cut the deficit down to five points, as a Slanina three-pointer brought the score to 23-18 with 7:36 remaining in the first half. However, a 13-2 run from George Washington gave them a commanding 36-20 lead with 4:20 before halftime, and they didn’t give the Rams any chances to threaten for the rest of the game.

Fordham moved on to its regular season home finale and held Senior Night at the Rose Hill Gym on Saturday, Mar. 3 against VCU. The team tried to see it as just another game, with Neubauer stating that, “Our mentality was we were playing the game to win the game… the message was we were trying to compete.”

However, Fordham came up short once again in a 83-58 loss in a battle of the Rams. While Chartouny, Slanina and Tavares headed up the scoring once again with 16, 14 and 13 points, respectively, the damage to Fordham was done by VCU forward Justin Tillman, who dropped 18 points and nabbed 13 rebounds.

“Tillman is a sensational player, and when I look at VCU’s team, I really see guys that have improved,” Neubauer said. “So you can start with Tillman, who improved drastically from last year to this year. He’s just ferocious. He doesn’t stop, and his skill level has obviously increased.”

Tillman’s most meaningful contribution came in the form of his aggression; his style put Slanina in foul trouble, as the Czech forward only played 21 minutes and ended up fouling out. With injuries to sophomore forward Chuba Ohams and junior forward Jessie Bunting, Slanina has been pushed into a much larger role at the center position over the season, and Tillman took advantage of Fordham’s limited options.

“Prokop’s actually done a terrific job here over the past 20-something games where he’s been the only center of avoiding fouling out,” Neubauer said. “Obviously, with Justin Tillman in there, it changes things; he’s so aggressive. He gets tangled up, so Prokop did pick up two [fouls] really quickly in the first half, and those two ending up dooming us, but with them attacking the [paint] so often, it’s just really hard to stay out of foul trouble… this is not an excuse, it’s a compliment to Justin Tillman, but when we don’t have Prokop on the court, it really affects us. And I’m talking about both ends of the court. Chris Downing did do a really good job, especially in the first half tonight. But we’ve seen this happen in a couple of games early in the year, where we do lose Prokop to fouls in the second half, and it’s hard to put up a fight.”

Fordham jumped out to a quick 10-3 lead with just over 15 minutes left in the game, but after VCU tied it up for a second time with 9:33 remaining in the contest, the opposing Rams broke the 15-15 deadlock with a 16-4 burst. Fordham ended up chipping the lead back down to 38-27 at halftime, but would get no closer than 10 points in the second half. In response to a Tavares basket cutting the Fordham deficit to 48-38, VCU swung back with an 11-0 to grab a 59-38 advantage with just under 12 minutes left and essentially put the game away.

Fordham’s next game is an A-10 tournament matchup. They face George Washington for the second time in two weeks on Wednesday, Mar. 7 at the Capital One Center in Washington, D.C. at 8:30 p.m.