Women’s Basketball 1-1 to Start Season

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Women’s Basketball 1-1 to Start Season

Lauren Holden and the Rams had an up-and-down start to their season (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

Lauren Holden and the Rams had an up-and-down start to their season (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

Lauren Holden and the Rams had an up-and-down start to their season (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

Lauren Holden and the Rams had an up-and-down start to their season (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

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By Jack McLoone

Women’s Basketball head coach Stephanie Gaitley often referred to the 2017-18 schedule as one of the toughest she ever created in her then-33 years as a head coach. In her 34th season, she believes the Rams have an even tougher one, making early victories against less-powerful teams all the more important.

The Rams got the job done in their opener at home on Friday, topping the Wagner Seahawks 80-59, but followed that up with a slog of a game at Northeastern on Sunday, losing 58-54. With Penn State coming to the Rose Hill Gym on Wednesday, the Rams need to figure out their flaws in a hurry.

The Rams were never in much trouble in their opening matchup with Wagner. Reigning Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team and Second Team All-A-10 Preseason member sophomore Bre Cavanaugh hit back-to-back threes to put the Rams up 6-4 under two minutes into the first quarter. While this was expected, sophomore guard Kendell Heremaia—who Gaitley called the team’s “most improved player” in her pregame conversation with WFUV—hitting back-to-back threes on the Rams’ next two trips were not. The two threes put Fordham up by eight with 6:39 left in the first, and the difference never dipped below that. By the end of the first quarter, the Rams were up 13.

In the second quarter, the Rams were able to utilize freshman forward Kaitlyn Downey, who is poised to eventually fill the historic shoes of the graduated G’mrice Davis. On back-to-back drives, Heremia and senior guard Lauren Holden were able to find Downey back cutting under the basket for easy layups. Downey finished with 12 points in her Ram debut. At the end of the half, the Rams were up by 12, 46-34.

The fact that the Rams were actually out-scored in the second quarter by a team that was picked to finished last in the Northeastern Conference and was without its two best returning players clearly irked Gaitley, who was often pulling players out to breakdown exactly where they went wrong on defense.

The sideline dress-downs, which were surely accompanied by more in the halftime locker room, had the Rams playing like their hair was on fire in the third, out-scoring Wagner 20-6. With the game out of hand, some of the deep bench came out in the fourth, leading to another quarter for Wagner, 19-14, but it was much too late for that to matter.

Cavanaugh led all scorers 20 points on just 6-13 shooting, including 3-7 from three and 5-8 from the line. Heremaia’s 13 points topped her previous career-high of 11. All five Rams making their Fordham debuts—Downey, Vilisi Tavui (who missed last season with an injury), Catherine Polisano, Megan Jonassen and Chloe Chaffin—were able to score at least one point.

While Gaitley was not pleased with the quality of the win, the Rams did not have long to bask in it either way, leaving on Saturday for a game at Northeastern on Sunday. In all the ways the Wagner game was an offensive explosion, the matchup with the Huskies was not. The Rams shot just 28 percent from the field, including a horrendous 4-27 from three. For comparison, they shot 42 percent and 34.5 percent in the opener, respectively.

The Rams started sloppy, with a turnover from Holden and a foul behind the arc behind Heremaia gave the Huskies a quick 5-0 lead. After tying the game up with 8:27 left in the quarter, neither team scored for nearly three minutes. However, the Rams closed the quarter on an 11-2 run, with the Huskies’ two coming on a pair of free throws. The Rams led 16-7.

That quarter was basically turned on its head in the second, with the Rams scoring just eight points (three layups and a pair of free throws from Tavui) to Northeastern’s 14. The Rams held on to a tenuous lead heading into the halftime locker room, 24-21.

After needing to use the halftime speech to inspire renewed defensive effort against Wagner, it was a bigger offensive effort that the Rams needed in the second half on Sunday. And they got it in the third quarter, to the tune of 18 points, shooting 6-13 from the field.

However, Northeastern also came out with a renewed offensive effort, putting up 19 of its own points to cut the Fordham lead down to two, 42-40, while also briefly holding the lead throughout the quarter.

But in the fourth quarter, the Huskies were in the driver’s seat. After Northeastern tied the game with 8:42 remaining, the Rams were unable to ever do more than tie it back up themselves. They went 0-6 from the field before Cavanaugh hit a jumper with 5:53 remaining.

The Rams were not without opportunities; they went 5-22 in the quarter, a truly horrific end to a tough-fought game.

Next up on the schedule for the 1-1 Rams is Penn State. In their matchup in Happy Valley last year, the Rams were up 10 with 7:48 left before being outscored 21-6 over the remaining minutes.

The Nittany Lions and Rams will tip off on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Rose Hill Gym.