Women’s Basketball Finishes Second at Gulf Coast Showcase

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Women’s Basketball Finishes Second at Gulf Coast Showcase

Sophomore Bre Cavanaugh led Fordham Women’s Basketball to a second-place finish in this year’s Gulf Coast Showcase (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

Sophomore Bre Cavanaugh led Fordham Women’s Basketball to a second-place finish in this year’s Gulf Coast Showcase (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

Sophomore Bre Cavanaugh led Fordham Women’s Basketball to a second-place finish in this year’s Gulf Coast Showcase (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).

Sophomore Bre Cavanaugh led Fordham Women’s Basketball to a second-place finish in this year’s Gulf Coast Showcase (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram).


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By Jack McLoone

“Winning would give us an A, so I would say a B,” said women’s basketball head coach Stephanie Gaitley of her team’s performance at the Gulf Coast Showcase over Thanksgiving weekend. That seems a little harsh, given that the Rams made it to the final before falling to No. 10 Texas. The Rams had a tough schedule, first needing to get past Ball State and then Washington, the latter of whichhad just beaten Duke the day before. While Gaitley may have only given her team a B, it is certainly a passing grade, which seems fitting.

The Rams take some sort of trip every year, whether it be the preseason trip to Europe from a year ago, or the trips to Florida this year and in 2016. After crediting the European trip with a strong bond amongst last year’s team, Gaitley believes there could be a similar effect from the shorter trip.

“This trip was long enough to get some true ‘bonding’ experience,” she said. “We had a cornhole tournament and enjoyed Thanksgiving together. It’s a very cohesive team that enjoys being together and it shows up on the court.”

The start of the tournament for the Rams made it seem like it might be over in just one game. At the end of the first half, the Rams were down 41-32 to Ball State. While a nine-point differential is not horrible, allowing the Cardinals to shoot over 65 percent from the floor was.

But as was a theme often last season, the Rams put on the clamps in the third quarter. With 6:13 left in the third, Nakeya Penny put Ball State up 48-42 with the Cardinals’ seventh point of the quarter. They did not score again in the third. The Rams closed the quarter on an 11-0 run, taking their first lead on a jumper from sophomore Bre Cavanaugh with 3:13 left. Overall, the Rams outscored the Cardinals 21-7 in the quarter.

While the fourth quarter was much closer—25-22 in Fordham’s favor—the Rams had built up too much of a lead and won 78-70.

While Cavanaugh predictably led the team in scoring—she had 24 points on a still-inefficient 10-23 shooting—sophomore Zara Jillings was the surprise. The Kiwi had a career-high 12 points on 5-8 shooting, including one made three and a free throw plus eight rebounds and five assists.

While the second game brought a theoretically tougher opponent in Washington, once again the Rams won by eight points, this time 65-57.

The Rams once again had a single-digit lockdown defensive performance, though this one came to end the first half and did not follow into the second. Trailing by three to open the second quarter, the Rams outscored the Huskies 14-6 to head into the half up five, 31-26. Cavanaugh was on fire in the first half, scoring 16 points, including going 4-8 from three. She went cold in the second half, making just two of her nine shots, but still finished with 25 points.

The third quarter also went heavily to the Rams, with the team pushing their lead to 13 by the end of the quarter. It was a particularly good quarter for senior Lauren Holden, who scored eight points, including a pair of threes; that is more points than she has had in four games this season.

The Rams controlled the fourth as well, matching shots with the Huskies most of the way to finish with a 65-57 win.

The championship of the Gulf Coast Showcase meant a matchup with top 10 team Texas, and that was where Fordham’s good fortunes finally ran out, though the Rams did not take the loss lying down. In fact, a last-second three from Cavanaugh gave them a one point lead heading into the second quarter, 23-22.

However, the Longhorns erased that lead 26 seconds into the second quarter and the Rams were unable to even tie the game over the remaining minutes. The uber-talented Longhorns eventually buried the Rams 72-54. But despite the double-digit loss, Gaitley liked the tenacity she saw from the team throughout.

“The main thing I took away from the Texas game is that we played with no fear. Last year when we played UCLA we got put on our heels in the first five minutes and never recovered,” she said. “During this tournament we got off to slow starts against Ball St. and Washington but were able to fight back. That’s a big step forward.”

Just like last season, the Rams have a very difficult out-of-conference schedule, especially at this tournament, and it was no accident.

“We put this challenging schedule in place so there are no surprises come A-10 time,” said Gaitley. “We learned that we have to play up to our standards and put together a 40 minute game on a consistent basis.”

Also worth noting: Cavanaugh was named Atlantic 10 player of the week for her efforts after averaging 22.3 points per game over the three games.

The Rams will next be in action on Thursday, Nov. 29 at Georgetown at 7 p.m.