Fordham Defeats Rhode Island For Second A-10 Win

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Fordham had a strong first half, but fell fast in the second half against VCU. (SAMUEL JOSEPH/THE RAM)

By DAN GARTLAND
STAFF WRITER

Fordham has just four games left this season. The Rams’ next home game is Feb. 12 against St. Bonaventure. (SAMUEL JOSEPH/THE RAM)

Fordham has just four games left this season. The Rams’ next home game is Feb. 12 against St. Bonaventure. (SAMUEL JOSEPH/THE RAM)

Fordham-Rhode Island has started to feel like a rivalry in recent years. A total of five points decided the teams’ previous two meetings in the Bronx. The “Battle of the Rams” on Saturday night was equally exciting, with Fordham prevailing 85-79.

Fordham took a one-point lead into the locker room at halftime before extending its lead in the second half.

“At halftime, I just said, ‘Guys, the reason they’re in this game is because of the offensive rebounds,’” Fordham head coach Tom Pecora said. “In the second half, we were able to keep them off the glass a little bit better. Offensively, we got things going. We drove the ball to the basket and made the plays we needed to make.”

URI head coach Dan Hurley saw things the same way.

“We lost the game because Fordham was so good offensively, and because of our inability to be physical and rebound the ball,” Hurley said.

Sophomore forward Ryan Rhoomes hauled in 13 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass.

Fordham’s offensive rebounding helped gain a 10-point lead with 6:19 remaining. An 8-0 Rhode Island run over the next three minutes cut the lead to just two, but Fordham was able to keep URI at an arm’s length.

“One thing we’ve been good at is closing games out when it’s a tight game in the last few minutes,” Pecora said.

Senior guard Branden Frazier was outstanding. He led all scorers with 27 points on 10-14 shooting and also dished out seven assists. Most importantly, he scored six of Fordham’s final eight points to help seal the win.

“Branden Frazier had one of the best guard performances that I’ve seen this year,” Hurley said.

With 40 seconds left, Frazier drove to the lane and banked a fade-away jumper off the glass to put Fordham up by four. Twenty seconds later, after URI had cut Fordham’s lead to three, Frazier made two key foul shots to help bury the rival Rams. Pecora wanted Frazier taking those key shots late in the game.

“He’s our senior, he’s our leader, he’s our best free throw shooter, so I want the ball in his hands,” Pecora said. “If they double him, I know he’s not just going to make a game-winning shot. He’s going to make a game-winning play. That’s what veterans do for your team. I’m really proud of him with this effort.”

But, Frazier did not have to do everything himself. Jon Severe had 16 points, Bryan Smith had 10 and Mandell Thomas added 18 to follow up on a season-high 25 in last week’s loss to VCU.

“We’ve searched all year for that third and fourth scorer some nights, and that’s tough,” Pecora said. “But when you get four guys in double figures, I think that’s the difference tonight.”

The key for Fordham was offensive execution.

“Offensively, they were outstanding,” Hurley said. “They were spreading us out, and they’re tough to guard when they’re making shots that way… When you have four shooters on the court, with a big, physical screener like Rhoomes or [Travion] Leonard, that presents some defensive problems for you.”

This was Fordham’s second Atlantic 10 victory of the season. The Rams have eight games remaining in A-10 play before the conference tournament in mid-March and need one more league win to equal last season’s total of three.

Fordham has a week off before its next game on Feb. 8 against George Washington. The coaches will spend that time recruiting while the players will spend Sunday through Tuesday resting up.

George Washington is one of the A-10’s most surprising teams this season. The Colonials are 17-4 so far this season after going 13-17 a year ago and losing their top two scorers. Fordham, however, will have time to recover and prepare for the game. Plus, the Rams have the momentum of a hard-fought home victory.

“It was good that the guys stepped up today for this Rhode Island win,” Frazier said. “It also felt good to be home, coming from VCU and UMass. So for us to get a win here and build our confidence up, going into GW was great.”