BY MATT ROSENFELD
It couldn’t last forever, and it didn’t. After extending its winning streak to seven games last week in Cincinnati with a 48-41 win over Xavier, the Fordham women’s basketball team dropped its first game in Atlantic 10 play to Duquesne by a score of 68-50 last Sunday.
The Rams rode into Xavier undefeated in the conference, but knowing winning on the road is never easy.
Fordham took an early lead with a 10-4 run, as the Rams connected with their first four attempts from the field, but then found themselves unable to find the basket while Xavier went on a 14-0 run to give them an eight point lead.
But the game of runs continued as the seemingly always-resilient Rams went on a 6-0 run that put them right back in the game.
“Last year when a team would make runs, we would see some doubt and fear in the kids,” Head Coach Stephanie Gaitley said. “But now I don’t see that. I think they have matured enough to realize that basketball is a game of runs and that’s part of the game.”
Xavier would answer the Rams’ comeback though, outscoring Fordham as the half closed and taking a four-point lead into the half.
Musketeers’ freshman Briana Glover started the second half with the first bucket, but then, consistent with the game of runs, Fordham went on a 9-2 run. Freshman forward Samantha Clark scored four of those points, and take the lead 27-26.
The two teams traded the lead a few times over the next 10 minutes of play until Fordham started to pull away. A couple of free throws by junior guard Erin Rooney and a layup from senior guard Arielle Collins created a five point gap, 38-33.
Xavier pulled within three but could not get any closer as a jumper from senior guard Charlotte Stoddart and perfect free throws from Rooney and junior guard Abigail Corning put the dagger in the contest.
In their seventh straight victory, fourth straight in conference, Fordham’s defense was again the story as it held Xavier 20 points below its season average of 61 points per game.
“We didn’t shoot particularly well [against Xavier],” Gaitley said. “When we’re not shooting well, we say let’s disregard how we are shooting, and focus on the fact that we aren’t letting them score.”
After picking up its seventh consecutive victory, Fordham traveled to Pittsburgh to take on Duquesne, another Atlantic 10 unbeaten, who sat at 16-2 heading into the game.
The Rams worked themselves into quite a hole early, unable to get on the scoreboard until 13:18 was left in the first half, when Collins hit a free throw. By then, Duquesne had already gotten off to an 11 point lead. The first field goal for Fordham did not come until nearly nine minutes were gone in the first half. A three from Stoddart made the score 11-4 before Duquesne began to run away with the game.
Over the remaining 11 minutes in the half, Duquesne outscored Fordham 27-14. Over that span the Rams turned the ball over seven times, which was not even half of its 15 turnovers in the first half. Duquesne went into the half up 38-18.
“We knew [Duquesne] was going to be tough on their home court,” Gaitley said. “I just think the slow start really put us on our heels right from the beginning. Our turnovers really set us back. [The turnovers] accounted for 31 of their 68 points. That’s just not acceptable.”
Things did not get better in the second half for the Rams. A Clark layup cut the Dukes’ lead down to 16 just three minutes into the second half, but just as the Rams were making progress, Duquesne put together an 8-0 run that put the game out of reach with the score 50-26.
Duquesne maintained a sizable lead throughout the rest of the contest, never letting Fordham come closer than 18, when senior forward Marah Strickland converted a pair of free throws to make the score 68-50, which is how the game would end.
A couple of Rams put on a good display despite the bad outcome. Clark had a double-double with a career high 19 points and 11 rebounds. Collins also had a great game, scoring 17 points to go with eight rebounds.
The loss was Fordham’s first in the conference, and dropped their record to 14-6 overall, 4-1 in the Atlantic 10. They currently sit fourth in the conference.
Although it was a bad display, not all was lost for the Rams.
“I think our kids definitely learned from the game,” Gaitley said. “This is a very focused group that will take this loss personally, and work as a group to get better.”
Fordham does not play again until Saturday, Feb. 2 when they take on 8-12 VCU in the Rose Hill Gym at 2 p.m.