(Photos by Gary Quintal)
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, January 28- Several Fordham freshmen rose to the occasion to thrill more than 3,000 fans including several dozen members of the Fordham Athletic Hall of Fame by leading the Fordham Rams (6-14, 2-3) to a close and exciting victory over the Rams of the University of Rhode Island (6-12, 1-4). Interestingly, the result of the contest was almost a copy of the January 18, 2012 game between the two teams at the Rose Hill Gym, which was won by Fordham, 66-64.
Fordham’s was missing its only double-double averaging player and senior leader, Chris Gaston, for the second consecutive game and the eighth time this season. Thus, the pressure was on the younger players to step up in a crucial game that affected Fordham’s opportunity to qualify for the Atlantic-10 Championship, which will be contested at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in mid-March.
The top 12 of the 16 teams in the Atlantic-10 will qualify for the Conference tournament. Before the contest began, Fordham and URI were tied with two other teams at 1-3 and with only one team with a worse record. Thus, a win was of importance to both teams.
The competition was intense during the game. Two players are on each squad were called for technical fouls and open physical conflict seemed near. Fordham’s coach Tom Pecora commented, “The game was very intense. I’m glad we kept our composure.”
The score was tied eight times and the lead changed hands on 16 occasions in the tight contest. Fordham took its largest lead of the game, six points, after a 10-1 scoring run mid-way through the first half. URI finished the half by outscoring Fordham 13-6 to move ahead by one point, 32-31, at the half.
URI’s greatest advantage came after 3:17 into the second half after going 8-3 over Fordham to start the second period. The score was tied at 63 as the final minute of play began. Freshman Travion Leonard netted a free throw with 38 seconds remaining in the game give Fordham the lead. Fordham’s leading scorer, Brandon Frazier sunk two from the charity stripe with six seconds left to ensure the important win.
Frazier led all scorers with 20 points, but the freshmen made crucial contributions to the victory. Leonard compiled season highs in points (13), rebounds (8) and minutes (33). Freshman Mandell Thomas had a season high in points (17, assists (5), rebounds (7) and minutes (40). Freshman Ryan Roomes grabbed his season high of 11 rebounds in 22 minutes.
At a post-game press conference, Pecora remarked, “Winning the battle of the boards, especially in the second half, was the key. Each team grabbed 18 rebounds in the first half, but Fordham dominated, 27 to 16 and 11 to 1 in offensive boards in the second half.
Fordham returns to the Rose Hill Gym on Wednesday, January 30, to face St. Joseph’s.
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