Anyone watching the Charlotte (17-5, 7-1)-Fordham (2-18, 0-8) contest at the Rose Hill Gym on Saturday afternoon would have been surprised to find out that Charlotte was on top of Atlantic-10 standings and that Fordham was winless and in last place. The two clubs engaged in a competitive struggle that was tied with 1:11 remaining and appeared headed to overtime. During the 40 minutes of action, the score was tied 11 times and the lead changed hands 12 times.
The closeness of the game was made apparent immediately. Mini-spurts by each team earned the largest advantage each achieved in the first half. Five unanswered points by the Rams gave Fordham a 16-11 lead at 13:25 of the first half. Late in the half, six straight points by the visitors earned Charlotte a 28-24 advantage with 3:02 left in the half. To the joy of the hopeful fans in the gym, Fordham led 30-29 at the half.
Charlotte began the second half with three straight baskets to move ahead by a score of 35-30. Chris Gaston then put on a one-man show. The Fordham frosh scored the next 12 points to give the Rams a 42-35 lead with 14:58 remaining in the game. Fordham coach Jared Grasso said of the young man’s effort, “He’s the best freshman in the league. Today, he was the best player in the league. He put the team on his back.” Two layups by Fordham’s Jacob Green gave Fordham its game high lead of 10 points, 59-49, with 6:59 left. The lead was reversed with an 18 point contribution by Derrio Green of Charlotte during the final five minutes. Green scored 22 of his team high of 24 in the second half. Grasso praised the achievement,
“Derrio Green was fantastic. Hats off to him! He made some great shots. That’s what great players do.” Fordham’s Chris Gaston accomplished his 13th double-double of the season. He scored 32 points and grabbed 12 boards. He also led the Rams with six assists. He is the favorite to earn the A-10 Rookie of the Year award at the conclusion of the season.
Grasso, youngest head coach in NCAA Division I, was pleased by the progress of his freshman dominated squad, “It was one of those games where we had them on the ropes. This team grew up today. This team, when we add some pieces, will be very good. I’m happy with where we are. We’re moving in the right direction.” The Rams return home on Saturday, February 13th for a 1 PM matinee with George Washington.