Tom Pecora the first year men’s basketball coach at Fordham University reiterated how important the game was Wednesday evening up at Rose Hill. The annual “Battle of the Bronx” against Manhattan College went his way 76-59, the 103rd meeting between the Bronx schools and a two game wining streak for Fordham in almost three years.
The meeting with Big East New York City power St. John’s University, in which the Rams won up at Rose Hill Saturday evening, may have put Pecora ahead of his plan. Fordham certainly is a dominant squad and not showing any effects of a team that won five games the past two years.
The game was sold out, a rarity at Rose Hill. Fordham overcame a 20-point deficit, and showed no signs of a team that would quit. It was perhaps one of the most memorable games up at Rose Hill. And after their 84-81 triumph, that put Fordham over the .500 mark at 5-4, many in the crowd stormed the court
They were not storming the court for the “Red Storm” of St John’s. It was the Rams of Fordham, believe it or not, who can truly say they are right now the premiere college basketball team in New York City.
“This wasn’t about me,” Pecora would say afterwards about the most significant win for a Fordham basketball team in the past five years. “This was for these kids, for the fans,” he said. Truly, after Saturday, at least for the time being the suffering was over up at Rose Hill.
There is still a competitive Atlantic 10 conference schedule to come in January, That will determine how good this Fordham team is, or if they truly are going to be a competitive basketball program once again in New York. Pecora has definitely seen the competiveness of his team and a revival of the interest since taking over the program last March.
“Saturday is going to be fun to play and fun to watch,” said Pecora after his team defeated Manhattan College earlier in the week up at Rose Hill in the annual “Battle of the Bronx.” “These matchups revitalize New York college basketball,” he said about consecutive games against Manhattan and St. John’s.”
After that win over Manhattan, Fordham reached the .500 mark for the first time in three years. Pecora said more than once, something special is happening at Rose Hill. There is no talk about the dismal past after an abysmal, 2-26 overall mark and 0-16 record in the Atlantic 10 Conference of last season under former coach Dereck Whittenburg.
They have already equaled their win total of the last two seasons. The players, many who have been a part of the previous losing seasons up at Rose Hill, believe there has been a change of culture. Their coach wants them to believe that.
“We don’t look at what happened here in the past,” said senior Brenton Butler had a game high 21 points for the Rams against Manhattan and was a big part of a 16-0 run against St. John’s that narrowed the gap. Butler averaging 15.3 points per game has now scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games and had 22 in the win Saturday.
The last Fordham win against the Red Storm came in December of 2000. The entire campus anticipated the matchup, a buzz about Fordham basketball that hasn’t been heard in a long time.
“It’s a great environment, it’s awesome, it’s exciting,” said Butler who had not heard this reaction about an upcoming game, the one with St John’s in his four years at Rose Hill. He is a five year player that wanted to stay and be a part of this new culture that Pecora has preached.
Pecora said his team stayed around and stole one late against St. John’s. To the contrary Fordham did not steal this one. They have convinced their faithful and suffering fans they are ahead of the plan to revitalizing basketball up at Rose Hill.
NOTES: Butler was named Most Valuable Player of the Manhattan game by writers at press row and received the Mike Cohen Award, a trophy in memory of the late New York City public relations executive and former Manhattan Sports Information Director….
Before tipoff prior to the Manhattan game, a moment of silence was observed for Freddy Schuman, “Freddy Sez” a fixture at Fordham and Manhattan games and also at New York Yankee games with his trademark frying pan and motivational sayings. Also silence was observed for former New York Yankee and former Fordham baseball coach Gil McDougald who passed away last week.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]