Brooklyn, NY—As this year’s Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament included all teams in the conference, the last place Fordham Rams were given an opportunity to participate. The Rams last took part in the tourney in 2008. Their most recent tournament victory was a 63-61 win over the Richmond Spiders in 2007. Thus, Fordham’s (10-20) defeat of the George Mason Patriots (11-20) on Wednesday night at Barclays Center was a source of pride and satisfaction to the team and staff, Fordham students, alumni and its fans.
A free throw by 6-8 junior Erik Copes of George Mason began the scoring. A jump shot by Brooklyn native Bryan Smith of the Rams gave Fordham its first advantage at 18:58. Fordham kept that lead throughout the game. An 18-9 scoring run by the Rams capped by a jumper by freshman Jon Severe at 11:32 raised the Fordham lead to double figures for the first time in the contest. Four times later in the first half the Rams reached their highest advantage of the contest, 11 points. The Rams led, 33-26, at the half.
Early in the second half, six unanswered points by Fordham allowed the Rams to again achieve an 11 point lead, 29-28, at 17:16. A 15-5 run by the Patriots mid-way through the second half cut the deficit to a single point , 48-47 with 9:02 remaining in the game.
In the final minute of the game, nine players had opportunities from the free throw line. Five fouls were committed by George Mason with the hope of catching up to Fordham in the last 60 seconds. Four Patriots were also sent to the charity stripe by Fordham fouls even though the Rams were leading.
Fordham coach Tom Pecora commented on his strategy, “I’m a convert [to fouling to prevent a basket from being scored]. You got to foul. They’re so good in shooting.”
Free throws were a factor in Fordham’s 70-67 victory. In the first half, Fordham missed its only free throw attempt. In the second half, the Rams netted 21 of 31 from the charity stripe. In contrast, the Patriots only had 17 free throw attempts and sunk 11 of the shots, a 10 point disadvantage in a game they lost by three. Of the calls, Pecora said he advised his team, “Do everything hard. You can get the respect of the officials.”
Fordham controlled the boards, 50-42, thanks to the rebounding of Ryan Canty, who pulled down 19 boards. Pecora opined, “It was a career night for Ryan Canty. He’s a great rebounder. Senior Branden Frazier surmised, “He [Canty] enjoys rebounding and the team feeds off that.”
For Brooklyn natives Frazier and Smith of Fordham the trip home was very meaningful. Frazier remarked, “I grew up down the block. Being in Brooklyn helped us a lot.” Smith was especially pleased to see family and friends in the arena, “A lot of people who couldn’t come to Fordham to see me came here today.”
Of the two, Pecora said, “It took guts for them to come to Fordham. They were highly recruited.”
Fordham advances to play the 5th seed, the Dayton flyers, on Thursday afternoon.