Bronx, NY—Inspired by the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Fordham’s winning of the ECAC Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden by defeating the #5 ranked Southern California in the final, the current Rams (7-16, 2-11) soundly defeated the St. Joseph’s Hawks (11-13, 5-7) by a score of 69-55 at the Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx on Sunday afternoon.
The visitors controlled the action during the first 10 minutes of play. Three times in that time the Hawks reached their game-high advantage of six points. The Rams did not let the deficit or their 10 straight losses to St. Joseph’s to discourage them. Trailing 19-13 at 9:56, The Rams erupted for an 18-7 scoring run to end the first half with a 31-26 lead.
Although the lead changed hands five times in the period, Fordham defense held the Hawks to a paltry 34.6 field goal percentage while the Rams netted 46.4 % of their shots. Fordham senior Mandell Thomas was the only double figure scorer in the half with 10 points on 4 of 8 from the floor.
After an 8-2 second half start, St. Joe’s took its only lead, 34-33, of the final 27 minutes of the contest. The advantage only lasted 20 seconds as Fordham followed with a 15-2 run to bring the lead to double figures, 58-36, at 12:57. The last hurrah for the Hawks came mid-way through the second half on a 9-2 run that cut the deficit to six with 7:24 left to play. The effort was too little and too late as the Rams raised their lead to double figures until the game concluded.
Fordham’s coach Tom Pecora discussed the variety of reasons that resulted in the Fordham victory. On a team in which first year Rams account for 58% of the team’s points, Pecora lauded his upperclassmen, seniors Mandell Thomas ans Brian Smith and junior Ryan Roones, “You can only be as good as your upperclassmen. The development of the young guys has a lot to do with them. It’s the maturation process. We’re maturing.” Thomas led the scoring with 20 and assists with 6. Smith netted 12 and Roones grabbed 12 rebounds. The two freshman starters were also contributors to the win. Eric Paschall scored 10 and had 8 boards. Chris Sengfelder scored 15 on 6 of 9 from the floor, grabbed 9 boards, blocked one shot and stole the ball twice.
Pecora spoke of the other factors that led to the win. “I think that’s the best week we’ve had defensively.” The Hawks were limited to 34.5% shooting. “We feed off defensive rebounding.” They hauled 40 rebounds to 27 for St. Joseph’s, 28 to 17 on the defensive board. “It was a very unselfish night”, 19 assists on 26 baskets.
Pecora happily closed by saying, “It was nice to do that on Alumni Day. We’re ready to kick the door down and be relevant in the Atlantic-10.”