The Fordham Rams held on to beat the George Mason Patriots 71-65 in the opening round of the Atlantic 10 Championship on Wednesday night at Barclays Center.
Fordham: Chris Sengfelder – 27 points on 10-for-13 from the field, including 3-5 on threes, with 5 rebounds and an assist. Mandell Thomas – 13 points on 3-10 shooting, 1-3 on threes, with 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Bryan Smith – 12 points on 4-9 shooting overall, 0-4 on threes, with 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
George Mason: Marquise Moore – 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting, 2-4 on threes, with 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Isaiah Jackson – 18 points on 6-for-12 overall, 2-4 on threes, with 3 rebounds and an assist. Patrick Holloway – 10 points on 3-8 from the field, 2-4 on threes, with 2 assists and a rebound.
Turning point of the game: Fordham led 47-44 at the 8:42 mark of the second half, and went on a 7-1 run to open up a 54-45 lead on a Mandell Thomas three-point play with 6:24 left. That wound up being just enough, as George Mason cut it to two, 67-65, on a Patrick Holloway three with 19 seconds left. Bryan Smith drained a couple of free throws with 17 seconds left to make it 69-65 to seal the win.
Fordham Head Coach Tom Pecora on the game, “Well, it was very similar to the game we played down there a few weeks ago. We were challenged, we knew Eric (Paschall) wasn’t going to be 100 percent, (and) that’s 18 points a game for us, so our guys had to step up, but I think it was quite fitting that Bryan, (Smith) being a senior, being a few miles from home, being in Brooklyn through and through, Midwood High School and all of those things and being our lone senior, for him to make plays…I told him I loved him so much after he made that crazy turnover. I still ran a play for him after that in the press offense to get the ball, but and then for Christian, (Sengfelder), this is very close to Munich as well! So, there’s a couple of good German restaurants, Christian, that you could go to around here, so, you know, once again, we’re a young team with seven freshmen, but Bryan Smith…the job Bryan has done throughout the year, whether he’s played well or he hasn’t, he’s always been a steady force. He’s been tremendous in practice, great in the locker room, and the job that he has done has really allowed Christian and Eric to mature a lot quicker than some of our freshmen have in the past, because they’ve had great leaders, Bryan Smith and Ryan Canty; who’s out, but will be back next year as a fifth-year senior. So, you know, it was one of those games where we couldn’t get that separation. We talked about playing better defense, but in the second half, they were drilling some shots. You know, we always, one of our game goals is always to win the battle of the boards, and we did by two, and (Shevon) Thompson, he’s a beast, I mean, he’s really, really difficult to prep for, and we threw three or four different defensive schemes at him, with different people going in and doubling him on the catch, doubling him after the dribble, doubling him big on big, guard on big, so we just kept him off balance, and I think that was a key for us tonight.”
Fordham guard Bryan Smith on getting a tournament win for the second year in a row: “It’s satisfying, we played the same team two years in a row and to get them both times is a great feeling. We work hard to get wins. We had some wins that we shouldn’t have had and we lost close games but this is very satisfying.”
George Mason Head Coach Paul Hewitt: “Congratulations to Tom (Pecora) and his team. Wish them luck tomorrow night. I thought we played pretty hard. The young man, Sengfelder played a terrific game, played a great basketball game. Prepared for their ball-swinging attack. I thought we did a pretty decent job on them but they made some shots. We did some things in the first half to try to break their rhythm a little bit; it worked early. The latter part of the half, they sorted to solve it a little bit but again they still have to make shots. It wasn’t a case of making layups all the time. They knocked down some shots to stretch our defense. Congratulations to Tom and his team and I wish them luck tomorrow night.”
UP NEXT FOR FORDHAM: VCU at 2:30 pm in the Second Round on Thursday