(Mike Lawrence/Sportsday Wire)
The Fordham Rams (15-12, 6-10) hosted the Davidson Wildcats (17-10, 9-7) in its first visit to the historic Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx on Saturday afternoon. The Rams did not prove to be a perfect host as they handed the Wildcats their first loss in the three games played between the two teams. Davidson entered the contest with five wins in its last six games while Fordham had lost four of its last six, but neither mark affected the outcome on Saturday.
The Fordham victory was witnessed by two dozen basketball team alums who were honored at halftime ceremonies. The former Rams were led by Nick Macarchuk, who coached the Rams from 1987-99 and Frank McLaughlin, a 1969 grad who later became athletic director.
The visit was also a homecoming for Davidson’s veteran coach, Bob McKillop, who was born in Queens. The 1972 Hofstra grad began his coaching career with Holy Trinity High School. He followed with a decade of outstanding seasons with Long Island Lutheran before beginning his current 27 season reign at Davidson. His 513 victories at Davidson ranks him 27th in Division I NCAA wins. He ranks sixth in tenure among current college coaches at one college.
Although born in Enugu, Nigeria, Nathan Ekwu was returning to the Bronx where he attended high school at Cardinal Hayes. In a losing effort, he played another fine game in the Bronx. Ekwu scored 14 on 5 of 6 from the floor. He led his team with eight boards, had a block, a steal and two assists.
Fordham also was facing its greatest individual scoring threat of the season, Jake Gibbs. The junior ranks third in the nation with a scoring average of 25 points per game, Davidson’s highest scorer since Stephen Curry. Gibbs drew NBA team officials like Jeff Ruland to the Rose Hill Gym on Saturday and probably will be the 53rd player in McKillop’s tenure to be drafted into the NBA. Gibbs was held to 21 points, but had seven assists. McKillop explained that Gibbs had been very ill recently, which adversely affected his play.
Two large scoring runs, one by each team, gave each an advantage, but were nullified by each other. The Rams took its first double figure lead, 21-11 at 10:09, after an 11-2 run. That was immediately followed by the Wildcats scoring 13 unanswered points to go ahead by a score of 24-21 at 4:50.The first half ended with Fordham leading by one point, 35-34.
Fordham’s outstanding shooting from the floor in the second half, 66.7% (16 of 24), brought a high level of excitement to the near capacity crowd of 2,985 Fordham rooters. An 18-6 Fordham scoring run gave the Rams their largest advantage of the game, 78-63, with 4:57 remaining on the clock.
Two freshmen started for Fordham, Joseph Chartouny and David Pekarek, and each scored in double digits. Chartouny had his best game of the year, career highs of 24 points and 13 assists. He also grabbed seven boards and stole the ball three times. McKillop said, “Chartouny was excellent.” Pekarek scored 10, had four rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
Senior Ryan Roomes achieved his ninth double-double of the year with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He also had a game high four blocks. He gave much credit for his outstanding performances this year to his coach, Jeff Neubauer, in his inaugural season at Fordham, “He lets me play; he makes me feel comfortable. I wish that had happened sooner.”
All five Fordham starters scored in double figures. Of the win, Neubauer commented happily, “I’m really pleased with our team’s effort today. It’s certainly our best win, our signature win; it’s a step in the right direction.”
Davidson’s coach gave credit to Fordham’s defense for his team’s loss, “Fordham did an outstanding defensive job that kept us off our rhythm.”