Last Saturday up at Rose Hill for the Fordham Rams in their A-10 Conference win over UMass it was that second half ability to convert the 3-point shot which has always been a game plan for coach Jeff Neubauer. Next game it was a loss at Saint Louis and on the road Fordham is not as good as they are playing on their home court.
But Wednesday night at home the Rams did it again and converted that 3-pointer with another second half that propelled them to a comeback 67-66 win over George Mason. Just like that second half against UMass it was Fordham converting the big points and got their third A-10 Conference win.
So with seven games remaining before the conference tournament, and with Fordham trying to climb out of the bottom of the standings to get better position, can this 3-point explosion in the second half become that consistent weapon?
“They were determined and were in the second half,” coach Jeff Neubauer said about his team that overcame an early 17-point deficit. That determination is important at this juncture and if the Rams can use their weapon to perfection down this stretch they have that opportunity to get a higher seed in the A-10 Tournament in a few weeks.
This has resembled a Tale of Two Cities. One half, and in these last two home games, Fordham can’t convert the shot. The defense is off and so is shooting beyond the circle but that determination Neubauer and his team talk about shows another other tale of a team that can win in the second half.
Start with Ivan Raut and his 16 points. HIs back-to-back 3-pointers gave Fordham their first lead with six minutes remaining. That erased a George Mason run of 21 straight points in the first half when the Rams looked flat and possibly headed to their third straight loss to the Patriots.
Then in that second half, Prokop Slanina went to work and two of his 3-point attempts came up big. Slanina finished with 17 points and with more playing time the junior forward from Czech Republic is quickly becoming an impact player for Fordham.
Slanina won’t take all the credit but when Will Tavares and Joseph Chartouny both finish with 11 points, basically due to that bad first half, he becomes the other weapon. Tavares has been the Rams leading scorer and Chartouny can be a terror beyond the arch. With Fordham short handed because of injuries, Prokop will need more of these games down the stretch.
The coach knows the significance, so does this team. Teams in this conference play defense but they also shoot the ball and do it well, so of course Fordham is capable of being in every game when they convert their shots from long range.
“Three-point play, it’s part of it,” said Neubauer. “If we compete the same way like the second half we can compete with every team in the A-10.”
Slanina to the coach and his team is called “The Center of our universe.” Neubauer said at 6-10, Slanina is as important as the sun. The rebounds were off, so the tale here again was Fordham converting 47 percent of their 3-point shots in the second half compared to 18 percent in the first, Now if they can be more consistent with their big play for an entire game this will be an interesting finish before the conference tournament.
And again the question is, can this be sustained in a few days at Duquesne? The coach believes his team has that ability with another game in a few days as opposed to a gap in the schedule of not playing another one in a week.
If Fordham can continue that consistency it certainly can get interesting against A-10 schools ahead of them in the standings that include Saint Joe’s, Dayton, and Davidson. Next to the bottom of the pack is George Washington where the Rams visit later this month as one of two final opponents before the start of the conference tournament.
Said Slanina, “Joe and Will, they didn’t have a good first half. They were determined. Once you get more players involved it makes it better for the whole team.” On this night he lived up to his name as that center of their universe up at Rose Hill.
But it comes down to that consistency and the Rams not making this a Tale of Two Halves. Slanina is their center of the universe at Rose Hill but they need Tavares and Chartouny, along with Raut to make this stretch interesting.
Neubauer said, “We continue to recruit shooters that spread the ball and shoot threes”.Fordham has that type of team and their universe in Slanina. Now if the first half is like the second down this stretch they can reach that universe of being in better position in a few weeks.
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