That important stretch of these six final games for Fordham and where the Rams will be positioned in a few weeks for the upcoming Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament depends on a few factors and that includes taking the court short handed. Wednesday night at Rose Hill against Saint Joseph’s the challenge again was without their leading scorers Will Tavares and Joseph Chartouny.
But the Rams as they have been doing all season met the challenge and during this stretch that will dictate their outcome. Without two of their leaders recuperating after a physical win Saturday at Duquesne, coach Jeff Neubauer did what he does best and went to the bench.
More playing time at this juncture is important for some that would not get that time under different circumstances. Perris Hicks, the senior guard who scored 13 points in that win Saturday got more time as did Thomas Sanchez, Brenton Petty and Chris Downing in a 71-55 loss to the Hawks.
“Two things we have to do better,” said Neubauer. “We had to shoot the ball better. That’s what St. Joe’s does. They force to shoot threes and that’s been a strength of ours.. We didn’t make enough of the open looks. We did make them miss more in the second half and did not turn in those possessions.”
Again, short handed without your best can make a difference. There were no excuses here as the Rams saw Cavit Havsa score 12 points with eight assists. David Pekarek and Ivan Raut added 11 and 10 points but without two of your best in there that is not enough in this conference.
Tavares and Chartouny were hurting after a physical win at Duquesne and they are expected to return when Fordham hits the road Saturday at Dayton. That is significant because the Flyers have one more win over Fordham in the conference.
And every win at this point, even with a short handed team, is more significant to get better position in the conference tournament. This stretch does indeed dictate where Fordham will be positioned with remaining games on the road at Davidson, George Washington and home games with LaSalle including a season ending game with VCU.
The coach said about Hicks, “He was a big part against Duquesne. Defended and made some good shots today. What we need is guys on the perimeter on the jumpers. Liked the looks he got from there.” Hicks had two of his 3-point plays in the second half that helped narrow the gap before the Hawks took control for good.
And with Tavares not available that became more of a challenge. Neubauer is a coach that thrives on having the essentials off the bench that can fill the void and there is not much to question how much they are needed down this stretch. If the Rams want to make a statement those who don’t get much time will now have an important role.
“Keeping some guys fresh is part of the challenge,” said Neubauer. ‘Couple of guys would ask me for a sub but didn’t. We got to rebound the ball better” He mentioned that giving up seven rebounds in the second half has to get better and again that comes with a task of using players that would not be getting the significant playing time at this juncture of the season.
But the coach likes using his bench at times even though this is more of a task. Thomas Sanchez converted his first 3-point shot of the season and saw five minutes on the court which would not have occurred if this Fordham team was at full strength but the stretch says his bench will have to fill the void.
“Same message,” said Neubauer. “We want these guys to get in there and contribute and get wins and that certainly did not happen tonight.” And by all means the coach was not knocking the effort and part of that are the circumstances at hand during this stretch.
For now the Rams will go with they have. But even short handed means they need to shoot better during this important stretch that will dictate where they are headed in the conference tournament.
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