There could be some frustration with Jeff Neubauer after the Fordham Rams latest loss up at Rose Hill Saturday afternoon at the hands of La Salle. The coach saw his team give up 40 points in the first half and despite overcoming a 25-point deficit the Rams dropped their fourth straight 73-60 to the Explorers.
And with two games remaining, Wednesday at George Washington and a home finale with VCU Saturday, the Rams need to win both if they want to avoid an Atlantic-10 Conference finish in the cellar again. The 9-19 overall record, 4-12 in the conference, will definitely cause frustration and as always it’s about putting the proper nucleus on the court.
Blame can’t be placed on the coach. This has been a season of frustration in putting five healthy players on the court and at times up at Rose Hill it has been a scene out of the Mets and Giants playbook and having to deal with the unexpected of that expected and winning season.
Of course, injuries play a role though the Rams and their coach won’t use that as an excuse. This is the Atlantic-10 Conference and no room for excuses.
This time Neubauer had Will Tavares and Joseph Chartouny as a unit. The Rams two leading scorers have had their share of injuries the past month and Tavares struggled in the first half with transition, finishing with 19 points but his basket with 6:04 left to play was part of a 20-7 run.
Chartouny, came off a 19 point game and five steals in the last game at Davidson. He was 1-for-4 from long range and for the most part that has been the best shot for Chartouny. That second half when the Rams adjusted, Prokop Slanina had 13 of his 16 points.
So this is not about effort with the Fordham Rams, a team that most likely will get the lowest seed in the A-10 Conference Tournament that takes place the week of March 7 down in Washington D.C. and again their standing is contingent on those final two games.
Meaning, Fordham needs to win the final two and it has nothing to do with the coach losing his job. Neubauer is used to winning games and with a team adapted to shoot for the 3-pointer as he had with Eastern Kentucky for ten years that had five 20-win seasons. But the coach needs a consistent unit on the court and that has been a difficult task.
“We’re just trying to find a group that can compete,” said Neubauer. “Real hard to compete right now. It’s mind boggling. My teams have historically not got to the free throw line much. Reason we shoot a lot of 3-pointers”
And in the A-10, you need to convert those opportunities at the line if the offense does not get it going from long range. La Salle prevented Fordham from getting to the line as they did the last time when they beat Fordham by 30 points in mid January. And when the coach makes changes that can be difficult adjusting as the Rams went 6-for-9 from the line.
“No transition opportunities when you give up 40 points,” Neubauer commented about that first half. So how is the frustration sensed after this latest loss? The coach said his team will go down fighting to the end and for a team that struggles that is always a good message.
He said about the nine wins, “I’m not going away. Never been a part of it. Can’t refer to past experiences. I’m not going away. I’m not quitting .Literally in last place in our conference, all i can tell my team is I’m not going away. They have to make decisions on their own and each individual has their own.”
Those past experiences for the coach have been about winning elsewhere. And there have been these consistent losing seasons up at Rose Hill that are due in part to the nature and competitive balance of being a part of a tough A-10 Conference.
Perhaps there are better days ahead for the Fordham Rams. The tournament in a few weeks becomes a new season and history shows upsets are possible no matter where you are seeded. Fordham. Neubauer over the past two years has led the Rams to 15 A-10 wins, one more conference win than the previous seven years combined.
And one of those wins was over VCU last year could be that incentive to win these final two games. No, the coach and his team are not going away as the struggles continue before the conference tournament.
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