By Carlos De Jesus IV
The Fordham Rams stumbled into the New Year on Saturday succumbing to an insufferable VCU defense 76-51 at Rose Hill Gym in their opening game Atlantic 10 Conference game.
“I have certainly never prepared a team as poorly for full court pressure as we were prepared for tonight.”
Poignant words from coach Jeff Neubauer as he spoke to his team following their first taste of conference play this season. “We were not prepared to handle any kind of full court pressure. We had a really tough time getting the ball out of the trap tonight.”
Fordham’s twelve turnovers at the half confirmed the coach’s blunt game summary, with freshman guard Nick Honor finishing the game with four of them.
“VCU committed two guys to the ball on every ball screen” coach Neubauer said “so that did take away from some of Nick’s effectiveness.” Honor struggled all night to penetrate the VCU defense finishing 2-16 from the field, but he was not alone.
Fordham guards who are usually the engine of the squad, struggled as a unit on Saturday. While senior Antwon Portley could not get it going after only 2-6 from the field, freshman Jalen Cobb gave up three quick turnovers to start the night, but he did recover nicely.
“The fact that Jalen responded positively when things didn’t go his way early was really encouraging for us.” Neubauer said regarding the freshman Cobb who finished with a team high 14 points.
A lack of presence in the paint has been a big issue for the Rams and it continued with VCU forward Marcus Santos-Silva dominating for thirteen points in sixteen minutes. Being outmatched on the perimeter and at the rim might have been mistaken for a disheartening reality if not for burgeoning freshman like forward Onyi Eyisi. While still showing signs of trepidation in space, his comfort level appears to be trending up, and his coach could not be more excited.
“We think Onyi is going to be an elite ball screen defender” said Neubauer “and for most of tonight’s game he was just that”
Four freshman starting on a tough conference night proves this Rams team are still in an incubation period, making Fordham’s 2018 run of 9-4 an exciting taste for what has yet to come. But with conference play here to stay and a road trip to Duquesne on Wednesday, getting to work on a Fordham press break seems to be the priority.
“Duquesne are a team this year that have been pressing for forty minutes” Neubauer said “so the fact we are about to see forty minutes of press and don’t handle press well is something we need to talk about and figure out how to improve on.”
Contact Carlos: twitter: @IVconsideratio Instagram: @i.scarfface.v