Postgame Report: Fordham 60 Harvard 54

by Kyle Kesses
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Fordham Wins Third Straight, This Time Over Nationally Ranked Harvard

When the final horn blared upon 3,200 crazed fans at the Rose Hill Gym on Thursday night, it seemed as though Fordham’s six-point victory over Georgia Tech would be the Ram’s blue chip triumph in 2011-2012, a sign that Head Coach Tom Pecora was indeed moving the maroon and white toward better days. Who knew the encore would be more impressive? Last night, college basketball’s oldest venue watched its 86-year tenant trip up a ranked team at home for the first time since 1978 when they defeated Georgetown. Fordham, hardly a ripened squad, staved off the 21st ranked and senior-laden Harvard Crimson, 60-54

With nearly 90% of Fordham’s minutes this season coming from non-seniors, The Rams have been searching for leadership from their underclassmen. With a two-point lead and 37 seconds left in the game they found it in Bryan Smith. The cold-blooded freshman drilled a corner three-pointer with half-a-minute left in the game to expand the Rams’ lead to five, 56-51.

“I was confident when it left my hand,” Smith said, “It felt really good.”

Smith, a Brooklyn native, was recruited to Fordham based on his ability to put the ball in the basket. He did just that on Tuesday evening with a career high in points (22) and three-point field goals (five) on the way to Fordham’s second consecutive emotional victory.
“I encourage [Smith] to shoot the ball.” Said Pecora, “At times I don’t think he realizes how good of a shooter he is.”

The three point attack was a game-changer for Fordham both offensively and defensively. Harvard’s three-point shooting prowess – 35% as a team – figured to be a tough matchup for a Rams team that has played almost exclusively zone defense for the past month.

However, Harvard struggled from outside all night, shooting just 8-30 from long range. Laurent Rivard, a 44% three-point shooter this season and the team’s leading scorer, shot a measly 1-8 from behind the arc and chipped in just six points in a losing effort.

Pecora realized that his defense played a role in Harvard’s shooting woes: “We were really concerned about them shooting the ball from the three point line, but we knew we had to make them do that and I think for the most part they took contested shots.”

Harvard scored the game’s first four points and built as large as an eight-point lead in the first half, 22-14 with 4:46 left in the opening period.
Trailing 27-24 coming out of the break, Fordham exploded on a 20-7 run over the first eight minutes in the second half that staked them to a 10-point advantage with 12:19 to play.

Harvard, however, responded with a 16-6 run over the next 8:49, capped by an Oliver McNally three-point bucket that tied the game at 50 with just over three minutes left in regulation. From there, Bryan Smith scored five of the Rams' final 10 points and Fordham buried the Crimson by knocking down seven of their eight free throw attempts in the final 1:40.

After consecutive spectacular upsets in front of sellout crowds at the Rose Hill Gym, Tom Pecora is not satisfied with where he finds his team. “The first thing I told them in the locker room was about cologne," said Pecora. “A little bit is ok, too much is tacky, and if you drink it its poison. Success is the same thing.”

“We’re allowed to celebrate until midnight. I’ll start watching some UMass tape tonight or [early] tomorrow morning.”

Since the day he took the head coaching job at Fordham nearly two years ago, Tom Pecora has insisted that the Rams program is undergoing a building process; a dramatic win over a ranked opponent has not clouded his vision.

The next basketball broadcast is on Thursday when Fordham takes on UMass on the road. The One on One pre-game report begins at 6:55 PM on 90.7 FM and WFUV.org.

Listen below to the post-game with Ricky Cibrano and me. Also listen to my halftime interview with Fordham/WFUV alum and Knicks radio play-by-play man Spero Dedes.

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Halftime Interview with Spero Dedes Postgame Report