Fordham Men's Basketball Loses Steam Late in Brooklyn
Fordham hopes that Thursday afternoon's loss was not its final game of 2015-2016. (Brendan Bowers: WFUV Sports)
BROOKLYN- Down 16 at halftime, the eighth-seeded Fordham Rams mounted a furious early second half comeback but ultimately fell short to the ninth-seeded Richmond Spiders, 70-55, in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Championship at Barclays Center.
"Richmond did a lot of good things that made our lives difficult," Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer said. "[I am] just really pleased with what we've gotten out of our team and the way they've competed all season."
Despite only an 18 mile trek from Rose Hill, the noon mid-week matchup did not treat the Rams well early. Richmond came out of the gate shooting the lights out of the NBA home of the Brooklyn Nets, knocking down 64 percent of its field goals in the first half, including four baskets from three point territory. On the other hand, the Rams could not buy a bucket in the first half. Richmond's defense proved stifling as Fordham hit on only 31 percent of its shots and recorded only 22 first half points, the squad's third lowest output of the season.
"I thought that this was one of the rare games this year that our defense really carried us," head coach Chris Mooney said of his Richmond team, who entered play as the fourth worst team in the Atlantic 10 in scoring defense, allowing nearly 75 points per game.
Coming into the contest on a four-game winning streak, Fordham did not go quietly by any means in the second half. Freshman point guard and Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year Joseph Chartouny, who finished with a game-high 19 points and four assists, hit a three just 14 seconds into the period before senior forward and Atlantic 10 All Third Team selection Ryan Rhoomes followed up with a layup just over a minute later. The run continued until the 15:08 mark of the second half and included a pair of Rhoomes old-fashioned three point plays.
"I think it lifted the [energy] up a lot because I play with a lot of passion," Rhoomes, who notched his 12th double-double of the season, finishing with 18 points and a team-leading 14 rebounds, said of the two plays. "When they [my teammates] see that a senior, a guy like me is out there giving a lot of passion and trying to pump up the team, pump up the crowd, it helps them a lot."
The 17-4 run cut the Richmond lead to just three in the blink of an eye, and the Rams appeared poised to complete the comeback down 42-39. Fordham had its chance over the next nine minutes, but were unable to capitalize. The Spiders only scored seven points over the span, but the Rams could only pour in six to trail 49-45 with under seven minutes remaining regulation.
The final six minutes belonged to Richmond as the wheels fell off for Fordham against the highly athletic Spiders. In the final stretch, the Rams failed on five of their nine field goal attempts and committed four turnovers, while Richmond hit on 11 of 12 free throws to seal its third win over Fordham this season.
"It certainly did feel like [we ran out of gas]," Neubauer said. "Chris Mooney is a terrific coach. They pressed us. It really gave us trouble."
Juniors ShawnDre' Jones and T.J. Cline led Richmond with 17 points each, while both senior Terry Allen and redshirt freshman Khwan Fore netted 10 points.
The loss may not signify the end for Fordham this season though with national postseason tournaments other than the NCAA Tournament, ranging from the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament to the newly created Vegas 16.
When asked if Fordham would accept a postseason invitation, Neubauer was quick to answer.
"I think it would be a good step for Fordham at this point, and that's something that will play out here over the next few days," the former Eastern Kentucky head coach said. "Our team is giving great effort, and they've really played together and gotten better. There's certain times I think when you have a team that has a winning record that you're not interested in continuing to play, but our group is so close and they're so excited about basketball that I do think it would be a good idea."
The last time Fordham qualified for a national postseason tournament was 1992, when the team fell 85-58 to Massachusetts in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Patriot League.