Tuesday, February 8, 2011
A Tale of Two Teams at Rose Hill
It's been a rough winter in New York. We have been bombarded by snow storm after snow storm. I have had two days off from work due to snow closings and it's not even mid-February yet. And when it doesn't snow, we get other forms of precipitation. Last Wednesday, we had freezing rain which caused a two hour delay at my son's school. Then last Saturday, since the thermostat was slightly above freezing, it rained. Great for snow melt, but there is nothing worse than walking around outside on a very cold rainy day. Such has been the last few months of life in a northern town.
For the second week in a row, I was on Fordham's campus to go to another Rams game at Rose Hill Gym. This time as I had my umbrella up protecting me from the frigid rain, I was going to see the Rams face the Spiders of Richmond, one of the A-10's elite teams the past couple of seasons. It was the battle of one team trying to find it's first win in conference in more than two years vs. one team many have squarely on the bubble for an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
For the at large hopeful Spiders, this is when they need to avoid bad conference losses. Depending on the site, the Spiders are either barely in, or barely out. Joe Lunardi's Bracketology has them in, but playing one of the "First Four" games vs. Baylor. Bracketography has them in as well, but not in the "First Four" game, as does Jerry Palm's tournament predictions. Bleacher Report has them as one of the first four teams not in the tournament.
Meanwhile the Rams were 0-8 in the A-10 going into their game vs. the Spiders. Fordham had just been trounced on the road by the Rams of Rhode Island. It was their eleventh loss in a row after starting out 6-4. There is very little hope of any kind of postseason for Fordham since the bottom two teams in the Atlantic 10 miss out on the postseason tournament and Fordham is two games behind Charlotte for the 12th and final spot in the A10 Tourney.
So you have two teams on the opposite end of the A10 spectrum. The only thing in common they have is they both lost the prior Saturday at home. Fordham lost at Rose Hill to St. Bonaventure while Richmond was crushed on their home court by Xavier. Both were looking for a much needed win.
As I finally exited the cold and walked into the entrance to Rose Hill gym, unlike a week ago for the game against the Bonnies, there was no wait at the Fordham Will Call. I showed my ID at the counter and she asked if I needed three tickets. Both Mal and Tieff were unable to make the game, so being polite, I said "My friends couldn't make it. So I'll just take one and you can give the other two to someone else." They were good seats, courtside, Section 113 A, seats 13-15, right behind the Fordham bench. But after getting sardined by the people who took my two other seats and the people to my right, I should have just kept the other two (since I paid for them) and had some space.
Anderson is the star senior guard for the Spiders. His points per game this season are down slightly as opposed to last season (16.4 to 17.6) but his three point shooting percentage is way (44.9 this season as opposed to 33.9 last season). Anderson has also taken as many three point shots as he did for all of last season (107 currently to 112 last season).
The game started out with Richmond spotting Fordham a 3-0 lead on a Brenton Butler three. Then the Spiders scored the next nine points, led by their 6 foot 10 senior forward Justin Harper, who scored five of those points. The 6-10 Harper is a scout's dream. He is athletic, shoots 48 percent from three and can score in the post. He is 42nd on Chad Ford's Top 100 NBA Prospects and I can see why.
Now Anderson was responsible directly or indirectly for 16 of those 20 points. But a lot of credit also has to go to Richmond's offense. To watch them move the ball around for the open shot was a simply a thing of beauty. The fan who kept yelling Anderson was too slow had a friend that was begging Pecora to double team Anderson. It wouldn't have mattered because Anderson would have found the open man and Richmond has balance.
It was all too much for a Fordham team that just struggles to score at times. While the Spiders double teamed Gaston, the Rams just couldn't hit a shot. At one point, Fordham was 4 of 16 from the field in the first half. And when they weren't hitting shots, they were turning the ball over. The Rams had ten turnovers in the first half. Gaston was held without a point until 2:52 left in the first half. By that time the score had been 38-16 Richmond. Gaston would score the last nine points for Fordham in the half but the Rams were still down 41-25.
This team reminds me of his first season at Hofstra in 2001-02 where he took over a team that had graduated four of its five starters. In that season, Hofstra started out 4-2 before losing 17 of their last 24 games. Their signature win that season was an early season win over Kent State, a team with Antonio Gates that would make the Elite Eight that season. Fordham's signature win this season was the stirring comeback over St John's.
However, I had seen enough and had another game to go to in Hempstead. As I made my drive from the Hutch to the Cross Island to the Grand Central etc, I did keep track of the second half on WFUV. Richmond would eventually win 77-60, but the game was decided in those first twelve minutes of the game. There would be no stumble for the Spiders last Saturday as there was also no first conference win for Fordham. There was one thing though last Saturday.
There was the cold rain outside. Such is this winter in this northern town.