Fordham's opponent on Saturday was Xavier, another Jesuit catholic school. At one time Xavier was undefeated and highly ranked. Then came the game against crosstown rival Cincinnati and the well publicized brawl at the end of the game. Since then, the Musketeers have lost five of their last six games. Call it karma or call it penance for what transpired on December 10, but the basketball season has made Xavier pay for their transgression. The Musketeers had to be desperate to find their groove again
A .500 record may not seem like a good record. But considering they had seven wins all of last season and were 2-26 two seasons ago, a .500 record is significant improvement. And the fans have taken notice as they filled Rose Hill to the brim, selling out the 3,200 seat gym, which is filled with many historic NIT and NCAA banners that date back to the forties. They wanted to see if the Rams could add another notch in the win column at the expense of the struggling Musketeers.
The game would remain close for the next five minutes. The Rams' Alberto Estwick hit a three pointer made the score 23-22 Xavier with less than seven a half minutes. But the Musketeers responded with a 11-1 run capped by a Dezmine Wells dunk that made the score 34-23 Xavier. With three and half minutes left, Fordham called timeout.
Thus Fordham would have to depend on their guards and their outside shooting. Enter sophomore Branden Frazier. Frazier nailed a three pointer to cut the deficit to 34-26. Then late in the half, he cut the lead even further with a three point play. Instead of being up by double digits, Xavier entered the half only up by five, 35-30. The Rose Hill crowd gave Fordham a standing ovation as they left for the locker room at halftime.
But Frazier refused to let Fordham fade away. He scored twelve of Fordham's next nineteen points and with a little less than four minutes left, the Rams were down only seven, 60-53. The Rose Hill crowd was rocking with loud chants of "DE-FENSE".
Frazier led all scorers with twenty two points. Freshman Bryan Smith added twelve points for Fordham. Gaston only scored ten points, six less than his season average, on only three of eleven shooting. Lyons had twenty points for Xavier and Wells added thirteen. The most amazing stat was Holloway, Xavier's leading scorer on the season with eighteen points per game, was held scoreless and only had three field goal attempts.
A year ago, I watched Richmond, a similarly talented team to Xavier, play Fordham at Rose Hill Gym. The eventual Sweet Sixteen Spiders thoroughly outclassed the Rams 77-60. A year later, the Rams gave the Musketeers all they could handle. Though I am sure the Fordham fans went home disappointed, they could hold their heads high. The team will be more competitive in the Atlantic Ten over the next couple of months. Also, Frazier, Smith and Gaston will all be back next season.
The rebuilding process is coming along just fine. And in time, the Rose Hill parishioners will be leaving many Saturday afternoon and weekday evening masses with a winning smile on their faces.