Monday, February 27, 2012

Gaston Runs Amok on the Explorers (Recap of LaSalle vs. Fordham)

 As Day Three of our Four Day Weekend of Hoops started, my older son Matthew and I took the familiar trip over the Whitestone Bridge to the Hutch to Pelham Parkway to head to the campus of Fordham.  Unlike the night before, there were no crazy drivers on the Whitestone looking to start a NASCAR wreck.  So, it was a much calmer ride this time.

As I have written before on this site, going to the Rose Hill Gym is like Saturday Mass to me.  Though I am Protestant and not Catholic (I have my Irish grandfather on my mom's side to thank for that.  Long story),  basketball at Rose Hill on a Jesuit campus is a religious experience to me.

As for my six year old son, it was a chance for another fun basketball game complete with another free T-shirt to add to his collection, since it was "Whiteout Day" at Fordham.  Of course, he had his standard culinary fare of a soft pretzel and a water.  Some things never change.

The game against the Explorers was an important game for the home team Rams.  They needed a win to keep their remote hopes of playing in the Atlantic 10 Tournament alive.  Only the top twelve teams make it to the conference tournament.  It wouldn't be easy for Fordham because LaSalle was entering the game with eighteen wins and was tied for sixth in the conference.

This was the only game that Matthew and I saw this past weekend that was not a Senior Day game.  That's because the A-10 regular season doesn't end until next weekend.  I have always thought that does the A-10 a disservice, because then its tournament is up against all the Power Six conference tournaments. If they would finish their season a week sooner, they might get more national exposure playing their conference tournament the week before all the Power Six conference tournaments.

It was pretty evident from within the first eight and a half minutes of how the two teams would be on offense.  LaSalle showed how balanced they were as five Explorers; Jerrell Wright, Ramon Galloway, Earl Pettis, Sam Mills and Tyreek Duren each scored at least one basket.  Each of those five players averages between 9.5 and 15.2 points on the season.

Meanwhile, Fordham's Chris Gaston, their leading scorer and only one of three Rams' players who averages 9.9 points or more per game, was a one man wrecking crew.  He scored fifteen of Fordham's first twenty points as he literally willed his way to the basket, often going over several LaSalle players.  With eleven and a half minutes to go in the first half it was LaSalle 21 Gaston 15 Rest of  Fordham 5.

The Rams actually took the lead 25-23 on a Bryan Smith three pointer.  But the Explorers responded with a 12-0 run, as again five different LaSalle players scored over the nearly four minute span.  The Explorers were up 35-25 with 6:45 left.

The Explorers could have been up a lot more, but both teams went scoreless for the next several minutes.  Once Gaston cooled off, Fordham struggled to score.  But LaSalle had four turnovers the last few minutes of the half.  The Rams were fortunate to be down only eleven, 42-31 at halftime.  Gaston had nineteen of their thirty one first half points.

During a first half timeout, a member of the New York Giants brought out the Lombardi Trophy onto center court.  Apparently fans could go out into the lobby to pose for photos with the Super Bowl Trophy.  My son was not impressed.  He was there to see basketball and he wanted to see Gaston keep scoring points.

The Explorers maintained their eleven point lead over the first five minutes of the second half.   Pettis and Galloway combined to score LaSalle's first ten points.  Fordham was hanging in there as other players such as Kerwin Bristol and Smith finally scored besides Gaston.    The Explorers led the Rams 52-41 with about fifteen minutes left in the game.

Then came the turning point of the game.  LaSalle got careless with the ball and turned it over four times in the span of about three minutes.  This resulted in Fordham going on a 12-0 run.  Branden Frazier came alive with two three pointers and no surprise, Gaston had two layups as well.  Frazier's second three pointer put Fordham up 53-52.

LaSalle would actually regain the lead, 58-57 on a three pointer by Mills.  The teams would trade the lead a couple of times.  The Explorers would take a 62-61 lead on a layup by Galloway with five plus minutes left. But it would be the last points LaSalle would score the rest of the way.  Once again, the Explorers got careless with the ball and committed four turnovers over the last three and a half minutes of the game.

Meanwhile, Gaston would score four of the last six points his team would score.  And sure enough, after Pettis missed a three pointer at the end of the game, it was Gaston who rebounded the ball, his sixteenth in the game. Fordham had a 67-62 win.

As much as the Explorers gave them the game, a lot of the credit for the Rams' win belongs to Gaston.  He was a man among boys with thirty five points to go along with his sixteen rebounds.  How dominant was Gaston?  Fifteen of his sixteen rebounds came on the offensive glass, a truly sick statistic. He was downright relentless in the paint.  Frazier was the only other Fordham player in double figures scoring with eleven.

The stat sheet again showed LaSalle's showed their balance as all five starters scored in double figures.  But what killed the Explorers was the seventeen turnovers, many of which came in bunches in the first and second half.    You could also say Gaston equally killed them as well, as Fordham outscored LaSalle in the paint 42-26.

As Matthew and I made our way out of a back exit of Rose Hill Gym, where the video cable feed for the Yes Network was setup, Chris Gaston made a new fan.   My six year old son pointed out "Daddy, Number thirty three had a real good game."

"Yes, Matthew. Yes he did."

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