Men's Basketball Comes Up Short Against Xavier
Jan. 7, 2012
It was a study in contrast on Saturday. One team, Xavier, entered the year as the preseason Atlantic 10 favorite, coming off six straight NCAA appearances. The other, Fordham, was picked to finish 14th in the conference with one of the youngest rosters in the country. For a while, fans in the in the historic Rose Hill Gym couldn't tell which team was which. But in the end, experience won out as the Musketeers defeated the Rams, 67-59, in an Atlantic 10 matchup.
With the loss, Fordham falls to 7-8 on the year, 0-2 in the Atlantic 10, while Xavier improves to 10-5 overall, 1-1 in the conference. The matchup is just one of more than 90 games this season between teams from the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities across the United States. Each of the 28 is dedicated to strong academics and teaching women and men to serve others and live a faith that does justice.
"It's not good enough that we got close, that's not what it's about," said Fordham head coach Tom Pecora. "We're about winning basketball games and we made some mistakes today, especially coming out of time outs. It's too deep into the season to say that we're a young team. We've got too many games under our belt."
The game was played before a sellout crowd, Fordham's second sell out over the past three home games, and the multitude was treated to a hard-fought game, with Xavier threatening to pull away a few times but the youthful Rams battling back, refusing to back down to a team that was ranked as high as eighth in the country earlier this season.
Fordham held Xavier's leading scorer Tu Holloway, who entered the game averaging 18.1 ppg, off the board, the first time this season the senior guard was held scoreless (his previous game-low was nine points). But the Rams best weapon, Chris Gaston, was routinely double teamed by the Musketeers who held the junior forward to ten points and seven rebounds as he had his streak of seven straight double-doubles snapped. Sophomore guard Branden Frazier picked up the scoring slack for the Rams, netting season-high 22 points and he also paced the Fordham defense with a career-high five steals.
Despite being held to seven rebounds, a good game for most players, Gaston did help out on the defensive end by blocking four shots, second on the team to Kervin Bristol, who swatted a career-high six shots. It was the third double-digit block game of the year for the Rams, who entered the game second in the Atlantic 10 and 19th in the NCAA in blocks per game (5.7).
The Rams trailed by ten, 60-50, following a Dezmine Wells three-pointer with 5:12 remaining when Fordham mounted one last comeback attempt, using a 7-2 run to pull to within five, 62-57, on a pair of Gaston free throws with 1:57 left. Gaston then forced a jump ball, tying up Wells, and the Rams had a chance to make it a three-point game but Frazier missed a jumper 24 seconds later.
A Kenny Frease dunk with 1:00 on the clock put the Musketeers up seven, 64-57, and the Rams answered with a pair of Bristol free throws with 36 seconds left but that was as close as Fordham would get.
The Rams opened the game with a bang, taking a 3-0 lead on a Bryan Smith three-pointer eleven seconds into the contest. But five minutes later, Xavier scored six straight points to turn a 10-10 tie into a 16-10 lead with 12:36 remaining in the period.
The Musketeers would get the lead up to eight, 20-12, on a Wells jumper midway through the half before the Rams responded with an 8-1 spurt to make it a two-point game, 21-19, following another Smith three-pointer with 8:29 left.
An Alberto Estwick three-pointer got the Rams to within one, 23-22, just over a minute later, but the Musketeers replied with nine unanswered points to take their biggest lead of the half, 34-23, with 3:42 on the clock.
Fordham whittled away at the Xavier advantage, eventually getting it to eight, 35-27, inside the final 20 seconds when Frazer stole the ball from Dee Davis and closed out the half with a three-point play to cut the Musketeer advantage to five at the break, 35-30.
Xavier opened the second half with a 13-4 run to increase the lead to 14, 48-34, with 13:34 left and got the lead to as many as 16, 56-40, midway through the half. But the Rams battled back, taking advantage of a 10-1 run to make it a 57-50 game after a Frazier layup with 5:57 remaining.
Smith finished with 12 points and three rebounds while Bristol added six points and eight rebounds to go with his six blocks.
The Rams will return to action on Wednesday, January 11th, as they travel to Philadelphia to face Saint Joseph's University in an Atlantic 10 game at 7:00 p.m. The matchup between Saint Joseph's and Fordham is just one of more than 90 games this season between teams from the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities across the United States. Each of the 28 is dedicated to strong academics and teaching women and men to serve others and live a faith that does justice.