Men's Basketball Battles #11 Butler to End Before Falling, 68-63
Feb. 16, 2013
Bronx, N.Y. -
There have been 930 games played in Fordham's historic Rose Hill Gym prior to today but a select few had the electricity and excitement of today's Atlantic 10 match-up between the Rams and eleventh-ranked Butler University. The Rams gave the Bulldogs, and the sold out crowd, all they could handle but came up short in the end, falling to Butler 68-63.
With the loss, Fordham falls to 6-20 overall, 2-9 in the Atlantic 10, while Butler improves to 21-5 overall, 8-3 in the conference.
"We just played the number eleven team in the country down to the wire," said Fordham head coach Tom Pecora. "I was happy with our effort today. Even though the record might not show it, we're getting better as a team."
The loss overshadowed the return of Fordham forward Chris Gaston, who had missed the previous seven games with an injury. He came off the bench to score a team-high 21 points, shooting 9-for-17 from the field, and he added six rebounds.
After the long layoff, Pecora wasted little time in seeing if Gaston was ready, calling Gaston's number on Fordham's first three possessions after he took the court 2:48 into the game. Gaston scored on two of the three possessions, including a three-point play.
"I'm very happy the way Chris was able to get right back in it," said Pecora. "It's very helpful to a young team to have a senior and All-Atlantic 10 player on the floor."
Entering the game, very few people would have expected the contest to come down to the final possession, but that's exactly what happened, much to the delight of the standing room only crowd. Trailing by eight, 63-55, with 1:11 left, Mandell Thomas nailed a three 18 seconds later to make it a five-point game, 63-58.
Alex Barlow made one of two free throws for the Bulldogs four seconds later, before Branden Frazier found a wide open Travion Leonard under the basket and Leonard's layup made it a two-point game, 65-63, with 18 seconds left.
The Rams fouled Kellen Dunham on the ensuing inbounds play, and Dunham only connected on one of his two charity shots, giving Fordham one last opportunity. But a Luka Zivkovic long three-pointer to tie the game was off the mark and Rotnei Clarke made both of his free throws with five seconds left to secure the win for Butler.
There were 42 fouls called in the game but none more important than an intentional foul whistled on Fordham's Ryan Rhoomes 5:23 into the second half. The Rams trailed at the break, 30-26, but opened the second half with a nine consecutive points to take a 35-30 lead 3:47 into the period.
But the Bulldogs started to answer the Fordham run with one of their own, scoring five straight over the next 1:09 to knot the game at 35. Butler's Kameron Woods then went in for a layup but was denied by Rhoomes, who was called for an intentional foul despite appearing to have two hands on the ball. Woods sank both free throws and Jones took the ensuing inbounds pass and hit a layup as the Bulldogs took a 39-35 lead with 14:34 left.
After Pecora was hit with a technical and Butler sank both free throws, Jones put in another layup to extend the Butler lead to eight, 43-35, with 14:05 on the clock.
A pair of Gaston free throws halted the Bulldog run but Butler eventually increased the lead to ten, 51-41, with 9:04 remaining but the Rams wouldn't back down, using a 7-2 run to pull within five, 53-48, on a Gaston jumper with 7:24 left.
A Clarke jumper 1:10 later pushed the Bulldog lead to seven, 55-48, and Butler led by seven again 38 seconds later, 57-50, when a Gaston jumper and a Bryan Smith free throw made it a four-point game, 57-53, with 4:51 on the clock.
The Bulldogs outscored the Rams 6-2 over the next 3:40 to take the eight point lead, 63-55, with 1:11 left.
Butler scored the first seven points of the game before Gaston entered the game and brought the Rams back, scoring five of the next seven Fordham points to tie the game at seven on a Rhoomes layup with 13:09 left.
The Rams trailed by one, 14-13, following a Woods dunk with 9:04 remaining when a Leonard layup, Smith three-pointer and Gaston basket helped the Rams take their biggest lead of the day, 20-14, with 7:32 left in the half.
Butler whittled away at the Fordham lead, using a 9-2 spurt to go up 23-22 on a Dunham three four minutes later.
A Rhoomes layup and two Smith charity shots put Fordham up three, 26-23, with 2:41 on the clock but the Bulldogs scored the final seven points of the half to take a 30-26 lead at the half.
Thomas added 12 points and four rebounds for the Rams while Leonard finished with ten points and a season-high nine rebounds and Rhoomes chipped in with eight point and eight rebounds.
The Rams return to action on Wednesday, February 20, as they travel to Washington, D.C., to face the George Washington Colonials in the Smith Center at 7:00 p.m.