Men's Basketball Closes Out Season with Win over UMass, 77-73
March 5, 2011
Bronx, N.Y. - Many would have second-guessed Brenton Butler's decision to return to Fordham for a fifth year after the Rams struggled through the past few years. And when Fordham entered today's game on a 17-game losing streak this year those doubters again wondered why. But Butler never doubted that he made the right decision and he put an exclamation point on the choice today, scoring a season-high 29 points to lead the Rams to a 77-73 Atlantic 10 win over Massachusetts on Senior Day in the Rose Hill Gym.
With the win, Fordham snaps not only the 17-game losing streak but a 41-game Atlantic 10 losing streak to close out the season with a 7-21 overall record, 1-15 in the Atlantic 10. Massachusetts falls to 15-14 overall, 7-19 in the conference. The last Fordham conference win was a 67-65 victory at St. Bonaventure on January 28, 2009.
"Obviously I'm thrilled for the seniors," said Fordham head coach Tom Pecora. "It was a great day for the two seniors to shine, especially the job Brenton did going out. I thought Jacob Green also did a great job, giving us that tip dunk to start off the game. And playing back at the Rose Hill Gym was awesome. The students came out and really provided us with some energy."
Butler bettered his previous season-high of 28 points which he netted against American in the Cable Car Classic back in December and he set a career-high with seven three-point field goals while also setting a season-high in field goals (nine).
Butler wasn't the only Fordham senior who had a big day as the other senior, Jacob Green, got the start in his last game in Maroon and White and finished with six points and six rebounds, both season highs, and two blocks. He scored the first points of the game on a put back dunk of a missed Branden Frazier layup just 25 seconds into the contest.
The Rams won by hanging on to the ball, committing a season-low eight turnovers in the game, and playing strong defense, something that had been missing in the last three games when the Rams allowed opponents to average 86.0 points per game and shoot over 50% from the field, almost 49% from three-point range. Today, the Rams held the Minutemen to 73 points as the visitors connected on just 37.7% (23-61) of their shots in the game, 28.0% (7-25) from behind the arc.
Fordham almost saw the game slip away as the Rams led by eight entering the final minute but turned the ball over twice in a ten second span, allowing Massachusetts to pull to within three, 74-71, on an Anthony Gurley three-point play with 27 seconds left. But Butler was fouled on Fordham's ensuing possession and he buried both his free throws to give Fordham a 76-71 lead with 20 ticks left on the clock.
A missed Gurley three-pointer nine seconds later was rebounded by Kervin Bristol and he was fouled. After Bristol made one of two free throws with five seconds remaining Gurley drove the floor for a layup at the buzzer for the 77-73 final.
The Rams scored the first five points of the game, two on the Green dunk and three on a Butler trifecta, and Fordham would lead by six, 8-2, following another Butler three-pointer 3:46 into the game when the Minutemen used a 9-2 spurt to take an 11-10 lead, Massachusetts' only lead of the day, on a Jesse Morgan jumper with 11:30 left in the first.
A Lamount Samuell layup ignited an 11-2 run for Fordham as the Rams built a 21-13 lead after a Samuell jumper with 9:09 remaining in the period.
Massachusetts cut the Fordham lead down to four with four points over the next 1:15 but a Gaston jumper and a Butler three stretched the Fordham advantage to 26-17 with 6:08 left.
Fordham would get the lead to ten, 32-22, on a Butler three with 2:28 remaining in the half but the Minutemen outscored the Rams 11-5 over the final two minutes to cut the Fordham lead to four at the break, 37-33.
The Rams came out hot in the second half, opening the period with a 9-2 run to take a 46-35 on a Butler three-pointer 3:32 into the half.
Fordham built the lead to as many as 13 in the half, 56-43, on another Butler three with 10:57 left and the Rams were up ten, 71-61, with 4:42 remaining when a Sean Carter three-point play and a Raphiael Putney layup knocked the lead down to five, 71-66, with 1:18 on the clock.
A pair of Butler charity shots and one more from Alberto Estwick over the next 19 seconds gave the Rams the eight-point lead heading into the final minute.
Samuell also finished in double figures for the Rams with eleven points.