Fordham was rolling late into the second half. Hosting UMass at the Rose Hill Gym on Sunday afternoon, the Rams were able to outscore the Minutemen in the second half 31-21 while holding them to shooting just 21 % from the field. Most of these scoring opportunities came off of strong drives from Josh Navarro and Jalen Cobb, who were able to lay it in themselves or kick it out to Kyle Rose waiting in the wings.
“That’s high level defense,” said Head Coach Jeff Neubauer. “We had much better value for the ball than UMass, which prevented them from getting shot opportunities. Our man-to-man was especially effective in the second half.”
Despite the second half clinic that the Rams put on against UMass, it wasn’t enough to close in on a 29 point margin that the Minutemen established at halftime, ending in a 19-point loss for Fordham.
It was almost a complete one hundred and eighty degree turnaround from a first half in which Fordham could not handle UMass’ press. Early on, UMass was able to force plenty of turnovers, including two shot clock violations, as the Rams were unable to find an open lane to the hoop. When the ball was kicked out due to an unsuccessful drive, Fordham could not connect on their shots. The Rams missed all three of their shots beyond the arc in the first half. Despite the struggles, Neubauer found the Minutemen’s press rather unremarkable, leading to some frustration regarding his team’s ability to penetrate.
“Just attacking their press, which wasn’t even really trying to turn the ball, was hard for us,” Neubauer said. “It looked like some of our guys have never seen the press before.”
Combine these offensive woes with some hot Minuteman hands, and you have a recipe for disaster for Fordham. Tre Mitchell posted another career game against the Rams, dropping 24 points off of 7-for-18 shooting, backing it up with 8 rebounds and a block. TJ Weeks scored 11 off of a few good looks as well. Shooting 9-for-14 from three in the first half, UMass ran up the score early and sat on their lead for the final 20 minutes.
While finding some positive takeaways in a loss may be getting redundant after their fifth loss, Fordham’s second half performance proves that they can be a formidable presence in the Atlantic 10 once they get it together. Blazing the way for the Rams once again was Joel Soriano, who scored another double-double with 12 points and rebounds each. Off the box score, Coach Neubauer praised Soriano for his ability to keep team emotions in check when the going gets tough.
“Joel’s leadership really kept us around in the second half,” Neubauer said. “It’s easy for a team to shrink away when you’re down by that much, and Joel won’t let his teammates do that.”
The Fordham Rams next game is against the Davidson Wildcats on Wednesday, January 20th.