When evaluating his team’s win over the Dayton on Tuesday, Coach Jeff Neubauer equated his team’s ability to share the load of scoring effort to the classic Mastercard campaign.
“A Kyle Rose three is worth three points, a Onyi [Eyisi] dunk is worth 2 points,” Neubauer said. “For our team to get a win today; priceless.”
Neubauer’s quote wasn’t much of an exaggeration. In a 55-54 thriller that saw the Rams take down the Dayton Flyers for the first time since 2006, it seems that Fordham was able to shrug off their biggest struggles following losses to George Washington and La Salle, most notably on the offensive end.
Gone were the dumps to Joel Soriano in the low post on every possession as the Rams were finally able to get some production from behind the three-point line, shooting a solid 50% from deep. Of course, they were practically forced to after Soriano committed four first half fouls, but a solid performance nonetheless. Dayton provided little opportunity to find open lanes to the hoop, and so Fordham adjusted well by moving the ball well and finally connecting on the shots Neubauer praised his team for being able to find.
While Neubauer acknowledged the excellent team effort, he couldn’t avoid hanging a large portion of the offensive praise on Chris Austin, who had a breakout game with 20 points, his career high, off of 5 for 9 shooting from three-point range. Austin’s final three put the Rams up 55-54, which was followed by an Ibi Watson miss to seal the game for Fordham.
“Chris played an awesome game, probably the best one of his career,” Neubauer said. “He’s gonna do it again and be a great player in this conference. We’ve just been trying to figure out who we are, and by running fewer plays, it allowed our guys to just get out there and play.”
Even Jalen Cobb, who hasn’t been putting up his usual scoring performances, has been able to adjust to his teammates’ strengths, racking up seven assists.
“Teams are committing their best defender [to Cobb] and he’s got a tough matchup every night,” Neubauer said. “For him to have so many passes in these first two games and seven assists tonight, that’s just his evolution as a player. Earlier this season, we talked about his goals, and I talked about how many good guards there are in our league, and Jalen is one of them.”
Finally playing like the small ball team their size best suits, Fordham was incredibly effective at forcing turnovers and drawing charges. Much to the frustration of Jalen Crutcher, Josh Navarro excelled at this, limiting Crutcher’s ability to get off shots and make plays for his teammates, something Coach Neubauer praised his opponent for.
“Jalen is one of the premier guards in the country,” Neubauer said. “He shoots it at a very high percentage, but then you also look at where their assists are, you got a lot of great shooters out there and he’s the one that creates shots for them. He’s really an elite guard.”
Crutcher seemed to be the prime target for the Rams defensively, normally shooting an excellent 40% from three, Crutcher was held scoreless beyond the arc, with 14 points off of 5 for 10 shooting overall. 4 turnovers for Crutcher was the biggest result of Fordham’s defensive effort.
Along with the turnovers, the Rams held Dayton to an abysmal 3 for 24 beyond the arc, including 1 for 12 during the second half.
Finally, despite celebrating the win, Coach Neubauer acknowledged that his team isn’t entirely at the level he think they could be. Playing in an unprecedented season like this, a team like Fordham can’t take as much time to figure out their identity as much as other seasons.
“We learned that everything is going to be hard earned,” Neubauer said. “And this win can really springboard us. With that being said, everything is going to be hard. We have a battle ahead, a lot to overcome, so this is a terrific win, and we’re going to take on those challenges with a renewed energy after tonight.”