Heading into halftime with an 8-point is never a reason to panic. Teams have come back from such a point differential on countless occasions, and while Fordham hasn’t won against a halftime deficit greater than 3, there was plenty of time to change that, right? Right!?
As you can tell by looking at the final score, the answer Wednesday night was a resounding no. Here’s my breakdown of what can only be described as a tale of two halves.
A Strong(ish) Start
So far this season, there have been two major components that result in a Fordham win; forced turnovers and good ball movement, and while the latter often happens for Fordham, the shots resulting from that ball movement often have a tough time connecting. Despite shooting a not-so-bad-not-so-great 39% from the field in the first 20 minutes, the Rams outmatched Mason’s intensity. At some points, I stood corrected on my criticism of the 4-guard rotation they’ve used all season, as guys like Jalen Cobb and Kyle Rose had no problem getting under the basket for some scrappy rebounds. A continuing trend for the Rams under DePaoli, Fordham’s pace of play is continuing to increase. As a testament to their offensive improvement these last four games, the Rams opened up scoring in this game with 3 consecutive three-pointers, something that’d be unheard in early January.
Defensively, the Rams were pretty much up to par with what we’ve seen this season. Mason had some hot shooting hands in this game, resulting in Fordham switching to the zone midway through the first half. This decision seemed to mitigate Mason’s performance from deep at first, but as we saw during the second half, it was clearly not enough.
An Offensive Collapse
Entering the second half, Fordham’s offense seemed to take a 180 degree turn, as the continually improving Rams shooters seemed to lose everything learned in this current DePaoli era. With just three points through the first nine minutes in half two, Fordham’s offense seemed completely defeated, with confidence shrinking with each consecutive play. It’s hard to pick up momentum after several consecutive mistakes, and it’s especially hard to do so when George Mason seemingly couldn’t miss. Outlined by A-10 Talk’s own Daniel Frank, Mason hammered Fordham with three consecutive runs consisting of 21-1, 26-3, and 29-5 scoring margins, allowing Mason to hit 70 points before Fordham reached 40.
All in all, what could have been a solid conference performance turned into a major regression for the Rams. With three games left before March, 4 wins on the season will be a big ask.