In college basketball, games are won and lost on the defensive end of the floor.
In his press conference broadcast on fordhamsports.com following the Rams' 76-65 loss to St. Bonaventure Wednesday night at the Rose Hill Gym, Fordham head coach Tom Pecora expressed disappointment with his team's defensive effort.
"It all starts with defense," he said. "If you can't contain the basketball, you might as well just get on the bus."
Well, in that case, start the engines.
Against Fordham, the Bonnies collected 17 offensive rebounds. They scored 44 points in the paint. Needless to say, Pecora wasn't happy with what he saw.
"Our keys to the game were to be able to control the paint and the glass. If we were able to do that and really commit to rebounding and defending, we were going to be fine. We came out and didn't do it," he said.
"We had guys looking like they were playing in quicksand," he added. "Defensively, they weren't moving their feet."
That pretty much sums up the defensive struggles for Fordham all year. Ten times this season, the Rams have allowed 80 or more points. They haven't held an opponent to under 70 points since their win over Loyola all the way back on Dec. 23.
Not that any team can win with those types of performances, but Fordham doesn't have the offense or the experience to compensate for that kind of defensive ineptitude.
"We're doing an incredible number of defensive drills every day," Pecora said. "Defensive rebounding is 80 percent effort, 20 percent technique. They have to find it in themselves to dig down and do it. We've seen spurts of them doing it, but they're not doing it consistently."
To make matters worse, Pecora talked about how the lack of defense has hurt his team offensively, forcing it to run its offense against a set defense as opposed to a philosophy he calls "rebound to run."
While it wasn't the focus of his postgame remarks, the Rams shot just 41.5 percent from the floor Wednesday night.
So where does Fordham go from here? Coming off back-to-back disappointing performances, the Rams are now 9-14 overall and 2-8 in conference play. They've lost 10 of their last 12 games.
Now, they enter a very difficult stretch to close out the season. In their final six games, Fordham will face opponents with a combined record of 94-50. To have any shot at a win, the Rams will have to make major changes on the defensive end of the floor.
To that end, Pecora said that he's leaning toward "play[ing] big the rest of the year," mentioning how he was disappointed that his guards weren't doing more defensively—specifically with regard to rebounding. The four guards who started the game Wednesday night combined for just 11 rebounds.
We'll see if that makes any difference at all on Saturday when Fordham takes on Richmond for the second time this year. The first time the teams met, a month ago at Rose Hill, the Spiders won 77-74 in overtime.
Richmond had 32 points in the paint and only seven offensive rebounds.
Defense wasn't the problem that day, but after giving up 93 points in a loss at George Washington last Saturday and coming off Wednesday night's performance, it is now.
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