Fordham didn't have to worry about closing this one out. For all intents and purposes, Saturday's game at Saint Joseph's was over early.
In his pregame interview on WFUV Radio, head coach Tom Pecora talked about how his team has struggled down the stretch of games.
"Closing games out is a challenge for a young team, and closing games out on the road is even that much more challenging," he said.
Against the Hawks, it would never get to that point.
While it's true Fordham did go on a 15-3 run that cut what was once a 22-point lead for Saint Joseph's to 10 points early in the second half, the Hawks got the lead back up to 29 points midway through the half and sent the Rams home with an 87-72 loss, the fourth in a row for Fordham.
Going into the game, no one gave Fordham much of a shot. Saint Joseph's is currently in second place in the Atlantic 10. The Rams are in last place, and for some time they've been as bad as the Hawks have been good.
If the Rams had any chance against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday, they were going to need to get off to a good start. That didn't happen.
The Rams played from behind from the start, and 6:07 into the game, they found themselves down by double digits. Despite the run to close out the half, you never got the sense Fordham was in this one.
The Hawks connected on 15 three-pointers, 10 by Langston Galloway, who finished the game with 33 points.
Saint Joseph's had four players score in double digits; Fordham had two. The Hawks shot 51.7 percent from beyond the arc and 59.2 percent from the field; The Rams shot 40.6 percent from the field.
One constant all year for Fordham has been the play of point guard Branden Frazier, the only senior on the roster who gets significant playing time. He came into the afternoon averaging 18.2 points and 37.3 minutes per game, but scored only two points and played just 19 minutes after missing a couple of defensive assignments in the first half.
If Fordham has any chance of winning, it needs Frazier to score, distribute and lead. None of that happened on Saturday.
The Rams get almost half of their points from Frazier and freshman Jon Severe. The problem has been finding a third consistent scorer. So on a day when someone other than Frazier and Severe did indeed step up—Bryan Smith scored a career-high 28 points—it's just the Rams' luck that not much else went right.
Severe scored 12 on Saturday, but shot poorly from the field. Mandell Thomas, Ryan Rhoomes, Chris Whitehead, Travion Leonard and Ryan Canty all played significant minutes but combined to score just 23 points.
Smith proved to be the lone bright spot offensively. Before the game, Pecora talked about the junior's potential.
"I know what he's capable of doing," he said. "You just have to give shooters confidence. He started to get to a point where he was passing up shots.
"Trust me, he's a very bright guy. He loves Fordham. He's got a great passion for the school and he wants to represent and play well. He's in the gym every day shooting. I keep telling him 'today's the day.' Hopefully I'll be right today."
He was. But nothing else went right.
"The other guys do have to pick it up offensively to help out," associate head coach David Duke told WFUV Radio after the game.
With the loss, Fordham is now 9-16 overall and 2-10 in conference play. The Rams will have to work real hard over the last four games to avoid the play-in-game on the first night of the conference tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
With games against Virginia Commonwealth, La Salle, Rhode Island and George Washington to close out the season, it doesn't get any easier.
"In the past you would talk about getting wins to get to the tournament," Pecora said. "This year no one wants to play Wednesday night."
The way things are going, it's looking more and more like Fordham may have to.
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