The Fordham Rams are finding out, once again, just how unforgiving the college basketball season can be.
With their losing streak now at four games, the Rams return home Thursday night to play Virginia Commonwealth University, one of the Atlantic 10's best and a team that could very well be NCAA tournament bound.
Fordham lost to VCU, 76-60, back on Jan. 29. Though VCU has lost its last two, it has an overall record of 20-7 and a conference mark of 8-4. Meanwhile, Fordham comes in struggling, with a 2-10 conference record and a 9-16 mark overall.
For the Rams to have any shot against VCU, head coach Tom Pecora knows what his team will need to do.
"It's always the same against VCU," Pecora said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "You want to take care of the basketball and don't let them beat you up on the boards. If you can make it a half-court game where they need to execute every trip down the floor, and they don't turn you over and in turn get points off those turnovers, and hurt you on the offensive glass by getting second-shot opportunities, then you can play with them.
"That's our goal. We have to make sure we can do that, control the tempo a little bit and not be out-toughed in our own building."
To stay in it against VCU, Fordham will have to play much better than it has of late. During this current losing streak, the Rams have struggled in just about every facet of the game.
"What I need this team to do is to raise the level of their effort for 40 minutes," Pecora said. "I need them to have the confidence in themselves to realize they're capable of winning some big games, especially at home.
"We haven't had that marquee upset win at home yet. We might have the opportunity to do that over the next couple of weeks."
With any team, especially one as young as the Rams, it's only natural to question how players will handle the adversity. And Fordham has endured its fair share of losing seasons, something Pecora is well aware of.
"It's something that we've worked to shake over the last four years," he said of the losing culture. "That's something we continue to work on every day in practice, to try to be positive with them and let them know what they need to do to elevate their games to a level where we can go and string some wins together."
For that to happen, Fordham will need a better effort from Branden Frazier. The senior played a season-low 19 minutes in Saturday's loss at Saint Joseph's after missing a few defensive assignments in the first half.
Pecora said Frazier's "been good in practice this week," but the ultimate test will be how he plays on Thursday night and how he performs the rest of the way.
"He's our senior, captain and leader," Pecora said. "I can't let a senior go out there and not execute the game plan and then expect these younger guys to go execute. He has to set the example and follow suit.
"Branden and I have a great relationship. I can talk to him honestly about what's expected of him, and he understands what I expect of him every day in practice and every game."
To complicate matters for the Rams as they try to finish the season strong, is the fact that they're attempting to right the ship in a conference that Pecora says "continues to get better and better."
"It's as competitive as it's ever been," he said about the A-10. "It's gotten better each year since I've been here."
Rest assured, there is some good news to report out of Rose Hill.
Pecora has been busy recruiting. The Rams already have the highly touted Eric Paschall out of Connecticut's St. Thomas More Prep committed for next year. Pecora is hoping there's more on the way.
"We're in deep with a lot of good players," the head coach said while on his way to see another recruit. "Now it's important to close the deal."
"We continue to move forward and I feel good about it."
All quotations in this article were obtained firsthand in a phone interview conducted with Fordham head coach Tom Pecora.