Fordham, Winless on the Road in Conference Play, Falls to Rhode Island

Charles CostelloContributor IMarch 6, 2014

Dec 7, 2013; New York, NY, USA;  Fordham Rams guard Bryan Smith (24) shoots during the first half against the St. John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Fordham head coach Tom Pecora wasn't sure what to expect from his team on Wednesday, a few days removed from the Rams' heartbreaking loss to La Salle.

"As a coach, you really don't know how your team's going to respond until they throw the ball up," he told WFUV Radio before the game.

It's been like that since conference play started back in early January. The Rams have been difficult to predict. Losing has been the only constant. Fordham's last win came all the way back on Feb. 1 against the University of Rhode Island.

"We have to grow up at some point," Pecora said. "Let's go win a basketball game and stop making excuses. Let's just go out and play our tails off and have multiple guys play to their potential."

Fordham is young, enigmatic and inconsistent. That combination spells disaster for a college basketball team. For the Rams, it's resulted in seven straight losses, a 2-13 conference record (9-19 overall), no road wins in Atlantic 10 play and, after Wednesday night's 77-65 loss to Rhode Island at the Ryan Center, a spot in the play-in game next week on the opening night of the A-10 tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. 

With the conference changing the format of its tournament—all teams now qualify—Pecora knew that his squad would be there. But he admitted last night that he thought his team could do a little better than the play-in game, saying the Rams "let a couple games slip away."

The second half of Wednesday night's contest at Rhode Island was one of those games, though certainly not as devastating a loss as the one Fordham suffered on Saturday when La Salle won it at the buzzer.

Against Rhode Island, Fordham led 33-31 at the half. The Rams got a productive first 20 minutes on the offensive end from Branden Frazier, Bryan Smith and Mandell Thomas. They knocked down six three-pointers, scored eight points off seven Rhode Island turnovers and held URI to 40 percent shooting from the floor.

The second half was a different story, an all-too-familiar one for the Rams.

Fordham missed eight of its first 11 shots coming out of halftime. Rhode Island went on an 18-8 run to take a 49-41 lead and never looked back. Rhode Island shot 65 percent from the floor in the second half, and Fordham struggled to get anything going.

Before the game, Pecora talked about the need to contain Xavier Munford and E.C. Matthews. Both finished with 21 points, 15 each in the second half.

Pecora also talked about controlling the backboards. Rhode Island outrebounded Fordham, 48-38. Hassan Martin (12 rebounds) and T.J. Buchanan (11 rebounds) led the way in that category.

"We struggled shooting the ball in the second half," associate head coach David Duke told WFUV Radio after the game. "They just made some tough plays down the stretch."