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Roles Reversed In A-10 Matchup

March 4, 2008 Columns No Comments


Roles Reversed For Fordham, La Salle

by Ray Floriani

BRONX, N.Y. – The Fordham Rams had some concerns last Wednesday evening. They exited the cozy confines of Rose Hill Gymnasium on the short end of an 83-78 decision. But of greater importance of the loss itself, is the manner in which it transpired.

LaSalle zoned almost the entire game and made sure there were two, sometimes three, bodies on Fordham’s Bryant Dunston. Even with the added defensive attention, Dunston went for game highs of 25 points and 12 rebounds. The problem was perimeter shooting. The Rams were given good looks on the perimeter, as quick ball movement and kick-outs afforded opportunities outside. Unfortunately no one took advantage as Fordham shot a poor 7 of 24 from beyond the arc.

The offense alone wasn’t the only thing bothering Ram coach Dereck Whittenburg, who said, “The defense was the poorest I’ve seen in my years here.”

The defensive effort was sub-par and the numbers bear it out. The Explorers shot 56 percent from the field, including 5 of 10 from beyond the arc. The Explorers also had 31 free throw attempts, partly because the Rams were in a fouling mode the final seconds but mostly due to the defensive lapses present during the contest.

Fordham had several brief leads, but in each case the visitors responded. La Salle had four players in double figures, and despite a lack of size the Explorers were able to compensate with athleticism and transition.

LaSalle coach John Giannini naturally was pleased, saying, “We are maturing as a team.” The LaSalle mentor pointed out the Explorers are 6-1 on the road and he feels the young guys respond away from home. “They don’t sit up all night playing video games,” he joked, “the young guys get their rest and focus.”

Despite the youth, La Salle was poised when the game was theirs for the taking the final few minutes. In the final minutes the Explorers looked like the veterans and senior laden Fordham came unglued like underclassmen. The Explorers hit the crucial free throws and took care of the ball to close the contest.

LaSalle with he win improved to 8-5 in Atlantic 10 play, while Fordham fell to 5-8. Rodney Green led the Explorers with 19 points. Senior guard Darnell Harris entered the game averaging 16 points per game for LaSalle, but did not score his first point until 4:15 remained in the contest. A possession later he buried a fifteen-footer and in the final minutes buried a huge trey from NBA range. He finished with 6 points but it proved to be a crucial half-dozen.

Notes

  • On the way to the press room, I saw St. Pat’s assistant Ray Miller. The New Jersey prep power has two grads, sophomores Yves Mekongo Mbala and Ruben Guillandeaux, in the La Salle lineup. Both are doing a nice job contributing to this young Explorer squad.
  • Ram coach Derrick Whittenburg was noticeably upset, saying, “I told our guys this was a dangerous game. We beat Temple and they come home with everyone telling them how good they are. I should have put our guys in a hotel for two days except to go to class.”
    With three games left Whittenburg feels the time is now to respond to determine the type of season it will play out to be on Rose Hill. Whittenburg felt his team did not practice well the day before the LaSalle contest and approached it with an unacceptable level of complacency.
  • There is quite a race for the final playoff position in the Atlantic Ten. The top twelve go to Atlantic City next week, meaning the final two teams are out. St. Bonaventure is a given to miss the tournament. The Bonnies did get some satisfaction this weekend drilling St. Louis by 20 on their home floor. After that, it’s a race with Fordham and George Washington even at 5-9 in conference play. Dayton and Duquesne are both perilously close at 6-8.
    Dayton, incidentally was nationally ranked at the beginning of A-10 play. The Flyers did pull off a big road win over the weekend, as they went to Rose Hill and defeated a struggling Fordham squad 57-50. That win should give Dayton a little breathing room.
    Rhode Island, another ranked team not to long ago, was nose-diving before getting a huge 91-85 win at La Salle on Saturday. URI and St. Louis both stand 7-8.

     

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