BRONX, N.Y. – Fordham’s 86-54 defeat of Central Connecticut on Saturday raised the Rams’ record to 6-1. Observers are starting to take notice. Let’s say Fordham gained a fair amount of attention just three days earlier. A thorough dismantling of St. John’s will do that.
The Red Storm were defeated handily, 73-57 before a packed house at the historic Rose Hill Gym. It was the type of game Fordham faithful will save their ticket stubs from, in loving memory.
Granted, this is not your vintage St. John’s team. Chris Mullin is the first-year coach not in need of introduction. What Mullin needs is time. His roster is dotted with players short on experience and going through the proverbial “learning curve.” Even Fordham coach Jeff Neubauer admitted, “St. John’s is young and we have some experienced players in place.”
How decisive was this victory? St. John’s committed 19 turnovers; in a 66-possession game that translated to 29 percent. That is almost one turnover every three possessions, a number transcending unacceptable. Fordham won the battle of the boards 34-25, translating into a 24-8 lead in second-chance points. St. John’s had no answer for Ryan Rhoomes. The 6-8 Fordham Senior had game highs of 26 points and 12 rebounds and was a force on the low blocks.
Federico Mussini, St. John’s leading scorer at 17 points per game, suffered through a five-point, five-turnover outing. Mussini’s misfortunes were not about freshman jitters or tight rims. Credit the Fordham defense.
On Atlantic 10 Media Day, Neubauer promised a Rose Hill revival would begin on the defensive end. He spoke with a passion on how he wanted to defend the opposition. Very often the glow of 0-0 media day can wear off. To date Neubauer has kept his word. The Rams show pressure after made free throws and field goals. Their half court defense is predicated on sound on-ball pressure with weakside defenders aware and capable of adjusting should the primary defender get beat. Energy. The key word as this Fordham team comes out and shows that quality unlike any Fordham group since the Nineties.
A victory over St. John’s and the 6-1 start are both satisfying. Neubauer admitted after the St. John’s game, the focus is on “getting better every day in practice. We are not concerned with points or individual statistics. As a team we want to be better than we were two weeks ago, improving everyday.”
While the first-year Fordham mentor speaks of one game at a time and improvement each day, there has to be a thought about what is down the road. Just after 2016 rings in the Atlantic 10 portion of the schedule gets in gear. That will be the test for the Rams. How well will they handle the opposition in a conference they have struggled in for two decades?
Presently there is the impressive start. And a beginning that goes a lot deeper in significance than that 6-1 opening.