The Rams win in a close one
It didn't start well for Fordham on Monday night at Stabler Arena, but the youthful and shorthanded Rams outlasted the University of Pennsylvania in a 70-68 NIT Season Tip-Off victory that was not decided until Miles Cartwright misfired on a running three-pointer at the buzzer.
In a game that saw Fordham fail to record a field goal before the first media timeout, the maroon and white survived a seesaw second half in which they led by as many as seven and trailed by five with just over three minutes left in regulation.
Playing without Chris Gaston, who underwent minor surgery on a torn meniscus suffered in last week's loss to the Robert Morris, Fordham was led by Brandon Frazier, who scored 19 points, piled up seven assists, and collected six rebounds in the nail-biter.
Frazier placed himself in the thick of Fordham's late comeback. With Fordham trailing 63-58 with 3:11 left in the game, the grizzled junior buried a triple from the left corner to draw the Rams within a bucket.
On Fordham's next possession, Brian Smith drew a shooting foul as he penetrated to the basket. Seconds later, Penn head coach Jerome Allen earned himself a technical foul from the bench. The sequence resulted in a pair of free throws from both Frazier and Smith and a four point possession for the Rams who suddenly found themselves in front 65-63 with 1:34 left.
The free throws marked Smith's only second half points, but it was his performance in the opening period that stabilized Fordham's shaky start . It was Smith who posted Fordham's first field goal of the game -- a three-pointer -- with 14:12 left in the first half. The Brooklyn native went on to connect on three more triples in the opening period, netting 12 of his 14 points before the break.
In Gaston's absence, Fordham relied on a variety of front court players to fill the void. Travion Leonard registered 14 minutes, netted nine points, and snatched six rebounds while Ryan Canty and Ryan Rhoomes chipped in with a combined six points and five boards.
Penn, riding a three-game losing streak into Monday night, was forced to play without leading scorer and leading rebounder Fran Dougherty for the final 15 minutes of the opening frame after the 6'8" Junior picked up a pair of fouls within the first five minutes of the contest.
However, when Dougherty returned to the hardwood to start the second half, he erupted and nearly finished with his fourth double-double of the season, scoring a game-best 20 points and corralling eight boards in the loss.
Although 13 different Quakers participated in their two-point loss, Penn relied on Miles Cartwright (20 points, five assists, and four rebounds) and Dougherty to carry the offensive load.
Fordham returns to Lehigh University for their final chapter of the NIT Season Tip-Off when they face the Fairfield Stags at 6:00. Hear the game live on 90.7 FM and wfuv.org.