For one night at least, Fordham owned the New York City college basketball scene.
The Rams coasted to an easy 73-57 victory over local rival St. John’s Wednesday night at historic Rose Hill Gym in front of a crowd of over 3,000. Fordham never trailed and led by as many as 21 points as they notched just their 22nd win in the 88-game all-time series against St. John’s.
The win marked the Rams’ fifth victory in a row – an accomplishment they haven’t matched since the 2006-07 season. Their 5-1 start is the best Fordham has enjoyed since the turn of the century, and the win over St. John’s was their first since 2010.
Here are three thoughts from Fordham’s night in the spotlight:
1.) Rhoomes & Thomas are one fun combo. The Rams enjoyed a career performance from forward Ryan Rhoomes, who notched a personal best 26 points Wednesday night. In addition to a spectacular shooting night where the 6’8” senior shot 77% from the field, Rhoomes brought down 12 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double. That was enough to move Rhoomes into 13th place on the all-time Fordham rebounding list.
“I’m just trying to do what’s best for my team and my coach,” Rhoomes said. “Coach wants me to go out there and play as hard as I can. He’s a phenomenal coach, he wants the best out of his best players, so I give him the praise for everything.”
Beyond the perimeter, fellow senior Mandell Thomas spurred on the Rams. Thomas had perhaps the best minute of his career midway through the first half when he knocked down three 3-pointers in a 67 second span, doubling Fordham’s early lead from four to eight. That early outburst gave the Rams all the space they would need, as the lead never fell below that eight-point margin the rest of the game.
Thomas gave Fordham exactly what they needed exactly when they needed it. Although the lead never fell below double-digits in the second half, when the margin dwindled to 12 – its lowest point of the half – it was once again Thomas who brought energy.
It was at that point that Thomas delivered a thrilling Top 10 worthy one-handed throw-down that brought the crowd to its feet and put away any hopes of a St. John’s comeback. Thomas finished the night with 14 points.
With these two seniors leading the way for Fordham in the paint and behind the arc, the Rams have shown they have the firepower to do damage. Rhoomes and Thomas both rank in the top-20 amongst Atlantic 10 players. Add in other options like Jon Severe (who also notched 14 points Wednesday) and you have an offense that put up 1.11 points per possession Wednesday night, capable of repeating that any night.
2.) This was Fordham’s moment in the sun, but can it last? The Jeff Neubauer era is off to a better start than almost anyone could have imagined. With the Rams out to their best start in over a decade the obvious next question is: “How long will it last?”
The answer is it’s going to take a while to know for sure. In all likelihood, we won’t get a real grasp on Fordham’s potential until the beginning of A-10 play. Yes it was a convincing win over New York’s flagship program Wednesday night, but this is obviously a rebuilding year for St. John’s. Yes Fordham did win the Battle of the Bronx – against a depleted Manhattan squad that had three players on the court for the full 40 minutes.
The rest of the non-conference schedule doesn’t inspire until the Rams take on Boston College three days before Christmas. The good news is, they get a class test as soon as A-10 play begins with a visit to George Washington to kick off the New Year. The Colonials are currently 7-1 on the year, including a win over #6 Virginia.
“All I know is these guys are playing for each other,” Neubauer said. “They’re playing together, they’re sharing the ball defensively, and they’re there for each other. We have to improve. We’ve got to get better at these things, but they are trying to support each other at both ends of the court.”
Regardless of how the remainder of the non-conference schedule pans out, Fordham has already shown that this is a different team. For the first time in a long time there is hope and optimism on Rose Hill.
“It finally feels good to be a Ram,” Rhoomes said after the win. “All these years I’ve been here, year after year, I’m happy. Every morning I want to practice, I want to play games, it’s been real fun.”
3.) Rose Hill was rocking. If anything lived up to the hype Wednesday night, it was the near-capacity crowd. After comments from Neubauer about lack of fan support for the Rams home-opening win over Division II Queens College, the Fordham faithful packed Rose Hill for this rivalry matchup. Neubauer himself was pleased at the intensity of the Rams’ student section, back on campus after Thanksgiving break.
“I thought it was really loud,” Neubauer said. “I thought it was great to have the students back on campus. I don’t know how many students came through the door, but that was a great student crowd and it was very loud.”
Although Saint John’s was never expected to compete this year, the fact of a down year for their opponents may just have been blood in the water for a Fordham team that has won just a quarter of the matchups in this historic rivalry.
“When we go out there against St. John’s, I didn’t think about losing,” Rhoomes said. “My team has my back, my coach has my back, and we have a lot more confidence this year.”
The Rams have 13 home games remaining this year, including their next four in a row to help close out the non-conference schedule. If Wednesday’s atmosphere was any indication, as long as Fordham continues these winning ways the people will be there to cheer them on.
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.