Fordham reached a nine-game win streak through their defense, which had allowed 62.1 points per game entering their Tuesday meeting with Boston College in game two of the ACC-Atlantic 10 doubleheader at Barclays Center.Eagles head coach Jim Christian was aware that they were going to have to take care of the ball against the Rams, whose pressure style had led to their best start since the 1970-71 season, where they made the NCAA tournament.
“I give them a lot of credit, they press and trap the entire game, but they really fly at shooters, so you have to drive by them,” Christian said. “When you drive by them, you have to make the next simple play, which was the whole game plan, but it’s hard to shoot in an NBA arena.”
Boston College didn’t light it up, but they did not give in plenty to the Rams pressing style, managing just 14 turnovers. While they did come up with a 1:1 assist to turnover rate on the night, they managed to only be punished by nine Fordham fast break points.
The Eagles specialized in finding the extra man versus the Rams’ pressure, getting open three-pointers – which to Christian’s complaint they only made three of their 18 tries – but used that action to generate layups and trips to the free throw line.
“We attacked the pressure very well at that stretch,” Christian said of the game’s final minutes. “A team playing as well as they’re playing you know they’re going to make a run. They’re not going to go away and they didn’t, that’s a credit to them.”
“He’s done a phenomenal, phenomenal job in a short time with that program. They play a very unique style of play that you have to be prepared for and its probably unlike anybody on your schedule. I don’t know if we’re going to play anybody else who plays that frenetic of a pace.”
Boston College converted on 62% of their two-point field goals in the second half and managed to use that, two timely three’s and 11 second half free throws to pull away from the Rams in a 64-55 victory at Barclays Center. The loss drops Fordham to 9-2 and brings plenty of lessons to end their non-conference slate.
Here are three thoughts from Tuesday afternoon’s second game as part of an ACC-Atlantic 10 doubleheader:
Offensive Struggles Evident For Rams – Fordham is known for their defense. It is what head coach Jeff Neubauer prides his program on, their ability to pressure the ball and get stops, then hopefully use that to punish teams with strong half court play and some transition baskets. However it was evident from the tip that Fordham struggled to not only put the ball in the basket, but move the ball against the taller Eagles.
“Boston College guarded the ball screens really well,” Neubauer said. “We really thought the ball screens were going to be good in this game, but their bigger players really gave a lot to the ball. They were able to double the ball, not aggressively double, but they doubled the ball and our decision makers, our passers, didn’t make great decisions off those ball screens.”
“That’s something we’ll work on, but I think Boston College’s post defense and then their ball screen defense was terrific tonight.”
Christian said that he felt it was their best 40 minutes of defense through their 12 game non-conference slate, which ended up holding the Rams to a season-low 55 points and 32.1% shooting for the game. Fordham made just three of their first 17 shot attempts before Jon Severe hit a three-pointer from the left wing just over 13 minutes into the game.
Part of that struggle was because of the Eagles’ size, which stifled senior froward Ryan Rhoomes, who was held to 10 point sand nine rebounds, but earned each of his four field goals he made and struggled against the likes of Dennis Clifford and Idy Diallo.
“That was the biggest team we played so far,” Severe said. “So now we just have to learn to get in the lane two feet and pass it out.”
Pressure Defense Dissected By the Eagles – Facing a power conference team for just the second time was going to be a solid test for the Rams defense, which had held opponents down through their first 10 games. Boston College proved to be better for most of the day through making extra passes to beat the tough half court man to man that Fordham plays. They also adjusted and were using their bigger guards to create ball screens, which stunted the Rams ability to cover every available option at times.
“They had guards switching, planing on setting the picks and we’re used to jumping it, so now like kind of we messed up,” Severe said. “We’re supposed to be switching ball screens and a lot of possessions, we tried to double the guards and they had open jump shots in the corner. Now we just have to learn from that.”
A frenetic pace produced the Rams first lead of the second half. After Antoine Anderson drove the lane for a layup to cut the lead to two, Ervins Meznieks lost the handle at half court to the Rams pressure and an open three converted by Joseph Chartouny put Fordham ahead 38-37 with 10:48 left. However, the Eagles made a 10-2 run, built on tough drives in the lane to create a distance that the Rams had trouble closing.
“Boston College was able to attack the rim and get layups,” Neubauer said. “Through the first 10 games, we’ve been a terrific charge taking team this year. We’ve protected the basket very well and our basket protection in the final six to eight minutes of the game just wasn’t good.”
“Those are the baskets I regret. I do think our defense was good enough to win this game, but certainly I didn’t have our team prepared offensively.”
Two At 9-2, But Who Has Staying Power? – Two Atlantic 10 teams exited the Barclays Center with a 9-2 record after play on Tuesday, but it was the Rams who dropped a chance to pick up another signature win in their non-conference run under Neubauer. The start is still one of the best in school history, in a history that has not seen plenty of recent success for the men’s program.
“If we’re going to do a cup is half full, then it’s definitely that our defense today was good enough to win this game,” Neubauer said of their second loss of the season. “I certainly take all of the blame for our offense not being very good, but defensively we’re ready to compete with this level team. I’ve got to get some things right at the offensive end.”
For a junior like Severe, who had 11 points on the day, it is a complete turnaround from a season ago that was mired in controversy. Yet the 6’2” guard said he believes they have more in them.
“I think I’d say a B,” Severe said when asked to grade their start. “We lost two games, I mean that’s good, but it was good losses; UT Arlington is good, Boston College was good. Now we’re just going to try to learn from these losses.”
Even as they do work to fix their offensive woes, the Rams are still very unproven. They have racked up victories at home over the likes of a shorthanded Manhattan team, Colgate, Central Connecticut State – who recently escaped from the winless category – to go with wins over a down St. John’s program and needed overtime to best LIU Brooklyn. They start conference play next, as they head into a long winter break, on Jan. 3 at George Washington.
The Brooklyn native said he hopes they are back to restoring the Fordham program, but knows they have plenty of work left to do, which starts when they return from a holiday break.
“It’s been a long time since this program won a lot of games in a row,” Severe said. “Our big game, right now, is G.W. on the road. We haven’t got a road game, a win yet, so just trying to get this road win and build from there.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.