BRONX, N.Y. – Sometimes a battle of contrasting styles can produce the most entertainment value for your valuable hard-earned money, and Sunday’s Richmond-Fordham clash at Rose Hill was no exception.
One one side, you had the Spiders, coached by Pete Carill and Princeton educated (he does have a B.A. in English from the place) Chris Mooney, who values the basketball and movement off it above everything else. On the other, you had Fordham’s Jeff Neubauer, who played for a guy named Speedy (Morris) and was schooled as a coach under John Beilein (including five years at Richmond), where confusing and baffling opponents into turning it over and getting easy points is one of the primary objectives.
You can debate whether Fordham’s record is dramatically inflated due to a woeful strength of schedule in Neubauer’s first season, but you can’t deny he has brought energy to the court, which seems to have translated to the stands and Fordham community this season. Sunday’s game (on national television) brought nearly 2,500 people to the Bronx on a day where the spring semester is yet to start and therefore very few students were in attendance.
Fordham got off to a dream start, its traps and switches forcing eight Richmond turnovers in the first 12 minutes and racing to a 32-17 lead with a variety of offense, including a healthy dose of 6’8″ Ryan Rhoomes down low.
But Mooney, now in his 11th year with the Spiders, never panicked and never visibly broke a sweat as his Spiders not only settled down, but went on a Golden State warriors-like shooting barrage, hitting seven of eight and finishing the first half 11-17 from behind the arc. Virginia Tech transfer Marshall Wood made his first career start and shattered his career-high by halftime with 22 and the Spiders had gone on a 30-7 run to take a 47-39 at the intermission.
“One thing we talked about is if you had handle the pressure, you’ll get open shots,” Mooney said. “Whether you make them or not is going to be critical, and obviously we made them in the first half.”
Richmond led for all but 14 seconds after halftime, but Fordham made a couple of runs at them, although the Rams could not quite get over the top, falling 93-82 despite 22 points from Mandell Thomas and 18 from Rhoomes (after going 9-10 from the field, Rhoomes is shooting an insane 69.7%, 85-122, from the field). They are now 1-2 in the Atlantic 10 and only time will tell if their record will really improve much on the court. As we’ve mentioned before, the Rams (10-4 overall) are not a young team, either, Thomas and Rhoomes are both seniors (although they’re the only two that play regularly).
“I think every game is unique, and when you play against an offensive juggernaut like Richmond, there are going to be some nights where they shoot the ball really well like they did here,” Neubauer said. “I don’t think this is a trend for us, I just think Richmond played really well and they’ll do that on a lot of afternoons this season.”
One thing is for sure, though, as one of the security guards said as he was closing up shop, “Man, that was a fun game, though, even though they lost. The place was loud, I couldn’t hear myself think.”
What else did we learn as Fordham suffered its first home loss of the season?:
— Richmond Basketball (@RichmondBball) January 10, 2016
1) Bizarro boxscore
I’m sure someone might be checking this as we speak, but I’ve never quite seen a line like senior guard Trey Davis finished with Sunday: 38 minutes, 11 assists, three steals, zero points, 0-0 FG. Yup, not a misprint, Davis never attempted a field goal even though he played almost start to finish (I swear he chucked up a 35-footer as the shot clock was going to expire late in the game, but I’m not the official stat man, am I?)
The rest of the boxscore for Richmond (9-6, 1-2) was just as strange. Only four players scored all 93 points, and at one point Wood (29 pts., 6 rebs.) and ShawnDre’ Jones`(a career-high 35 pts. on 9-12 FG and 12-13 FT, shattering his season-high of 22) had 33 of Richmond’s first 35 points. Richmond is not very deep and was without senior starter Deion Taylor (back), so Mooney only used seven players with the bench getting just 18 minutes. But it was also the opposition, with Fordham trapping everywhere, Davis never felt the need to shoot, he just waited for the pressure and found the open man.
“I thought Trey would be in the running for Player of the Game,” Mooney said. “He has just a great sense of distributing the ball, and it just happened that he didn’t have a shot. He played very well on the defensive end as well.”
2) Turnovers nice, but defense needed
Unfortunately for Neubauer and the Rams, after that initial barrage, Richmond only turned the ball over three times in the final 28 minutes of the contest and – combined with the Spiders shooting (they entered 17th nationally in eFG% at 55.9% and 22nd in offfensive efficiency) – it made for a tough defensive day. The Spiders finished at 66.4 eFG% and 1.33 points per possession, defensive numbers that won’t win many games for the Rams. Fordham actually finished at 65.5 eFG% and 1.17 ppp, but it wasn’t enough.
“Early in the game, we were able to deflect some passes and force some turnovers which led to transition,” Neubauer said. “Our team offensively, that’s the best we played. We just had to defend a little bit more.”
Said Mooney: “Jeff has them playing so hard and in such a unique style, in this building especially, that it makes it difficult. They’re so aggressive and relentless defensively. I think that showed for us in the first eight minutes of the game. But we settled down to a certain degree, obviously we made a lot of shots. We’re really pleased to get a conference win and a road win.”
3) Future still unkown
Fordham has a tough task ahead of it this week with road games at VCU and St. Joseph’s and could return home 1-4 in the Atlantic-10. Will the fanbase begin to get discouraged and see visions of years past? The A-10 does not look quite as strong as its been in past years, and as Fordham showed at George Washington, there will be opportunties to win games with the schedule remaining, but how many is anyone’s guess.
Neubauer pointed out after the game that Mooney (who has now beaten Fordham 10 straight times) has been successful at Richmond because he was able to implement his system and given patience. His first two seasons with the Spiders saw losing records in the A-10, but he has only had one in the last eight to go with four 20-win campaigns, two NCAA berths, an A-10 title and an NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance. I think Fordham would sign up for that right now in a millisecond, no?
“That’s what Richmond does. That’s exactly how they play. Chris Mooney’s been there for 11 years, and they’ve established their program,” Neubauer said. “They understand how to win the Richmond way, and one of the things they do the best is value the ball (they were 46th nationally in turnover rate at 16.2% coming in, and finished at 15.7% Sunday). So 11 turnovers for them is a typical number. Unfortunately, we had 10 turnovers in the first half. We have to improve our value. Richmond does this every game.”
Bonus) Chartouny may return soon
Fordham point guard Joseph Chartouny missed his third straight game with an ankle injury, but was moving around during warmups, so he may be back in action soon.
His replacements played pretty well Sunday, though, particularly on the offensive end, with Antwoine Anderson scoring 13 points and dishing out seven assists (against just two turnovers). Nych Smith also added 10 points (tying his career high) in just 15 minutes.