Friday, March 27, 2015

Fordham nearing deal with Andy Toole to fill coaching vacancy (UPDATED)

Fordham is apparently zeroing in on Andy Toole as next head coach, with both sides rumored to be close to an agreement. (Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

As one local college basketball program ponders its future and latest head coaching hire, another seems to have taken a step toward clearing any doubt that remains.

In a development lost in the shuffle after St. John's announced it would part ways with Steve Lavin, Fordham appears to be close to hiring a successor to Tom Pecora, with the likely replacement being Robert Morris coach Andy Toole.

WFUV, the flagship radio station of Fordham University, announced via Twitter earlier today that Toole was "nearing a deal" to become the Rams' new head coach, and toured the facilities on the school's Rose Hill campus yesterday.

Mike Watts, one of the play-by-play voices of Fordham athletics on WFUV, took it a step further, stating that multiple sources told him that a press conference to announce Toole's hire could take place as early as Tuesday.

In five seasons at Robert Morris, the 34-year-old Toole has amassed a record of 110-66, reaching four Northeast Conference championship games, and has made as many postseason appearances in that span. Earlier this month, the Colonials earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his tenure, defeating St. Francis Brooklyn to capture the Northeast Conference championship for the first time since 2010, when Toole was an assistant under former head coach and Fordham alumnus Mike Rice. His postseason resume also includes victories over Kentucky and St. John's in the National Invitation Tournament, accomplishing those feats in 2013 and 2014.

A finalist for the Siena job that ultimately went to Jimmy Patsos two years ago, Toole is widely praised in most circles, and has been lauded by many as one of the best possible hires Fordham could make.

"If it happens," said Andrew Chiappazzi, a writer for the Beaver County Times in Pennsylvania who has covered Robert Morris in the past for, "Fordham would get a charismatic, relentless coach who thrives on competition, recruits well, and coaches well."

Several other reports have mentioned Albany head coach Will Brown, Kevin Baggett of Rider and Norfolk State's Robert Jones as prospective candidates, but any activity aside from meeting with the Parker Executive Search firm; which is handling Fordham's coaching search, has not been confirmed.

More information on Fordham's coaching search will be posted as it becomes available.

***UPDATE AS OF 9:12 P.M. - Andy Toole has informed his players that he is NOT leaving Robert Morris for Fordham, according to Chris Cappella, who covers the Colonials for***

"We're thrilled that Andy has decided to remain at RMU," Robert Morris athletic director Dr. Craig Coleman said in a release issued moments ago. "He has accomplished a great deal with our program, and we have full confidence that he can take our program to even greater heights."

Once again, more information will be posted as it becomes available.

St. John's and Steve Lavin part ways after five seasons

Steve Lavin is out after five seasons at St. John's, despite talk of a possible contract extension. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)

The Steve Lavin era is over at St. John's.

Lavin, who guided the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament twice during his five-year tenure, mutually agreed with the St. John's administration to part ways, the conclusion to a week of speculation of whether his job was in jeopardy after a loss to San Diego State seven days ago tonight in the Round of 64.

A national search is underway to find a replacement for the 50-year-old Lavin, who restored the winning culture to a once-proud basketball program upon replacing Norm Roberts in 2010, but only won two postseason games at the helm, one of which was the controversy-marred Big East tournament contest against Rutgers with a senior-laden roster comprised almost entirely of Roberts' recruits.

"Coach Lavin returned high expectations to our men's basketball program," athletic director Chris Monasch said in a statement issued by the university this afternoon, "and represented St. John's in a positive way. We appreciate his commitment to the program and to our student-athletes over the past five years."

Shortly after Lavin's departure was announced, some of his now-former players took to social media to voice their sentiments toward their coach. In particular, outgoing senior guard D'Angelo Harrison, last year's MBWA Haggerty Award winner and St. John's third-leading scorer, praised Lavin as being "more than a coach in my life for me and my family." "I owe him for changing my life," Harrison's tweet continued. Phil Greene, his teammate and backcourt partner, called Lavin a "father figure, to me and us all."

St. John's compiled an official record of 81-53 under Lavin, with all but four games from the 2011-12 season attributed to then-assistant coach Mike Dunlap while the head coach underwent successful treatment for prostate cancer.

"In life, change is inevitable," Lavin stated, "so I take the long view. I'm grateful for my time teaching at St. John's University. I will take with me the lasting friendships forged during my tenure as head coach."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tim Cluess receives contract extension through 2019-20 season

Tim Cluess, who led Iona to 26 wins this season, received contract extension today that keeps him in New Rochelle through 2019-20 season. (Photo courtesy of Brian Beyrer via Iona College Athletics)

While the future is in limbo around some college basketball landscapes in the metropolitan area, it is anything but that at Iona.

Tim Cluess, who has won 118 games since arriving in New Rochelle five years ago, was rewarded with a contract extension once again, ensuring that he will be at the helm of the Gaels through, at least, the 2019-20 season.

The 56-year-old coach, who is the fourth-winningest leader in program history, has resurrected the illustrious history at Iona, reaching the postseason in each season on the sidelines at the Hynes Athletics Center since his hire in 2010 after Kevin Willard left for Seton Hall. In Cluess' tenure, the Gaels have developed nine all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference first team selections, with three conference Player of the Year honorees, as well as a pair of MBWA Haggerty Award winners in Scott Machado and Lamont (Momo) Jones.

"Five straight 20-win seasons and postseason appearances have never happened in the rich history of men's basketball at Iona College," athletic director Rick Cole stated in a release issued this afternoon. "Tim Cluess remains committed to Iona Athletics' mission of building champions, both on and off the court, and we're proud to have him as our head coach."

It was speculated that Cluess, the 2014 Coach of the Year in the MAAC, would perhaps be a candidate at St. John's University; where he played for Lou Carnesecca before finishing his career at Hofstra, if the Red Storm were to part ways with Steve Lavin. However, a 26-win campaign this year, highlighted by the Gaels' second consecutive regular season MAAC championship and subsequent berth in the National Invitation Tournament, made the decision for Iona to secure their long-term future even more of a no-brainer.

"Coach Cluess continues to lead our men to tremendous success," college president Dr. Joseph Nyre said. "We have always believed he is the right man for Iona basketball."

Monday, March 23, 2015

St. John's 77, Fordham 63: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

Queens, NY ­- In tournament play, it is not uncommon to get a scenario as this. Two schools about 10 miles, and a toll, apart. From different conferences. With styles contrasting almost as much. In the second round of the WNIT, that was the case.

Fordham of the Atlantic 10, visiting Utopia Parkway to face St. John’s, representing the Big East. Both New York schools with long histories and traditions, residing in different leagues. On this afternoon, we would also see something frequently rising in tournament play, the aforementioned difference in style.

Fordham, with outside shooting and an inside game facing a St. John’s with size of their own, as well as a take-you-off-the-dribble game focused on penetrating the defense. What we saw was a veritable coaching ‘chess match’ featuring the game plans of Fordham’s Stephanie Gaitley and Joe Tartamella of St. John’s.

Fordham guarded against penetration allowing the 15-footer. St. John’s hit consistently from mid-range. At the half, it was a two-possession game with the homestanding Red Storm in the lead. It remained close for much of the final half.

In the latter part of the last stanza we were reminded, regardless of schemes and diagrams on the grease board, it comes down to players making plays. Two close-to-the-basket Fordham misses were transformed into St. John’s runouts. Then a turnover saw another St. John’s transition conversion. The lead was double digits. St. John’s went on to win, 77-63, (a somewhat deceptive final margin) and punch their ticket to the third round.

For St. John’s, they heeded Tartamella’s advice of taking advantage of the WNIT experience, a national tournament staged when many teams already called it a season. Fordham, disappointed in losing, remained proud of the effort. Equal pride expressed in the four years since Gaitley took over, this senior class saw the Rams through an Atlantic 10 title and three postseason trips.

Very proud accomplishments, easing the sting of a season drawing to a close.

Just before the opening tip, probably the last time all day we would see Aliyyah Handford of St. John's motionless:
St. John's coach Joe Tartamella, and assistants Veronica Mullen and Priscilla Edwards, are focusing on the same situation on the other end:
Emily Tapio and Hannah Missry of Fordham waiting to check in, and already have their game expressions firmly intact:
Aliyyah Handford defending Tiffany Ruffin of Fordham:
The intensity of the game was even expressed by the Fordham cheerleaders:
Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley ponders her next move:
The traditional postgame handshake line, as St. John's advances while Fordham ends an outstanding season:

St. John's 77, Fordham 63: Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free Analysis

The St. John's cheerleaders perform during Red Storm's WNIT contest against Fordham. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

Queens, NY ­- St. John’s broke a close game open in the final ten minutes. The Red Storm defeated Fordham 77-63 in a second round WNIT contest at Carnesecca Arena. Fordham finishes at 21-12, while 23-10 St. John’s is slated to travel to Villanova on Thursday. The pace and possessions:

Pace: 72 possessions
Offensive Efficiency: St. John's 107, Fordham 88

Four Factors:
eFG%: St. John's 51, Fordham 44
FT Rate: St. John's 27, Fordham 22
OREB%: St. John's 28, Fordham 26
TO Rate: St. John's 14, Fordham 22

What Fordham did well: Compete well into the second half. A two-possession game at the break, Fordham trailed by six and on the defensive end, they allowed St. John’s to have just a two point (12-10) advantage on points in the paint. The Rams maintained striking distance right up until the final stretch of the contest.

What St. John's did well: Shoot the mid range jumper. Fordham was concerned about St. John’s ability to beat them off the bounce. The Rams changed defenses and conceded the 12-15 footer. St. John’s hit it. Only taking two threes (both misfired) the Rdd Storm shot 32 of 63 for a 51% showing from the floor.

Leading Scorers and OE:
St. John's: Aliyyah Handford, 23 points (OE .519)
“We renamed Handford, handful.” – Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley
Fordham: Emily Tapio, 19 points (OE .600)
Tapio, a senior winding up an excellent career, shot 8-of-10 from the floor, turning in a very good OE, which would have been better except for four turnovers.

St. John’s outstanding defensive efficiency, courtesy of limiting Fordham in the eFg (44%) department while forcing them into a 22% TO rate. For the game, the Red Storm showed a 38-22 edge on points in the paint. That was largely aided by a 14-2 advantage in fast break points.

St. John’s, short on depth, put four players in double figures. Impressive in relief, Kyra Dunn of St. John’s gave a nice 2-point, 5-rebound, 2-block showing in 18 minutes.

It is how big you play. The guards were the leaders in rebounding. Fordham’s 5-7 Tiffany Ruffin led the Rams with seven boards. Aliyyah Handford (5-9) of St. John’s paced all rebounders with 10.

Amber Thompson had a versatile game for St. John’s. The 6-2 senior scored 12 points, hauling down eight boards, blocking two shots and getting four steals, decidedly a quiet but effective defensive force in this victory.

Final Thoughts
“We tried to mix things up defensively, but in the end, we struggled with the offense especially turnovers....looking back, as far as this program goes, the bar is raised.” – Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley

“Another opportunity in postseason, and I think we might have played our most complete game to date. We did a great job on both ends of the floor today.” – St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella

Eric Paschall granted permission to contact other schools

Eric Paschall, newly minted Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, has been granted permission to speak to other schools, potentially leading to transfer from Fordham. (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)

The exodus has not yet started at Fordham, but the Rams' leading scorer is testing the waters.

Eric Paschall, who was recently recognized as the Atlantic 10's Rookie of the Year, has been given permission to contact other schools in regard to a possible transfer from Rose Hill. The freshman sensation tweeted this revelation earlier this afternoon, and Fordham sports information director Joe DiBari soon confirmed that Paschall was indeed cleared to reach out to a list of schools. The schools on this list have not been released to the media or public at this time.

While the initial reaction to this news would be that Paschall was granted a release to transfer, that is presently not the case. Josh Thomson of The Journal News, a Westchester-based newspaper which covered Paschall when he attended Dobbs Ferry High School, confirmed with Paschall's father that a full release was not requested.

In addition, neither Paschall nor his father would not rule out a return to Fordham, where the 6-6 wing averaged 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

"There's nothing saying we're going to leave Fordham," Paschall's father, Juan, told The Journal News. "I think I would be doing him a disservice if I didn't at least give him an opportunity to look at some other schools and see what other options were out there."

Should Paschall transfer, he would have to complete a mandatory year in residence that would preclude him from playing next season, but he would still retain three years of eligibility, resuming with the 2016-17 campaign. Regardless, the Paschall camp maintained that Eric's current home might still be his permanent one.

"It's about trust," Juan Paschall reiterated, "and that's why Fordham has the upper hand. I know that Fordham is going to take care of my son. I don't know that about those other schools."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Potential candidates to replace Tom Pecora at Fordham

Two years at Buffalo and NCAA Tournament appearance make Bobby Hurley one of hottest names on short list to fill head coaching vacancy at Fordham. (Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Sun)

Fordham is looking for a head coach again, following its decision to part ways with Tom Pecora after five years at the helm, and predictably, a handful of names have already been linked to the vacancy at Rose Hill.

Some of these names may surprise you, some others may be expected, but who is the right fit for the job? Here, we break down some of the men expected to receive consideration, with some reasons as to why each would or would not be a good choice to guide the Rams into the future:

Bobby Hurley (pictured above)
Age: 43
Experience: Head coach, Buffalo (2013-present, 42-20)
Pros: The popular choice of most Fordham fans, even before Pecora was officially relieved of his duties. Possesses rich basketball lineage, both of his own and his family's making, and remains one of greatest point guards in college basketball history, still to this day the NCAA's all-time assist leader during a stellar career at Duke in which he won two national championships alongside Grant Hill and Christian Laettner. A tireless worker who will no doubt instill invaluable wisdom in Fordham's backcourt if he were to get the job, Hurley would also be close to his home base of New Jersey, and his presence in the metropolitan area would be enough to make inroads toward improving the Rams' recent uptick of successfully recruiting local talent capable of playing in the Atlantic 10.
Cons: Only two years of head coaching experience might scare him away from those in the Fordham administration that may prefer someone more seasoned. Also, his brother, Dan, is currently a member of the Atlantic 10 coaching ranks, and has a potential conference championship contender at Rhode Island next season. Are the brothers ready for a Hurley vs. Hurley battle every year, possibly twice in some seasons?

Will Brown (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)
Age: 43
Experience: Head coach, Albany; (2001-present, 215-215) head coach, Sullivan County Community College (1998-2001, 90-10)
Pros: Has turned an Albany program once perennially dormant into a consistent power in the America East, winning five conference championships, which ties him with Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun. A proponent of an aggressive, defensive-minded look, which would fit well against the likes of VCU, Dayton, George Washington and Rhode Island. Long Island native who would not only maintain Fordham's local profile, but also among the most social media-savvy coaches in the nation, (Brown tweets frequently under the handle @UAHOOPSWB, and unlike many coaches on Twitter, is not above engaging both fans and media alike in conversation) something that could accelerate the exposure of the Fordham brand, as would his international pipeline that has been established through Australian stars Peter Hooley and Sam Rowley. His down-to-earth nature and quotability would be a seamless transition from Pecora, and would make him an instant hit with local media.
Cons: Has yet to prove he can work the same magic in a stronger league with more than one NCAA Tournament bid, and still largely unknown in the New York area even with his success in the capital region. Career record is also a handicap of sorts, but has guided Albany to an 86-49 record over the last four seasons, with three consecutive America East championships in that span.

Andy Toole (Photo courtesy of ESPN)
Age: 34
Experience: Head coach, Robert Morris (2010-present, 110-66)
Pros: Has won at least 18 games in each of his five seasons at the helm in Moon Township, finally reaching NCAA Tournament this season by winning his first Northeast Conference championship after three losses in the title game. Staten Island-born, New Jersey-bred rising star who has attracted area talent such as Lucky Jones, who played for Bob Hurley at St. Anthony's. A Penn alum and former assistant to Fran O'Hanlon at Lafayette, he is well aware of what it takes to win at a supposed "academic school," and has guided Robert Morris to postseason wins against bigger programs the likes of Kentucky and St. John's. Also not his first dance with a step up in conferences, as he was a finalist two years ago for the vacancy at Siena that was ultimately filled by Jimmy Patsos.
Cons: Not all that many, unless you want to nitpick his four postseason appearances by saying only one of them is an NCAA Tournament. Toole's name has also been linked to the coaching vacancy at George Mason, so Fordham could find themselves in a potential bidding war if the Patriots show serious interest in him as a replacement to Paul Hewitt. The biggest question here would be what other offers he gets coming off his first trip to the field of 68, and that will likely determine where he ends up.

Jeff Capel (Photo courtesy of ESPN)
Age: 40
Experience: Associate head coach, Duke; (2011-present) head coach, Oklahoma; (2006-11, 96-69) head coach, VCU (2002-06, 79-41)
Pros: Like Bobby Hurley, a product of Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, and now a member of Coach K's coaching tree, which has branched off successful names like Mike Brey and Johnny Dawkins, with two more up-and-comers in Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski at Northwestern and Marquette, respectively. Capel has another bargaining chip in his favor from his time at Oklahoma, having recruited, coached and developed Blake Griffin into a National Player of the Year and No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick while leading the Sooners to an Elite Eight appearance.
Cons: Has not held a head coaching job in four years, so his name, although still largely relevant in many circles, may not be among the first to come to mind. Demise at Oklahoma was brought on by an NCAA investigation involving one of his assistant coaches and a recruit, as well as two losing seasons amid high expectations. Also, he is viewed as somewhat of a coach-in-waiting in Durham whenever Krzyzewski decides to retire, so he may opt to wait for the opportunity of a lifetime to open up as opposed to resurrecting Fordham.

Jim Engles (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)
Age: 46
Experience: Head coach, NJIT (2008-present, 89-123)
Pros: A metropolitan area college basketball lifer, a Staten Island native who got his start at his hometown program, Wagner, as an assistant for six years, then spending six more at Rider and five at Columbia before being tabbed to shepherd the Highlanders into Division I, beginning with a 1-30 season in 2008. Facing the most adversity and largest challenges of his coaching counterparts at the helm of the nation's sole independent Division I program, Engles made his boldest statement on December 6, when NJIT went into Ann Arbor and left Crisler Arena with a 72-70 victory over 17th-ranked Michigan, sending the Wolverines into a tailspin that concluded with a 16-16 record. The Highlanders reached their first postseason at the Division I level this season, defeating New Hampshire on Monday in the opening round of the CIT, and will host Cleveland State this Monday in the Round of 16.
Cons: Still largely untested, no disrespect to NJIT and the obstacles the school has had to endure both in the Great West Conference and as an independent. Might generate some buzz from the win over Michigan, but not enough to really move the needle among major boosters and the local media.

Jean Prioleau (Photo courtesy of Colorado University Athletics)
Age: 44
Experience: Assistant coach, Colorado; (2010-present) assistant coach, TCU; (2008-10) assistant coach, Iowa State; (2006-08) assistant coach, Marquette; (2005-06) assistant coach, Wichita State; (2000-05) assistant coach, Fordham (1999-2000)
Pros: An alumnus from the Class of 1992, Prioleau brings name cache among the old-school Ram faithful, who undoubtedly remember him from his exploits as a player, where he still ranks among Fordham's best players of the last two decades. Has become the epitome of well-traveled since then, playing overseas before serving on the staffs of six programs over the last 16 years, beginning with his alma mater. Should he be hired, it gives him an opportunity to bring his career full circle, not to mention rekindle the relationship between distanced alumni whose support of the program has waned.
Cons: Lack of head coaching experience might scare some people away, but that can be mitigated by his diverse resume as an assistant, serving under the likes of Mark Turgeon, Tom Crean and Tad Boyle among others. Moreover, the issue of potentially damaging his legacy should he fail as head coach could come into play. For every Gary Williams, there is also a Matt Doherty.

Dave Paulsen (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Buckets)
Age: 50
Experience: Head coach, Bucknell; (2008-present, 124-92) head coach, Williams College; (2000-08, 170-53) head coach, Le Moyne; (1997-2000, 42-39) head coach, St. Lawrence (1994-97, 50-28)
Pros: Has won everywhere he has been, most recently with four postseason appearances (two NCAA Tournament, two NIT) in the last five years at perennial Patriot League power Bucknell, where he coached a first-round NBA Draft pick in Mike Muscala, now of the Atlanta Hawks. Won a Division III national championship at Williams in 2003, and nearly repeated the following year, losing in the championship game to complete a two-year record of 61-3. Coming from a Patriot League school, something Fordham still is with regard to its football program, would understand academic standards when it comes to recruits, and would develop an appropriate strategy.
Cons: Again, another coach whose success has come in one-bid leagues, and one whose best players historically have not been on Atlantic 10 radar. No major local connections to speak of, so he might be a hard sell on the New York market initially.

Kyle Smith (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)
Age: 45
Experience: Head coach, Columbia (2010-present, 76-72)
Pros: Guided a long-dormant Columbia program to a postseason appearance for the first time since the Johnson administration when Lions reached CIT quarterfinals last season. Despite 13-15 record this year, he gained national attention for playing Kentucky to just a 10-point loss, leading Wildcats at halftime and defending them better than nearly any of their opponents during what remains an undefeated campaign at the present moment. Credited with helping develop NBA players in Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova as an assistant at Saint Mary's, where he also worked with players such as Omar Samhan and Mickey McConnell over nine years as Randy Bennett's right-hand man in Moraga. Praised by current Richmond head coach Chris Mooney as the smartest man in college basketball, and the last time Fordham hired a coach out of Columbia, Tom Penders proved to be quite successful at Rose Hill.
Cons: Untested when it comes to recruiting with scholarships at his fingertips, so he would essentially be starting from the ground floor when it comes to evaluating prospects. In five seasons at Columbia, has only managed a winning conference record just once, accomplishing that last year. Also, this year's sub-.500 result, even though it can be attributed to losing Alex Rosenberg to injury in the offseason, knocked some of the luster off his candidacy, a stock that reached its high point during CIT run and uncertainty as to whether or not Tom Pecora would return.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fordham 70, CCSU 67: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

Bronx, NY ­- Sometimes the task is a lot more difficult than it appears to be. The first impression does not always tell the complete story. That certainly applies to tournament play, especially when you learn who your first opponent is.

That all came to mind with the Fordham women. Earning their WNIT bid (a third post season in as many years) the Rams were matched against Central Connecticut State. The game was at home in the cozy confines of Rose Hill Gymnasium (critics say antiquated, yours truly prefers historical and quaint).

The problem with this matchup is Fordham defeated the Blue Devils 72-36 on their home floor in December. Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley had to diffuse any complacency, reminding her club this is a team that wasn’t at full strength when they played in December. A team improving as the campaign wore on. And with everyone back.

CCSU mentor Beryl Piper was playing with ‘house money’. A Northeast Conference team on the road against an Atlantic Ten opponent. Everything to gain, nothing to lose.

From the outset the visitors played loose, hitting an assortment of shots, building a double-digit lead. Fordham responded in a manner teams, with tournament experience and worthy of advancing, must do. Rather than panic, they realized there was ample time. They gradually chipped away, played their game and were positioned to close the deal as the proverbial crunch time arrived. In the clutch, Tiffany Ruffin, an 18-point scorer on the night, came up with several huge baskets. It went to the final possession, and Fordham emerged a 70-67 victor.

Next up for the Rams, a second round date at St. John’s. On this night, they could enjoy the hard fought win. The epitome of ‘survive and advance’.

CCSU coach Beryl Piper studies the action:
On the far right, CCSU assistant coach Jason Marshall offers encouragement from the bench:
Amanda Harrington of CCSU, who tied Tiffany Ruffin for game-high scoring honors with 18 points, defending Fordham's Samantha Clark:
Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley in deep thought:
The T-shirt toss. Yours truly came up empty, again:
The intensity of tournament action, as shown by Fordham's Emily Tapio:
Fordham huddles after the game, as the victory is theirs:

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fordham 70, CCSU 67: Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free Analysis

A Fordham cheerleader mid-routine as Rams entertained Central Connecticut State in WNIT. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

Bronx, NY -­ First round WNIT action saw Fordham post a 70-­67 come-from-behind victory over Central Connecticut at Rose Hill. The Rams will travel to St. John’s on Sunday to face the Red Storm, a winner over Army. The pace and possessions:

Pace: Fordham 70 possessions, CCSU 68
Offensive Efficiency: Fordham 100, CCSU 99

Four Factors:
EFG: CCSU 53, Fordham 44
FT rate: Fordham 24, CCSU 21
OREB pct.: Fordham 33, CCSU 24

TO rate: Fordham 14, CCSU 18

What Central Connecticut did well: Shoot the ball. They came out on fire, shooting 57% the first half. The Blue Devils cooled down a bit in the second half, but turned in impressive numbers from the field for the night.

What Fordham did well: Maintain resiliency. The Rams trailed by double digits early as CCSU was firing on all cylinders. Fordham maintained poise, and possession by possession, gradually chipped away. They gained the lead late in the second half and eventually closed out the victory.

Scoring Leaders and OE:
CCSU: Amanda Harrington 18 points, OE .846.

Fordham: Tiffany Ruffin 18 points, OE .714.

Harrington was a handful in the low post. She shot 8-of-11 from the floor, while hauling in six rebounds. Ruffin made a few key plays the final four minutes. The Fordham guard was a veritable ‘stat stuffer’. Ruffin shot 7-of-13. The epitome of versatility, she grabbed nine rebounds, (4 offensive) adding three assists and five steals.

CCSU shot better from three than the line. The Blue Devils were 5-of-9(56%) from beyond the arc, and 6-of-12 (50%) from the charity stripe. Samantha Clark of Fordham led the rebounding category with 10. Clark also contributed 10 points in a solid effort.

The turnovers were damaging. CCSU’s rate was only 18%, under the cutoff of 20%. It was, however, the significance of those errors that proved costly in this one-possession affair. To illustrate, CCSU had 68 possessions. Subtract their 12 turnovers and you get 56 possessions winding up in a field goal attempt and/or free throw. Fordham had 70 possessions. Minus their 10 turnovers, you get 60 ’completed’ possessions. Now, look at the efficiencies, taking points divided by completed (turnover­less) possessions:

CCSU 120, Fordham 117

A graphic, or metric, evidence of how damaging those turnovers were to the Northeast Conference representatives.

A misleading number in the first meeting of the teams: On December 9, Fordham romped 72-­36. Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley pointed out CCSU was missing a few key players and improved substantially as the campaign progressed.

CCSU finished the season 19-13, while Fordham improved to 21-11.

Final Thoughts
“It was a hard fought game and we had a great start. We gave up 70 points and that makes it hard to win. It’s disappointing because we pride ourselves on defense.” – CCSU coach Beryl Piper

“They (CCSU) shot the lights out early but we stayed resilient, did not panic. We knew we would get shots and there were a lot of possessions left.” –Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley

Thursday, March 19, 2015

O'Day leads Vermont to CBI victory over Hofstra

Ethan O'Day led five Vermont players in double figures as Catamounts opened CBI with 85-81 victory over Hofstra. (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Buckets)

For one team, it was a sense of deja vu. For the other, an opportunity to prove they belonged against a bigger team in a stronger league, and also to build toward an already promising future with a boost to its present state.

With five players scoring 10 or more points, and two more coming close to that plateau, Vermont (19-13) was the latter team, setting the tone early and fortifying it with a 73 percent shooting effort in the second half to withstand a valiant Hofstra rally at the Mack Sports Complex, scoring an 85-81 win over the Pride (20-14) in the first round of the 2015 College Basketball Invitational.

"I thought we did a great job," John Becker remarked after the Catamounts scored 52 points following the intermission to keep Hofstra chasing until the final buzzer, when the Pride simply ran out of time to get over the hump. "We're young, and physically overmatched, but I thought our guys battled."

Ethan O'Day's 17 points led all scorers, while Trae Bell-Haynes and Zach McRoberts poured in 13 points apiece, combining to shoot 8-for-10 from the field in the victory. Dre Wills also contributed 11, with Drew Urquhart adding 10 of his own off the bench.

Vermont started aggressive, opening the game on a 9-0 run before Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich burned a timeout just over two minutes into the game. The Pride would quickly cut into their deficit, though, with a 10-2 run bringing the home team within two points and providing the impetus Hofstra needed to keep the game close going into the locker room, a feat they achieved despite trailing 33-30 at halftime.

Amid a crowd of 958 that voiced their displeasure for the contest's officiating as the night wore on, Hofstra struck first after the intermission, with a layup from Dion Nesmith, who scored 15 points in his final collegiate game. The Pride would cut Vermont's lead to one point on three more occasions after the opening basket of the final stanza, but a 9-2 run by the Catamounts after the third such one-point margin gave the visitors a 67-59 advantage that would soon be stretched to 11 points as the two teams traded baskets for several minutes.

Trailing 81-72 with 1:56 to play, Juan'ya Green, whose 16 points paced the Pride, joined Malik Nichols as catalysts of a 9-2 Hofstra spurt, which rejuvenated the intimate gathering of patrons when Green's three-pointer with 48 seconds remaining in regulation made the score 83-81. Hofstra fouled on the ensuing possession, with O'Day making one of two shots to leave the door open for the home team as the final seconds wound down. However, Green's next attempt from beyond the arc fell short, and O'Day made one more at the charity stripe to ice the game for Vermont, who advances to the CBI quarterfinals, where the Catamounts will host Delaware State.

"We didn't lose to a bunch of bums tonight," Mihalich offered after the game. "We lost to a good team. We're down right now because of tonight, but we're real excited about this program. These are exciting times for us."

So too it is for the winners Wednesday night, who move forward with renewed confidence on a night where each Vermont player to see the floor not only scored, but also played at least 17 minutes in contributing to a victorious cause.

"We were committed to playing everyone tonight," Becker admitted. "These experiences are great for young teams. VCU won this tournament in 2010, I think, and the next year, they went to the Final Four. All these wins, I think, are going to pay dividends down the road."