Playing entire 40 minutes, Mandell Thomas had career-high 17 points as Fordham survives Dan Hurley and Rhode Island in hard-fought 66-63 win at Rose Hill Gym. (Photo courtesy of John Templon via Big Apple Buckets)
Fordham head coach Tom Pecora's opening statement:
"I don't believe in the term 'ugly win.' I've never had an ugly win, every win is beautiful because they're hard to come by, especially the last few years. These young guys keep getting better and better, and these two (Mandell Thomas and Branden Frazier) really stepped up."
On the complexion of today's game:
"It was a rock fight, I thought the game was very intense. There were a couple of moments where it looked like it would go over the top, and I'm glad we kept our poise. I kept telling them, (our players) 'just compete, just compete.' Our game plan was to pound the ball inside and we did a good job with that. We were also told to stay within the coaching box, but neither one of us (Pecora nor Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley) did that."
On the state of the team heading into Wednesday's game against Saint Joseph's:
"Part of a team maturing is what I like to call 'championship possessions.' We're not at the point yet. What we're doing is trying to speed up the maturation process. Wednesday (losing 96-51 at Dayton) was embarrassing, and I told them that. They paid the price...we got off the plane and we practiced at 5 a.m."
On Luka Zivkovic and Chris Gaston:
"With that side ball screen, Luka's money. He's going to have a breakout game for us, and we need it with Chris out. We're at the point where when we get Chris back, it'll be a pleasant surprise."
Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley's opening statement:
"I thought the two teams played real desperate today, with a lot of intensity. The difference in today's game, and it usually is when we lose, was our inability to rebound, and their ability to kick our butts on the offensive glass."
On his homecoming to the New York area:
"It was cool for me being back. It was special driving to the game. I just wish we would have had a different outcome."
On the state of his team:
"The one thing our guys are is pretty resilient. We always find a way to stay in games. I'm excited about what a guy like T.J. Buchanan is going to bring to this program for the next couple of years."
On Rhode Island's play in today's game:
"I didn't think we matched their physicality. We were chippy after they physically dominated us on the backboard, we were soft."
On Fordham's defense, particularly on Nikola Malesevic:
"They started out in a zone, probably because they felt they probably couldn't match up with him. We can't win when he goes 1-for-7."
On Branden Frazier (20 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds) and his performance:
"We were trying to make sure he didn't beat us, and where he got us was his ability to get to the free throw line."
On Xavier Munford (10 points, 4 rebounds) and his performance:
"I'm not sure he was prepared for how desperately this game was going to be played. I don't think some of these guys were as locked in as they should be."
Hurley on his own sideline demeanor:
"This is who I am. I would say this year, I'm more animated because that's what this team needs. We don't have a player like that, and we need somebody to spur them on."
Nuggets of Note:
- Fordham scored 66 points in a home win over Rhode Island for the second straight year, as they defeated the Rams 66-64 at Rose Hill last January 18th on a three-pointer from Alberto Estwick in the final minute. The game was close throughout, with neither side leading by more than six points at any time.
- The officiating and physicality was the story of the game first and foremost. There were multiple occasions in which Rhode Island got calls that lesser teams probably would not have received, including a flagrant foul against Fordham's Bryan Smith on what appeared to be a routine tie-up with Xavier Munford on the baseline early in the second half, not to mention several other debatable foul calls throughout the day.
- Fordham stole the game at the free throw line with 26 of their 33 attempts at the stripe coming in the second half. Of those 26, 12 came from Branden Frazier, who hit eleven of them to contribute to a 20-point outing, the seventh time in which the junior from Brooklyn has reached that plateau this season.
- Fordham also received career-high point totals from Mandell Thomas (17 to go with seven rebounds and five assists) and Travion Leonard, who poured in 13 points to complement eight rebounds in the "Battle of the Rams."
- Finally, Dan Hurley did not disappoint those who came to see the first-year Rhode Island head coach put on a show in his return to New York after spending the previous two seasons restoring the program at Wagner College in Staten Island. The colorful Hurley can be controversial and sometimes even out of control, and he wore his emotions on his chest as the game went on. On multiple occasions in the second half after media timeouts or blown whistles, Hurley sprinted from his bench toward the Fordham sideline, attempting to provoke Fordham coach Tom Pecora. By his own admission, Hurley said he was more animated this year than last at Wagner, but quite honestly, Hurley's antics this afternoon made his previous episodes look as tame as notoriously placid Butler coach Brad Stevens. No one can deny Hurley the success he has accumulated through his decade in the coaching industry at Rhode Island, Wagner and St. Benedict's Prep; nor can they deny his rich lineage as the brother of Duke legend Bobby and son of Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley, but wins and losses only go so far in a world that judges a person for his character just as much as it does his talent.