Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fordham 76, George Mason 70: Quotes, Takeaways & Nuggets

Branden Frazier scored all 22 of his points in second half as Fordham picked up first Atlantic 10 win of season. (Photo courtesy of Ryan and Richard Restivo via Big Apple Buckets)

Fordham head coach Tom Pecora's opening statement:
"It was nice to make some shots, we shot 56 percent in the second half, and obviously, it's a different world. The most important stat is offensive field goal percentage, and it was good to see Branden (Frazier) get back on track after a rough day Saturday, Bryan Smith made a couple of big threes, had a couple of big shots. Jon Severe just continues to keep competing, I thought Chris Whitehead gave us great minutes, he was a good quarterback for us, and I liked the way that looked. Mandell Thomas came out of his shell a little bit, I want him to get more shots up than that...he was 2-for-2 from the floor, he made a big three. We have to depend on the three-pointer to score a little bit, and I keep telling these guys to have confidence in it and work harder to get them. I thought it was a gutsy win, I mean, we went down, we fought back, they went up, we fought back, we went by them and right to the bitter end, and then we executed very well, we made the free throws we needed to, we got the ball in the right people's hands, Branden, Jon, and it was a good team win. I ran those five in there just to shake things up a little bit, and they did, they played hard and when that first group came back in, they played with greater energy, so that was good."

On having flashbacks to his past battles with George Mason while coaching Hofstra:
"Oh, we used to beat them all the time at Hofstra! A little bit, much different without (Jim) Larranaga there, but they've got a lot of New York kids, you know? So those kids want to play, they want to put on a good show, but I think it speaks volumes for how good this league is. They're a storied program, so to speak, in the CAA, a prominent power, very good coach, and this league is unforgiving, you know? You've got two teams that are battling to try and get their first win in the conference, so I think it speaks volumes for how good this conference really is."

"I was kidding with somebody (that) with them and VCU coming with us, and with Old Dominion going (to) Conference USA, Hofstra's back in the America East, basically, with Northeastern and Delaware, Drexel, Towson and themselves, and there's only two Southern teams instead of that dominant...three Southern teams. So I think there's a transition period for them (George Mason) coming in, but that was a good college basketball game because we won."

On changes in execution after trailing by 10 early in the second half:
"Yeah, we started running some of our ball screen stuff from a different angle, got the ball in Branden's hands, which obviously; now you have a scoring threat with the ball, whether Jon's making shots or not, his reputation precedes him, so it opens the floor when you put it in certain spots on the floor...people won't leave him, you know? That was big for us, so I think that was it, and we just picked up the tempo a little bit defensively, and even though we weren't getting a whole lot of double-teams, the intensity was there, there was better ball pressure, we were making them try to do some things we didn't do. The thing we did a poor job (with) was at the end, with our halfcourt, we were supposed to be up on them and not let them get any looks at threes, and when they ran, our switches weren't clean and aggressive enough to get up and prevent those threes they made towards the end, but that was kind of it. We just changed a couple of things up offensively and opened the floor."

On what to expect against Chaz Williams against UMass on Sunday:
"Hey, look, you've got to control Chazzie. There's no secret to him, you know? It's a major chore. He's a little rat, and I watched the game last week, he wasn't supposed to play, he played, he had a bad ankle, and his game against Mason, he's just as competitive a player as I've ever coached, and he's a tough kid, he really is, and a great leader. That's really what makes this group special, so if you can, try to contain him and keep his body out of the lane. I mean, if he makes eight threes against us and we lose, I can sleep at night. We've got to keep him away from the rim, it's important, and then hope that he's not kicking to guys and drilling threes."

On hearing Richmond had defeated UMass earlier in the night:
"Did they? Well, Richmond's a good club, and we had Richmond here, a game we should have won, so I mean, we're so close, just so close. When we just get that veteran consistent effort every night, you know, we've got eleven games left in the league and then the tournament. We've just got to get a little bit better each year, each day rather."

Branden Frazier (22 points) on his second half performance:
"I just think in the first half, I was a little too anxious to score, I mean, coming off the game that we had against Saint Louis, it was just in my mind that I just gotta make a shot. I just gotta make a shot. I just think I was rushing it a little too much in the first half, and then in the second half, during the break, I just kind of calmed down, just taking it slow, just looking for my man. I knew I was going to get shots in the offense, and it came to me. I started knocking them down, which made me feel more confident as I was driving to the lane, and I was able to get my shot and get my teammates involved."

On changing his role while playing alongside Chris Whitehead:
"Anything for us to win, I mean, Chris is a good guy, he comes in and presses the ball on defense and gets into guys, and also controls the floor and shows good leadership when he's on the floor, so he was good."

Pecora on fighting back from a 10-point deficit:
"I think that's the toughness we need to become more consistent with, and the tough losses we've had this year are because we've gotten in the position to put teams away, and we haven't. I think we finished the game tonight, we did a pretty good job of even finishing the first half, with the exception of the flagrant foul, you know? We went into the half and we closed it out the way good teams do. So I think it's really a sign of toughness and competitiveness, they really wanted to step it up and find a way to win this game, and that's what we talked about beforehand, just find a way to win this basketball game, and the world changes when you're 1-5, or 1-4 in this league. There's a lot of teams with one win, I don't know how it played out tonight with Duquesne and some other people, but I mean, I know it's a cliche, but it's 'boom, get this one, then 'boom, just get the other one.' It's a grind, but that's what it's like, and this conference is better than it's ever been in my opinion. I mean, you've got nine teams in the top 100 in this league. I don't know if we've ever had that in the three years we've been here playing in this conference, so it makes this whole process that much more difficult, but it's a good win."

On his line change substitution in the first half:
"It was the lack of effort, and I just said 'I've seen enough, you know what?' If we put them in, I heard some guy behind me scream, 'What are you, crazy?' if you put them in and they go on a 10-0 run and you're down 20, the game's over, but I thought they competed, and you know what? I knew they would play hard. Khalid Robinson, he's been a walk-on for us, a senior, he's as tough as they come, you know? If the kid was 6-6 instead of 6-2, he'd be on the court a lot, but he led the way with them, he got them fired up and playing hard, and that was important. I think the way they got out to the big lead was a little bit different. We talked about a couple of things and changed a few things up."

On team chemistry:
"We've got great guys, and they're too nice. Honestly. You know, Jeff Van Gundy's got, I spoke to him at a clinic, there were a bunch of coaches there, and at the end, they do a Q&A, and the guy said 'tell me the difference between college and the pros,' and I said in college, Mike Krzyzewski's quote is 'I want to feel about my team the way my mother felt about me,' and in the NBA, Jeff Van Gundy's quote is 'I want to coach guys I wouldn't introduce to my sister.' I want to be somewhere in between, you know? I want to coach guys that I would think about introducing to my sister, but I'd threaten them in the process. So right now, we've got great guys, we've got wonderful guys, they like each other, we've got a couple of guys that might complain a little bit, they might make excuses at times. They're young men, (and) we try to get them to turn the corner there. I don't think there's no conflict around the team, the guys genuinely like being around each other, which says a lot when you're not winning, you know? When you're winning, hell, it's great to be around everybody, it's like having a pocket full of money. Now, it's when you're broke and you're trying to find a way to win, you just need a buck, and they've stuck together, so that's a good thing. We still practice hard, I watch the tape before practice every day, I look, and these guys are still grinding, they haven't given up, they're still trying to get better. In my opinion, that's chemistry."

Nuggets of Note:
- Fordham's win snapped a six-game losing streak that started on December 28th against Harvard, and kept the Rams undefeated against George Mason, who they played for the second time in school history. The victory was also the first for Tom Pecora, who earned a belated present after his birthday yesterday, against the Patriots since February 10, 2007, when his Hofstra team defeated Jim Larranaga 68-60. Prior to tonight, Pecora had gone 1,463 days since last coaching against George Mason, doing so in a 90-72 loss that was chronicled in our pregame preview last night.

- Branden Frazier scored all 22 of his points in the second half, while Jon Severe added 21 of his own to overcome a 21-point, 8-rebound effort from Mount Vernon High School product Sherrod Wright, whose George Mason team lost their sixth straight and twelfth of their last fifteen following a 4-0 start.

- As Pecora alluded to after the game, Fordham shot 56 percent (14-for-25) in the second half, and closed the game on a 40-24 run after George Mason took a 46-36 lead with 14:50 to go in regulation. The Patriots had started out 8-of-13 from the field, but ended the first half having missed eight of their next twelve attempts.

- Fordham's ball handling was stellar, with just eight turnovers on the night, a statistic the Rams will seek to maintain in hostile road environments during both of their next two games, road contests against UMass and VCU; who possess a pair of exceptional point guards in the aforementioned Chaz Williams and Briante Weber, respectively.

- Finally, given that tonight marked Pecora's first encounter with George Mason since he was at Hofstra; and with all the history surrounding 2006, when the Patriots were inexplicably selected for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth despite two losses to the Pride, it seemed fitting that a player with Hofstra ties would be the one to ultimately defeat Paul Hewitt's team. Branden Frazier, who of course committed to Hofstra before following Pecora to Fordham when he was hired in 2010, made the difference by scoring all of his 22 points after the intermission and truly taking the game over, refusing to lose in much the same way he willed the Rams past Princeton at the Barclays Center last season.

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