Tom Pecora can enjoy second Atlantic 10 win of season after Fordham held off Rhode Island in 85-79 victory. (Photo courtesy of College Chalktalk)
Fordham head coach Tom Pecora's opening statement:
"Obviously, a good A-10 battle, two teams trying to find their way and build something in this conference, build programs. Danny (Hurley) is doing a good job, he's got great young players. When we looked at both rosters, going through scouting reports, my assistants give me the folder, the dossier on them as I'm starting to watch all their games, and I just looked down and we're just so similar. There's no veterans, or very few, you know? They've got (Xavier) Munford, we've got (Branden) Fraz,(ier) and I think that was a big battle tonight, and Fraz wins out having a huge game. I was kidding with him, February 1st, it's the best February game he's had, so I expect him to build off of this one. We outrebounded them in the second half. At halftime, I told them 'guys, the reason they're in this game is because of the offensive rebounds.' I think they might have had 11 offensive rebounds, 8 or 11 at halftime. In the second half, we were able to keep them off the glass a little bit better, and offensively, we got things going; we drove the ball to the basket, we made the plays we needed to make, and we've got to shoot free throws better. We're a better free throw shooting team than this, but one thing we've been good at is closing games out when it's a tight game in the last few minutes, because of Branden, because of Jon, (Severe) because of Bryan Smith, we have guys in the game who can make free throws and free themselves, and once again, that's the advantage of playing with four guards, so that's been good for us. We have a bye this week, we'll give them a few days off. I'm hitting the recruiting trail early tomorrow morning, as my assistants are, and we'll recharge our batteries and get ready for the final run in A-10 play."
On Mandell Thomas (18 points, 7 rebounds) and finding his swagger:
"Once again, a big second half for him, he had one rebound, he had six in the second half. That's what he's capable of doing, I think at times he doesn't realize he's capable, and our best players; we always encourage guys, fill up the box score. Other than turnovers, we want you to be doing everything on the basketball court, be a player, and Frazier and him both stepped up in the second half rebounding the basketball. He drove the ball, made some good plays that way, made his free throws, and he only had one turnover. Only 11 turnovers again, so I'm very happy about that statistic for us. That's a good stat, but yeah, Mandell's a big part of this, you know? Branden, Mandell, Bryan Smith even though he didn't drill them tonight, you know, he's 3-of-8, 1-of-5 from three, but he made some big plays for us and made some good decisions with the basketball, and that's what you need your upperclassmen to do."
On giving Frazier the ball in the final minutes:
"Without a doubt. He's our senior, he's our leader, he's our best free throw shooter, so I want the ball in his hands; and if they double it, I know he's not just going to make a game-winning shot, he'll make a game-winning play, and that's what veterans do for your team. I'm really proud of him with this effort, because it was a big time effort for him."
On offensive rebounding, particularly from Ryan Rhoomes:
"Yeah, that's Ryan's world. I kid around with him, I tell him 'you're playing for a guard. I tell the big guys I'm going to throw you passes, they've got to hit the rim first, so get up there and rebound the basketball.' He can really be a force in a sense by being Rodman-like, because he can just get to the weak side and rebound misses, and then power the ball back to the rim and have a huge impact on the game, and he's become a better free throw shooter. He clanked two, I think there, when we needed them from him, but he's a better free throw shooter and he's doing all the things we need him to do. He needs to just be a force and a high-energy guy around the basket, but those were huge plays, and they were back-breaking plays, and that's what they did to us in the first half with those offensive rebounds, so by us getting offensive rebounds in the second half, that made a difference."
On Fordham shooting 46 percent from the field:
"I mean, look, Mandell shoots 4-of-5 from three. We've had a lot of nights where we have not shot the ball well from three, and we do in practice. Branden, Mandell, Jon, Bryan, so we have four guys on the floor a good portion of the time who can shoot the ball from three, so I think that was a big difference, and the dribble penetration. Branden's getting better and better at coming off that diagonal flat screen we run, and making good decisions, not only making good shots."
Branden Frazier on closing out home games:
"It feels good. It always sucks to lose at home, especially in a close game. Those are games we're supposed to pull out, especially games like Richmond, so it was good that the guys stepped up today for this Rhode Island win, and also, it felt good to be at home coming from VCU and UMass and things like that, so for us to get a win here and build our confidence up more, it definitely was great."
Frazier on his teammates step up:
"It's good because I know what they're capable of. They're capable of doing that every night. Of course Jon, everyone knows him as a scorer, he's going to have some tough days and Mandell's going to have some tough days too. Those numbers that they had tonight is what they do, what they could do on a daily basis, and I hope that next game, and to finish out the season, they could do that every game."
Pecora following up:
"You know, we've searched all year for that third and fourth scorer some nights, and that's been tough, but when you look and you get four guys in double figures, I think that's the difference maker tonight."
Nuggets of Note:
- Branden Frazier's 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with seven assists, were a game high for Fordham, who saw Mandell Thomas follow up his 25-point outing against VCU with 18 more tonight as the Rams defeated Rhode Island at Rose Hill Gym for the third consecutive year. In addition, Jon Severe added 16 points, while Bryan Smith had 10.
- Of the three consecutive home victories against Rhode Island, tonight's 85-79 final was the largest margin of victory among the trio. All three games, dating back to January 18, 2012; when Alberto Estwick's three-pointer from the left corner in the final minute gave Fordham a 66-64 victory, have been decided by a grand total of just 11 points, including last year's 66-63 win on January 26, 2013 after a three in the final minute from Bryan Smith.
- Rhode Island had five players in double figures tonight, led by freshman guard E.C. Matthews' 20 points. Leading scorer Xavier Munford chipped in with 16, with Gilvydas Biruta accounting for 14, Jarelle Reischel pouring in 13 off the bench, and Curtis High School product Hassan Martin rounding off a solid effort with 10 points to go with nine rebounds and five blocked shots. Despite their 11-11 record, Dan Hurley's Rams have a very promising future ahead of them, and all it takes for a run to start is a breakthrough, which looks closer now after tonight than it may have earlier in the season for the Ocean Staters.
- Finally, Fordham gets a week off before their next contest against Mike Lonergan and the surprising George Washington Colonials, who are still squarely in the at-large conversation for an NCAA Tournament bid. The Rams follow that up with a crucial home game against St. Bonaventure and a road trip to Richmond, and all three are must-win games if Fordham desires to stay away from the opening round play-in game of next month's Atlantic 10 Tournament.