Bryan Smith, Ryan Canty, Branden Frazier and Tom Pecora meet media after Fordham defeated George Mason in opening round of Atlantic 10 tournament. (Photo courtesy of Jaden Daly)
Fordham head coach Tom Pecora's opening statement:
"Well, you know, our focus for the game, our keys to the game; as they are for many, were controlling the backboards and protecting the paint, especially off the dribble and with post-ups for them, so being able to outrebound them plus-8 was huge for us, only having seven turnovers, you know, we got a lot of shot attempts up, as they did. I think we're very similar teams, when you look at the offensive rebound numbers, we had 24 offensive rebounds, they had 17, two teams playing really, really hard, and that's the way it should be in March. Look, I have tremendous respect for Paul, (Hewitt, George Mason's coach) he's a good friend, and that program. They're a very proud program, and that's a good win, because trust me: They're as good as any 11-win team in the country. They played a lot of close games in this conference and lost a lot of really close, tough basketball games, so we have great respect for them, but a career night for Ryan Canty; he's coming on, getting better and better, and for him to have 19 rebounds, we needed just about every one of them. Our foul shooting slipped on us, I think we were top in the league or second, top two in the league all year, so we missed a few down the stretch we needed to make and got us some separation. I'm very proud of them. I wrote on the board 'only courage can secure victory,' and I thought we were very courageous. We played without fear, and we continued to do the things we needed to do to win."
Bryan Smith and Branden Frazier (14 points each) on coming home and playing in Brooklyn:
Smith: "It was a great feeling because a lot of people that came to Fordham to watch me play came today, and I played a good game, so it was good watching them."
Frazier: "I would say it was just good to be here, I mean, I grew up down the block from here, a lot of my friends and family got to see me play, and I just think playing in Brooklyn was good for our team, you know, for our fans to come down, we heard a lot of people in the crowd rooting us on, so I feel like playing in Brooklyn helped us a lot, especially with this game today."
Frazier and Smith on their thoughts on George Mason's final possession:
Frazier: "Just miss it. He got a good look, too. I kind of did a three-second prayer that he would miss it."
Smith: "Just hope it don't go in."
Ryan Canty (19 rebounds) on interior positioning:
"I just try to crash the boards every time, you know? Every time I see the ball go up, I just basically run at the rim and see where the ball's hitting off the rim, and then go where the ball is, and just grab every one I can."
Pecora following up:
"I use a term with Ryan very often, we steal a lot of football terms because they're aggressive, and we always say 'just blow up the play,' you know? You may not make the tackle, but blow up the play, so when he gets to the rim, you see bodies flying, and he's a great rebounder."
Canty on his recent resurgence:
"The first time I remember, it clicked when we were at VCU. Something clicked in my head. Basically, early in the year and last year, I was fouling a lot, and now I'm controlling myself. I keep the same energy, protecting the boards the same way. If I can stay out of foul trouble, I'll play with that intensity all game, so that's basically a key to it."
Frazier and Smith on how much Fordham feeds off Canty:
Frazier: "Yeah, I think we feed off that, I mean, for Ryan, as you see on the court, he enjoys doing that. You see him jumping everywhere, he's a jumper, he likes jumping around all the time, so for him to go out there and get 19 rebounds, he enjoys doing that, and some people just enjoy scoring, he enjoys rebounding. That's what he likes to do, so I think we feed off his energy, and sometimes we just know (if) that ball goes up, Canty's going to get it. So, I think the team feeds off that, and he brings a lot of energy for us."
Smith: "He's like the heart and soul of the team, he's always pumped up. He gets the team and the crowd going, so that's a great thing."
Pecora on his first postseason win at Fordham:
"It's nice to be in the postseason, and you see what we've been through, you know? Every win is special, and I've learned to appreciate that. They came a little easier a few years back for me, and you know, right now, it was important for Fordham, you know? It's a big step for us, and we're right there in rebuilding this. We're so close! We're right there, I mean, one-possession game with GW at home, one-possession game with La Salle at home. These are good basketball teams, so we're right there, so for them to win this, I think it's another step in our growth process, and now we're going to prepare for Dayton. You know, I said this to them in practice on Monday, and you know, as coaches, we're always trying to motivate, and I said 'Well, we lost to GW by a possession. What do you think GW is thinking going into this tournament?' And they said, 'Well, they're thinking about winning it,' and I said 'exactly right.' We played them right down to the wire, why aren't we thinking about winning? So, then Tuesday, I gave them the Jostens book that every coach gets sent to pick out rings, I always keep it in the drawer, and I showed it to them Tuesday and I said 'alright, Frazier, you sit down with the guys afterwards and pick out rings, because we're going to win the tournament.' Now, if that comes true, someone can write a book, but you're just always looking to get them motivated, and for them to understand. Look, they're part of history tonight. They did something special. At halftime I said 'we're in Brooklyn. This is a home game. We're in Brooklyn, we're not in Virginia, you know? Let's go out and play.' And then we couldn't make a shot, we shot 25 percent, but I think it was a great effort game, and you can win a lot of games playing with great effort like that."
On free throw disparity between halves:
"I think they were fouling us a bunch near the end, and that got us the difference. Obviously, the offensive rebounds led to a lot of free throws. I thought there were a couple of possessions where I thought we could have had separation, and we took it to the rim soft, so during the timeout, I kind of talked to them about doing everything hard...take it to the rim hard, give respect to the officials, you'll go to the foul line, maybe a little more of that when I watch the tape, we'll see, but you know, if you can shoot more free throws than your opponent; and once again, we missed 11 free throws, that's crazy for us, and to have that many offensive rebounds, you're going to win a lot of games."
On team effort:
"I think the last few have been, it's really clicked. As they said, a lot of it has to do with Ryan Canty. You know, we lost him for six or seven games in the middle of the year, because he's like a big St. Bernard, you know? He's just bouncing around in practice, he's always laughing, a little kooky, but that's okay. You have 19 rebounds, I can live with kooky. He's got great bloodlines, both his parents played at Providence, his grandfather was a great player at Harvard, you know? He oozes potential, and it's finally coming around in his junior year. I'm excited he's a junior and not a senior."
On significance of tonight's win:
"I think it's, once again, for all of them, but the New York kids, especially Branden, who's a senior, Bryan Smith. They were pretty highly recruited kids, you know? Branden was going to come with me, (to Hofstra) and then when I came to Fordham, he came with me and showed great loyalty, so I've got a place in my heart for this kid for the rest of my life. He's special, and Bryan Smith could have gone to a lot of other places, you know? His dad's an alum, and he chose Fordham, and it took guts for these guys to choose Fordham, because we were really coming out of a rough spot. I have a wonderful appreciation for that, and I think it's special for the local kids, because they can say to people 'See, I told you we were going to get this going,' and maybe it's a step in the right direction, and for all of them. They've had a rough year, you know? We've lost a lot of close games, lost some games that, early in the year, we were up and gave away leads. We've practiced, in the last two weeks, as hard as we've ever practiced, and I said to my assistants 'you know, we haven't lost them,' and that's really important, because when you're 9-20, there's a lot of kids who are just going to go through the motions every day in practice, but they've really been practicing hard, and I'm very proud of their effort, and that speaks to their character and their substance, you know?"
On fouling while up three in the final seconds:
"You know, you're playing with fire there, and I've been converted, you know? You can lose the game fouling, and we almost did. It goes one way or the other, you know? But we practice it, and we practice faking and then fouling, because guys are going to shoot the ball, so you want to fake it the one time to see if they just throw up a crazy shot in hopes of getting fouled and getting three free throws, and we tried to do that in the backcourt. It might have been a little early, but you know what? It's a second or two here, I thought Bryan and Branden did a great job with press offense and getting the ball, and they're both very good free throw shooters, so I'm going to live with it. I think you've got to foul, because teams are just so good shooting, I mean (Bryon) Allen made that three up top and we were in our "33" defense where teams basically shoot about 17 percent from three against it, and he came down and just pulled it. Branden, for some reason, backed off him, but I'm going to keep fouling. I just hope I'm in that situation every game for the rest of the weekend."
On when he converted to fouling up three:
"During the season, you know? I did it once years ago against Drexel when I was at Hofstra, and they missed a shot like that, tipped it out, missed a three, tipped it out, missed a second three, and I said 'I'm never doing this again,' because we were only up two at the time, you know? I was like 'if I lost this game, I'd get blasted.' But watching it more, and everyone runs great stuff against the zone and all of that. At home, I might not do it, at Rose Hill, we have a huge advantage, I might not do it at home; but on the road, and if you're a team that you think you could win in overtime, there's a lot of things that go into it, but most of the time, we're going to foul."
Nuggets of Note:
- Tonight's win was the first postseason victory for Fordham since 2007, when the Rams defeated Richmond in the Atlantic 10 tournament by the final of 63-61, one of the few highlights of the Dereck Whittenburg era at Rose Hill, and it also erased an eight-game losing streak dating back to Fordham's last win, which came against Rhode Island on February 1st.
- Ryan Canty's 19 rebounds were just one off the tournament record of 20, set by Carlin Warley, who reached that plateau for St. Bonaventure in 1995.
- Four Rams ended the night in double figures, led by 14 points each from Branden Frazier and Bryan Smith, while Jon Severe; who came off the bench tonight, added 12 points, with Travion Leonard falling just one rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine boards.
- As he did through most of the Rams' first meeting with George Mason back in January, Tom Pecora played two forwards for most of the night, and the shakeup in personnel paid off, with Leonard's near-double-double and Ryan Canty's 19 rebounds. Ryan Rhoomes also added four points and just as many caroms, but was plagued by foul trouble through the second half.
- Finally, Fordham advances to face Dayton, a team who enters the Atlantic 10 tournament with major NCAA Tournament aspirations. Archie Miller's Flyers defeated the Rams in the only meeting between the two schools this season, an 80-68 encounter at Rose Hill on January 15th, and the winner of tomorrow's 2:30 p.m. tipoff advances to the quarterfinals to take on Saint Joseph's at the same time Friday afternoon.