Fordham head coach Tom Pecora's opening statement:
"Obviously, we're very pleased. You know, we talked about La Salle being a 'toughness' game, you know, they could just beat you up, and they did it to us down there. They jumped on us early down there, we turned around and boom, we were down 14 and chasing the rest of the night, but I think they really; we, as a team, responded. The job that Christian (Sengfelder) and Ryan Rhoomes did, and Eric (Paschall) defending Jerrell Wright in the post; he's a beast, man, and we held him to 11 points and five rebounds. We game planned a little bit getting doubles on him, things like that, a few different ways, and the guards responded, and for Christian to get a double-double and Rhoomesie gets 13 rebounds, and then to watch Bryan Smith play so well at home, in his second-to-last game, you know, next Wednesday's going to be emotional. So I said to them, you know, 29 percent, that's the best defense we've played all year against an opponent, and we outrebounded them 47-33. That's how you show toughness. The bizarre thing is, we only shot two free throws. There weren't a lot of whistles in the game, really good crew, a big-time crew, and I'm fine with it, the way it turned out. So, I think we send a message when people see these scores, and they see us winning not only at home, but by double digits. We're obviously making great progress, and now we've got to find a way to go get one at UMass, and really shake things up a little bit here, so you know, the way they're playing now, the way that they're maturing; and a lot has to do with Bryan and the job he's done as a senior, the lone senior, you know? Ryan Canty helps out as much as he can on the bench and in practice and things like that, but he'll be back next year to help as a fifth-year senior, but Bryan's done a great job; and because of the job Bryan has done, because of the work habits of Christian, and of Eric, that's why they've developed, and I think that's been a difference maker for us as the year progressed."
On progress and Fordham's surge being better late than never:
"Oh, yeah, without a doubt. It's never too late, I mean, you know, I'm looking at this like we've got seven games left, maybe eight, right? If we get on a run in that tournament, so I mean, I don't think anyone in the league's looking forward to playing anyone in the league. You look at the scores, I mean, Saint Louis beat them (La Salle) Sunday, we get them today, I mean, Duquesne wins a big game over the weekend, you know? So, I just think it's going to be a really interesting Atlantic 10 tournament, especially if we could geet our little momentum going in the beginning of it, but our goal is to jump into that, you know, 8, 9, 10 spot, and the way we do that is by continuing to win our last three regular season games."
Bryan Smith (15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) on his performance:
"I mean, yeah, my teammates and my coaches, they always have confidence in me, they always tell me 'keep shooting,' even though, because they I know I can shoot the ball, and I just kept following, kept shooting."
Pecora following up:
"It's awesome. I'm showing my age...he made one in front of the bench that had a little stepback, he looked like Lloyd Free, the dude from my era who used to take that, jam you up with a little body and step back and drain it on you, so I knew he had his mojo going when he made that, and he's got that spot right in front of our bench, the corner that we ran a cut, and he had a great read on it, popped to an open area and got an open look and knocked it down, so it was good, and Christian had a big game without shooting threes, and you know, I was concerned that he was just becoming a three-point shooter on us, you know? But he did everything tonight, he really battled on the boards, and they're a big, physical basketball team. I mean, (Steve) Zack and Wright are two big, physical players, so I was pleased with that."
On Mandell Thomas' (career-high 10 assists) evolution at the point guard spot:
"Yeah, yeah, very much so, but at the end, he got a five-second call, you know? Little things like that, they're still little things, and I'm going to give him a hard time about it tomorrow, but yeah, I don't know the last time we had someone, I guess Branden Frazier might have done it a couple of times, get 10 assists and only two turnovers in a game, so, you know, that was outstanding."
On winning three straight at home for the first time since December 2013:
"Right, and those aren't A-10 games, so I mean, those are great wins back then, obviously wins we're very proud of, but when you can do it in this conference, in the seventh-ranked conference in the country, against these kind of opponents, it's very important, and I think it's impressive as to their grit, you know? They haven't quit a bit, man. Like I said, we had only two, maybe three, 'dud' practices all year, and today was practice No. 81. So, I mean, that goes to them, and that goes to their competitive nature. It goes to their spirit, it goes to the grit and toughness that they have, and their willingness to believe in themselves and in each other, and that's what this is all about."
On Jon Severe (15 points, 5 rebounds) and his resurgence:
"Yeah, he guarded tonight. I mean, he's getting up over the top of ball screens, he's doing a good job denying the ball to certain shooters, so he was, he played a complete game today, and that's very important to us. You know, he's instant offense coming off the bench, so I love him coming off as a sixth man right now, and you know, when he gets it going, we all know how dangerous he can be, and the opponent does, too, so he creates great space on the floor for everyone else, because they have to respect his ability to shoot the ball from deep."
On whether he sees improvement approaching the end of the regular season:
"Oh, very much so, very much so. And, you know, you can't control certain things, and obviously the conference schedule is one of them, so you just play it out the way it is, and they have confidence now. You can see that, both of these guys (Bryan Smith and Christian Sengfelder) and a lot of the other guys, and I don't think whether we're home or on the road, you know, we're going to be intimidated by anyone. We're going to go after people in whatever environment we go into, and you know, UMass is going to be a wild, wild setting, and then Bonnies (St. Bonaventure) the last weekend is going to be crazy, they sell out every time. I'm hoping next Wednesday we could sell this place out for him, (Smith) because he deserves it, you know? Bryan Smith had an opportunity to go to a lot of places, tonight's opponent was one of them, and a lot of other really good schools, and he chose to come here when it wasn't the popular thing to do, it was a hard thing to do, and his dad's an alum, and I'm so happy for him. I just said to him, 'man, your mom and dad, they've got to be so happy and proud of you,' and like I said, next Wednesday, I want to have a great crowd here because he deserves it, and it's going to be an emotional night for me, and for him."
On Fordham's backcourt rebounding effort:
"Yeah. Look, they've got to be complete players. We talk to the guards all the time. Our guards on the better teams we've coached over the years fill up box scores. Everything but turnovers, you know? That's the only thing, and they'll tell you, that's the only thing that drives me crazy, but there's no reason why guards can't get six, seven, eight rebounds a game. They're athletic, they're tough, they're in good shape, and it can be a difference maker."
Smith on his renewed confidence:
"I mean, definitely. It's always my teammates and my coaches, they always have confidence in me, always talk to me, I always talk to them. They always tell me to keep working on your shot and to stay confident, and that transpired to me. I want to win. That's the most important thing about me. I mean, of course, it's at the back of my mind, but in a game, I want to get the win first."
Pecora on playing well even though the regular season is drawing to a close:
"Hey, man, I'll take it. Winning's fun, and you know, it's fun for me, it's fun to walk in the locker room and see the smiles on their faces, to see how excited they are. That's what, that's what lights me up. My assistants, they deserve this, too. So winning is fun whenever you can do it. I think that, once again, when we looked at the league schedule, we thought it might be tough coming out of the gate; there were a couple that we could have had early, and we didn't get them due to, you know, just experience. I don't think that's going to be an issue as we move forward here now, but no. I mean, we're going to take these wins, and we're going to keep rolling, and you know, I'll be watching some UMass tonight, and start getting ourselves ready for them on Saturday, and they're a good club, especially at home."
Christian Sengfelder (14 points, 14 rebounds) on his efforts:
"I mean, I have to say to that, that every time I step foot on the basketball court, I just enjoy it, like, I just play, it fills me, I don't care. After that, it sucks, but while I'm playing, I just want to have fun out there. This is my passion, this is my life right now, and I'm playing in the States, playing in front of big crowds, big arenas, with big teams, against big teams. I'm just happy to be here. That's why I enjoy every second, and if I make a shot, I'm happy. If I miss one, I'm like, 'ah, damn, next one, I'll make it though.' If Bryan hits a shot, I'm happy for him. I just want to, like, win. That's why I'm trying to push everybody."
Sengfelder on his teammates' success:
"It's unbelievable, especially in the beginning, like close games when we were like, 'ah, man, I didn't have my best game, that's why we lost probably.' Now, we win games, everybody steps up his game, it's just amazing. Hard work pays off, I guess."
Pecora on Sengfelder's personality and Fordham feeding off it:
"Oh, very much so. He's fun, he's fun to be around. They both (Sengfelder and Smith) are. You know, that's the, and I've said this before. You look around the locker room, and the amazing thing about sport; and it's not just basketball, but that's the world I've lived in, it saved my life. But I mean, you look around the locker room, and you see the diversity and the number of kids from different backgrounds, and different walks of life and different family structures, all of these things, and sport is the thing that brings them together and unites them, and it's passion and enthusiasm like these guys and the other guys have that make it fun, man, you know? It's the best job in the world. I never get up in the morning and go 'damn, I gotta go to work today.'"
Nuggets of Note:
- The 48 points Fordham held La Salle to was the lowest point total the Rams have surrendered since their 79-48 victory over Furman at Rose Hill on December 4, 2013. The visiting Explorers were limited to an 18-for-61 (29.5 percent) effort from the field, and their rebounding efforts were so subpar to the point where both Christian Sengfelder and Ryan Rhoomes each outrebounded, on their own, La Salle's imposing pair of Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright, who only combined for 12 boards.
- With the win, this is the third consecutive season in which Fordham has won three straight home games, as La Salle joins Saint Louis and Saint Joseph's. However, unlike the 2012-13 and 2013-14 campaigns, the Rams have managed this winning streak in Atlantic 10 play, and will look for a fourth consecutive home win when Duquesne comes to Rose Hill a week from tonight.
- Since moving to the point guard position against La Salle on January 17, Mandell Thomas is averaging nearly 13 points and three assists per game. Of even greater significance is that tonight's 10-assist, two-turnover performance was the junior's best effort on his home floor as the Rams' floor general, and first game in which he had a positive assist to turnover ratio at Rose Hill since Fordham hosted Dayton on January 10.
- While improbable on paper, Fordham still has a chance to escape the bottom four of the Atlantic 10 standings, which would preclude the Rams from either of the two play-in games on Wednesday, March 11 at Barclays Center. At 4-11 on the season, Fordham is currently in the No. 12 spot, one game behind Duquesne for the No. 11 seed, and two games behind Saint Joseph's; with whom the Rams split their season series, for the tenth position.
- Finally, one could make the case that this was, arguably, the most complete and impressive game Fordham has played all season. The Saint Louis game might get more attention since the Rams scored 83 points, but tonight's score was much closer than the game let on, as La Salle looked disjointed and uncoordinated enough to suggest that the rebuilding job Dr. John Giannini is still in the midst of just two years removed from a Sweet 16 appearance remains a work in progress, as is a Fordham team that, at least for now, is proving the Tom Pecora naysayers wrong.