That all came to mind with the Fordham women. Earning their WNIT bid (a third post season in as many years) the Rams were matched against Central Connecticut State. The game was at home in the cozy confines of Rose Hill Gymnasium (critics say antiquated, yours truly prefers historical and quaint).
The problem with this matchup is Fordham defeated the Blue Devils 72-36 on their home floor in December. Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley had to diffuse any complacency, reminding her club this is a team that wasn’t at full strength when they played in December. A team improving as the campaign wore on. And with everyone back.
CCSU mentor Beryl Piper was playing with ‘house money’. A Northeast Conference team on the road against an Atlantic Ten opponent. Everything to gain, nothing to lose.
From the outset the visitors played loose, hitting an assortment of shots, building a double-digit lead. Fordham responded in a manner teams, with tournament experience and worthy of advancing, must do. Rather than panic, they realized there was ample time. They gradually chipped away, played their game and were positioned to close the deal as the proverbial crunch time arrived. In the clutch, Tiffany Ruffin, an 18-point scorer on the night, came up with several huge baskets. It went to the final possession, and Fordham emerged a 70-67 victor.
Next up for the Rams, a second round date at St. John’s. On this night, they could enjoy the hard fought win. The epitome of ‘survive and advance’.
CCSU coach Beryl Piper studies the action:
On the far right, CCSU assistant coach Jason Marshall offers encouragement from the bench:
Amanda Harrington of CCSU, who tied Tiffany Ruffin for game-high scoring honors with 18 points, defending Fordham's Samantha Clark:
Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley in deep thought:
The T-shirt toss. Yours truly came up empty, again:
The intensity of tournament action, as shown by Fordham's Emily Tapio:
Fordham huddles after the game, as the victory is theirs: