Normally part of our "Nuggets of Note" in every Fordham recap, this gets separate billing tonight. Here are a handful of takeaways from the Rams' performance in the 109th Battle of the Bronx, a 60-53 loss to Manhattan that dropped Fordham under .500 on the year:
1) The offense has slowly declined in each of the Rams' five straight losses.
Following close losses to UT-Arlington and Sacred Heart at Rose Hill before more decisive setbacks against Harvard and St. John's, the Rams have had struggles putting the ball in the basket, deficiencies that happened to reveal themselves further as the game progressed against Manhattan's stifling defense. After a 9-of-15 start from the floor over the first 10:51, the Jaspers conceded just eight field goals the rest of the way, holding Fordham to just 21 percent from the field over the final 29:09. While Jeff Neubauer was satisfied with the defensive effort, and justifiably so, having nights where leading scorer Javontae Hawkins is rendered into a 3-for-12 performance and Joseph Chartouny has difficulty getting his own shots is going to be a major concern for the Rams moving forward.
2) Speaking of Chartouny, he had a second consecutive off night.
The sophomore point guard scored just five points, all of which came at the free throw line. While the reigning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year registered nine rebounds, his normally exemplary passing was a little off as well, tallying only two assists while shooting 0-for-8. Said Neubauer after Chartouny played his second game back following an elbow injury suffered in the loss to Sacred Heart: "If you look at the last four games, that's a big part of where our offense has gone. He's going to be a great player, but he certainly is struggling in these last couple since he's come back."
3) The Rams' ball handling had a significant lapse.
Unlike Thursday against St. John's, where Fordham was significantly and thoroughly outplayed, the Rams were in this game throughout and even had a chance to come back in the final minutes against a Jasper team that has had problems putting games away. Committing 18 turnovers against a pressure defense was not going to get it done, however. Neubauer heralded Manhattan's effort, saying they were the "tougher team for the second half of the second half," but there were many instances over the course of the night where Fordham failed to play within themselves and made costly, careless mistakes that ultimately mounted up in a losing effort.
4) A bright spot that may go unnoticed:
That would be the Rams outscoring Manhattan 22-10 in the paint, something that was admittedly challenging given the Jaspers' size against a smaller Fordham lineup. Making his second straight start, Prokop Slanina managed four points and six rebounds, but could have had a double-figure output had he not missed three point-blank shots under the basket. Will Tavares, whom Fordham fans are clamoring to see more of, picked up nine points off the bench to place second on the scoreboard behind Christian Sengfelder's 14.
5) Is it crisis time at Rose Hill?
The Rams should be able to pick up a win when they return home for Central Connecticut State on December 21, but a loss to Rutgers in next Sunday's Holiday Festival would extend the current losing streak to six. In a season where Fordham's non-conference schedule is remarkably soft, a potential 6-7 record heading into the Atlantic 10 opener against Duquesne on December 30 is a major underachievement. The losses of Mandell Thomas and Ryan Rhoomes have been more glaring than perhaps even Neubauer may have realized, which may be a partial explanation for the Tom Pecora-like record against one of the more favorable schedules in the nation. While it is still too early to be harsh on the second-year coach, one must not be too lenient either, and it is only a matter of time before last season's results become expectations as opposed to the moribund records in conference play that have been posted over the last several years.