Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tavares keys wire-to-wire Fordham victory in Battle of the Bronx

Will Tavares led all scorers with 19 points and contributed five steals to Fordham's school record 17 thefts as Rams defeated Manhattan for second Battle of the Bronx win in three years. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

BRONX, NY -- Manhattan claimed victory in the Battle of the Bronx last season by doing what it does best, locking down defensively and holding Fordham to just eight field goals over the game's final 29 minutes last December.

Nearly a year later, the results in the intra-borough rivalry have become the opposite, but the method of victory remained the same.

Setting the tone for a defensive-minded clash in Sunday's matinee, Fordham created chaos when the ball was not in their hands, forcing 25 turnovers and setting a school record with 17 steals, leading from the start in a 70-57 triumph over Manhattan in the 110th meeting between the two schools and sending the Jaspers to their fourth straight loss.

"Our value for the ball has been a lot better this year than it was last," head coach Jeff Neubauer remarked as the Rams (2-3) returned from two games in Jamaica to an effort where Will Tavares and Joseph Chartouny each recorded five steals, just as many as Manhattan amassed as a team. The defensive ball-hawking contributed to a transition game that outscored the Jaspers 16-4 in fast break points, and led to 23 assists on 30 field goals on an afternoon where each Fordham player to take the floor picked up at least one helper.

"It tells a lot about our guys," Neubauer said of the effort on both sides of the floor, particularly on defense, where 13 of the Rams' thefts came in the first half. "We do guard the ball, (and) we work on it. It's something that's very important to our program. We play with a lot of effort and we're going to get better and better, but our defense, through all five games we've played, really has been pretty consistent."

Fordham jumped out to an 11-4 advantage to begin the game, feasting on a Manhattan team that was unable to hold on to the basketball in the opening minutes, already registering eight turnovers by the 12-minute media timeout and resurrecting the struggles of last year's game at West Virginia, where the Mountaineers turned the Jaspers over 40 times. A pair of threes by Rich Williams, who led the visitors with 12 points, pulled Manhattan (2-4) within one, but the Rams restored control with a 10-3 run shortly thereafter en route to a 31-23 halftime lead.

The Jaspers would get no closer than within eight points for the remainder of the day, their inconsistency and inability to stop Fordham in the paint leading to their downfall. Trailing 43-35 with 14:43 left to play in regulation, it appeared that Manhattan was on the verge of going on a run to get back in the game, but the Rams put the brakes on any potential rally with a 15-4 run that was capped by a Tavares scoop layup that put Fordham ahead 58-39, the largest lead of the contest. 

A 13-2 spurt by the Jaspers got the margin back to eight points after Calvin Crawford's layup with 5:04 on the clock, but Fordham shut the door with ten unanswered points over the next three minutes, beginning with a Chartouny layup on the ensuing possession following the Crawford basket and ending with a Tavares free throw shortly after Ivan Raut's triple in the right corner served as the official dagger for a team that showed potential in winning their first two games of the season, but has since regressed enough to where its head coach highlighted a primary concern as Manhattan prepares to travel overseas for the Belfast Classic.

"Just being consistent, coming out with a defensive mindset every night," Steve Masiello assessed when prompted to address the issues plaguing his team in the past eight days. "I think we played good basketball in Florida two of the three nights (in the Gulf Coast Showcase). The scoreboard didn't show it, we just came up a little bit short."

"Give Fordham credit. Jeff had his team more prepared than I did. We didn't come out ready to play, and that's on me."

In addition to Williams and Crawford, whose 11 points and 10 rebounds gave the senior forward his second double-double of the season, Zane Waterman and Tom Capuano posted 11 points apiece to give the Jaspers four players in double figures. Fordham had four go for 10 or more points as well, with Tavares' 19 pacing all scorers. Perris Hicks added 15 on a perfect 6-for-6 effort from the floor, with Raut going for 14 and Jesse Bunting tying a career-high with 12 points in his first start of the year for a team that admittedly needed a pick-me-up in its return to the United States.

"This was a really gutty performance by our team," said Neubauer. "Will said this to me in the locker room after the game -- he said we needed that one, and he's right. Our team is a group that simply needed a win to just feel better about how we're approaching the game and how we're playing. This one will give us confidence."

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