Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fordham retooling with youth and experience, taking one game at a time

Now in her junior season, Lauren Holden has become one of Fordham's veteran leaders as Rams usher in youth movement while remaining competitive in Atlantic 10. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

BRONX, NY -- Entering the locker room at halftime, the first thing Lauren Holden did was go to the grease board.

Holden, Fordham's junior guard, simply wrote "0-0" on the board. It was a definitive reminder to the Rams that celebrating would have to wait. Granted, Stephanie Gaitley's club brought a commanding 34-14 lead over visiting Iona into the intermission, but the message was clear. Twenty minutes of basketball remained. Consider Holden's note as taken to heart, as the Rams went on to post a 78-48 victory over the Gaels to improve to 5-3.

“Lauren has really become a leader for us,” Gaitley said, “as has G’mrice Davis.” Davis, Fordham's senior forward, dominated with a game-high 26 points and 16 rebounds. Beyond Holden’s halftime inspiration and Davis’ sterling exploits, this was a total team effort that excited Gaitley, as the Rams assisted on 20 of 29 field goals, controlled the boards (44-27), and forced the Gaels into 15 turnovers.

“When you defend and shoot well, you should win by 10,” Gaitley said. “We had no let up today, and that was coming off a tough loss at Penn State.”

Fordham led Penn State for most of the game. They wilted in the stretch, coming home on the short end of a 65-60 decision. “We outshot and outrebounded them,” Gaitley said. “In the end, we didn’t win. Those last ten minutes, they just wore us down. We can’t get angered from the effort. “It’s a game we can grow from.”

With a roster including five freshmen, growth and maturation are key words on Rose Hill. It is difficult to pinpoint a marquee yearling as a standout talent. Instead, this is a group collectively learning and improving.

“Our young players are learning,” Gaitley said. “Each day, it is fun to see another one of them step up. Today it was nice to see Ralene (Kwiatkowski) give us some good minutes off the bench.”

Zara Jillings, a 5-foot-11 guard came up with eleven rebounds on this afternoon. Joanna King, a 6-3 post player out of Germany had been sick and still contributed 6 points in nine minutes. Guards Katie McLaughlin and Kendell Heremaia had the opportunity to get more playing time in this contest. Breanna Cavanaugh scored 14 points while handing out three assists, showing added value by occasionally running the point, allowing Holden to move to the two guard slot. “This was a game we were able to get minutes for everyone," Gaitley said.

The freshman orientation, though, goes far beyond games. It is a daily process of teaching. “We make it a point to talk with each of them as much as possible,” Gaitley said.

Five non-conference games prior to the Atlantic 10 opener against George Washington on New Year’s Eve remain. Highlighted are a trip to St. John’s on Tuesday and home date with UCLA on the 20th of December.

“Our non-conference schedule always challenges us and prepares for conference play,” Gaitley said. “We scheduled with the idea of having a few veterans we lost here with us. This is a young group, and the young kids are doing very well responding to the challenge." A summer trip to Italy and Spain helped, as the first-year players were able to learn the system and indoctrinate into the program.  

The Atlantic 10 will be competitive. Gaitley is not about to prognosticate the conference race. Her concern is Fordham’s development.

“Right now,” she said. “The kids have responded. Especially after a setback, they are quick to bounce back.”

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