Fordham Basketball: The Young Rams Are Put to the Test, and They Respond

Fordham won its second game in a row Wednesday night, a 68-58 overtime victory over Monmouth in front of a sparse crowd of 1,130 at the Rose Hill Gym.

A three-pointer from Monmouth’s Collin Stewart as time expired in regulation tied the game, 52-52, and forced the extra session.

But after the Hawks scored first, Fordham responded, outscoring them 16-4 the rest of the way to improve to 3-4 on the young season.

“It’s a good win,” Fordham head coach Tom Pecora said when he met with the media following the game. “There weren’t many people in this building who thought we were going to win in overtime because all the momentum was going their way. I think we showed a lot of grit and toughness in continuing to compete and make the plays we needed to make.”

The win is the most important story, but who can forget the drama in how it all played out?

After Monmouth scored the first basket of the game, the Rams responded with an 11-0 run. They put together a solid first half—their best 20 minutes of basketball of the season—and led 31-22 at the break.

In the second half, the Hawks made one run after another. Fordham led by nine, 50-41, with four minutes, 15 seconds to go. But the Hawks would go on an 8-2 run before the unthinkable happened with Monmouth down by three.

Originally, there were 0.9 seconds on the clock when officials gave a timeout to Monmouth though it was unclear who actually called for time. After a conference, 2.5 seconds were put back on the clock, setting up a dramatic end to regulation.

Fordham’s philosophy, shared by coaches throughout the country, is to foul to prevent the opponent from getting off a three-pointer that could tie the game. Off the inbounds pass, Christian Sengfelder was unable to foul Stewart, who slipped past him, took a couple of dribbles and connected on the game-tying shot from beyond the arc.

“Crazy last few seconds,” Pecora said. [Christian] doesn’t foul hard enough. The good thing out of that is he’ll never make that mistake again.”

In overtime, Monmouth scored first before a three-pointer by Eric Paschall got the Rams going. Fordham was 9-of-11 from the free-throw line in the extra session, a significant development after it shot 40 percent from the line in the first half and 50 percent from the line in the second half. Down the stretch, it struggled at the line, with Antwoine Anderson missing three key free throws late.

Pecora said that practice doesn’t end until the Rams shoot 80 percent from the line. They shot 59.3 percent overall from the charity stripe Wednesday night.

“We shot 60 [percent] today [from the free-throw line]. That was a difference-maker,” Pecora said.

“When you’re a young team, you’re trying to teach them how to smell blood and put teams away. We’re still working on that.”

Sengfelder finished with a team-high 21 points. He added 11 rebounds, five on the offensive end. He’ll remember the play he didn’t make at the end of regulation and a couple other mistakes he pointed out after the game, but overall, he had a solid game. Not bad for a freshman who admitted that he was going through what all freshmen in the country go through this early in their college careers.

“I had a pretty good game, but in the end, keeping my composure was tough,” Sengfelder admitted. “Even though I had a good game on the stat sheet, I almost lost it. It was tough to stay composed, especially when the game was on the line. I fought back in overtime.

“I have to get used to it. I need to adjust a little bit more.”

Monmouth is by no means a pushover. The Hawks entered the game with a 4-4 record, coming off two straight wins against MAAC opponents—Marist and Iona. Their losses came against West Virginia, Towson, Maryland and SMU.

Meanwhile, the Rams hadn’t played since their win nine days ago over Siena. That win was big, as it came on the heels of two horrible home losses—first to UMass Lowell then six days later to Maryland Eastern Shore. 

None of Fordham’s games this year will be easy, but the next two present some intriguing challenges. On Sunday, Fordham will play St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm are hot. Last Saturday, they beat Syracuse, 69-57, at the Carrier Dome, a win that earned them the No. 24 ranking in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. Last night, St. John’s beat Fairleigh Dickinson, 74-52, to improve to 7-1 on the year.

Last December, the Red Storm crushed Fordham, 104-58. This St. John’s team is better than the one the Rams saw last year.

Eight days after that one, Fordham will take on Manhattan at the Barclays Center. The Jaspers are 2-5, but that, too, is a rivalry game—one Manhattan will definitely want to get after the Rams beat them on their home turf a year ago.

What a difference a couple of weeks can make. Before the Siena game, Fordham was sinking. Now, the Rams are swimming.

“I’m excited about this group,” Pecora said. “It’s a good blend of veterans and young guys.”


Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. A full archive of his articles can be found hereFollow him on Twitter: @CFCostello

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Indiana Pacers: Where do they stand moving forward?

The Indiana Pacers entered the 2014-15 NBA season in a situation that was dramatically different than what would have been expected just a few months before.
After losing guard Lance Stephenson to free agency, and wingman Paul George to a horrific season-ending injury, the Pacers suffered a string of debilitating injuries. George Hill has missed significant time with a knee contusion; David West missed the Pacers’ first fifteen regular season games with an ankle sprain; C.J. Miles was unavailable for a time with migraine headaches; Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Watson were absent for several games with foot injuries; and Roy Hibbert has missed recent contests with an ankle sprain. Needless to say, the Pacers were not expected to win many games, if any, to this point.
But the Frank Vogel-led Indiana Pacers didn’t let that get to them.
After starting the season with a dismal 1-6 record, the Pacers have since won six of the last ten, including road wins at Chicago (11-6), Miami (9-7), and Dallas (13-5). Over the c

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Cavs have pinpointed the problem, but can they fix it?

Is the recipe for victory, once reduced to its most integral grail ingredients, merely toughness and discipline? Several members of the Cleveland Cavaliers appear to feel so as they welcome the Washington Wizards into Quicken Loans Arena just five days after being soundly beaten in Washington, 91-78.
“If you look at our season so far, we have had high-turnover games and lost, and high-assist, low-turnover games that we have won,” said LeBron James during Wednesday morning’s shootaround. “That’s what it comes down to.”
This past Friday evening, in front of a nationally televised crowd, James and the Cavaliers were beaten in all facets of the game. The Wizards were quicker, moved the ball better and played tougher, more physical defense. The loss was the third in a row at the time, and was compounded by a loss the following night against the Toronto Raptors.
On Monday, the Cavs got things back in track in a dominating win over the Orlando Magic, but the game was hardly a litmus test for the otherwis

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Los Angeles Lakers breaking news: They stink

The Los Angeles Lakers’ first ten games have left them with a record of 1-9. This is not what the team envisioned when over the summer they added Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and promising rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. At that time, it appeared the team would be solid and much improved from the disasters of last season. Ten games in, that is not the case as the team has not only had the worst start in franchise history, but is rated as one of the worst defensive teams of all time.
The team’s recent loss to the Warriors sums up the season for the Lakers. The team lost 136-115 despite 44 points from Kobe Bryant. The Lakers allowed the Warriors to shoot nearly 54 percent overall along with 50 percent from three. Even worse, the Lakers were held to under 40 percent shooting with an atrocious 18.8 percent from three. Sadly, these two stats are quite common for the Lakers. They continuously struggle on defense and have really struggled to make three pointers.
So far, this season has been

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Kenneth Faried Corrects Fan Who Mistakenly Believes They Saw Him with Meme

At 6’8” and 228 pounds, Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried is quite noticeable when out in public, but apparently other people get mistaken for him from time to time.

One person went on Twitter to claim he had seen Faried at his school’s gym, but the 24-year-old baller wanted to set the record straight, creating his own meme to clear up any confusion.


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Joe Johnson Calls Nets ‘Selfish,’ Says Teammates Only ‘Pass When They Have To’

Joe Johnson isn’t satisfied with his team’s efforts so far this season.
The Brooklyn Nets are 4-2, but their inability to move the ball efficiently is a cause for concern, according to the 13-year veteran shooting guard.
“I just think guys kind of exhaust their options and then when there’s nothing else for them, then they’ll pass it when they have to,” Johnson told reporters, via the New York Post. “For the most part, we’ve been very selfish. Four and two, I mean, it’s pretty good, but I wouldn’t say it’s where we want to be right now against teams that aren’t playoff teams.”
Johnson, usually soft-spoken, mentioned he wouldn’t say anything if he didn’t believe it was a major issue.
“I don’t really say much,” he said. “If I’m speaking on something or saying something, then obviously it has to be something. So I’m not just talking for my health. I’m doing it or trying to do it for the betterment of the team.
“If I looked down the roster and saw that we didn’t ha

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San Antonio Spurs Show They Can Still Set the Standard and Tuesday NBA Takeaways

In the midst of a 2-3 start, the San Antonio Spurs appeared to be enveloped by a post-title malaise. 

But as the NBA has learned throughout the course of Gregg Popovich’s tenure as Spurs head coach, this isn’t a team that often falls victim to lethargy. 

Following an 89-85 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, the San Antonio Spurs (4-3) capped off the second night of a back-to-back by vanquishing the Golden State Warriors (5-2), 113-100. 

As Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears noted following the win, the Spurs’ ability to knock off two perceived Western Conference title contenders functions as a stern reminder that the defending champs continue to set the Association’s gold standard: 

According to ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr reflected on San Antonio’s remarkable consistency by providing a bit of mind-blowing perspective: 

Although Golden State shot 54.3 percent from the field, San Antonio continually capitalized on the Warriors’ miscues, generating 21 points off of 20 turnovers.

Perhaps more important was the Spurs’ ability to limit the Warriors’ potency from beyond the arc. As a team, Golden State shot 35 percent (7-of-20) from three while Stephen Curry missed all seven of his long-range attempts. 

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Tuesday marked the first time in 75 games that Curry failed to convert at least one three-point shot: 

In typical San Antonio fashion, a balanced, collective effort propelled the Spurs to their fourth win of the season. 

While six Warriors players logged at least 20 minutes, the Spurs trotted out eight contributors who met that benchmark as five San Antonio scorers finished in double figures. 

Tony Parker led the way with 28 points (11-of-17 shooting) and seven assists while Kawhi Leonard chipped in 19 points (7-of-11 shooting) and six rebounds. 

Tim Duncan also recorded his fifth double-double in six games by compiling 12 points and 13 rebounds. According to NBA TV, Duncan also became the 11th player in league history to pull down 14,000 rebounds: 

The Spurs’ bench was remarkable, as well, outscoring Golden State’s second unit, 40-20, thanks in part to 17 points from Manu Ginobili. 

With such a reaffirming, well-rounded performance, the Spurs sent a message: Not only is the Western Conference their domain to reign over until further notice, but even the most respected challengers will need to make tremendous strides before they’re capable of toppling a dynasty. 

As Parker told reporters, according to the San Antonio Express-News’ Jeff McDonald, the Spurs are officially ready to roll:

And that’s bad news for the rest of the Western Conference.  

Having exorcised their apathetic demons, the Spurs will now be treated to a three-game stretch against the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers that tips off Friday at 10 p.m. ET. 


Around the Association

Kobe Makes History as Lakers Fall to Grizzlies 

Kobe Bryant became the NBA’s all-time leader in missed field goals as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Memphis Grizzlies, 107-102, according to’s Baxter Holmes: 

But as Holmes noted, context is important. By examining the company Bryant keeps, it’s pretty clear this isn’t an infamous record that can taint his legacy: 

Furthermore, Kobe didn’t seem to think much of the record-setting performance, according to Holmes: 

Bryant finished with a game-high 28 points on 10-of-26 shooting while six Grizzlies players finished in double figures. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were held in check throughout, managing eight and 11 points, respectively, while Mike Conley led the way with 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting. 


Dirk Passes Hakeem in Mavericks Win

Dirk Nowitzki surpassed Hakeem Olajuwon and became the highest-scoring international player in NBA history by dropping 23 points in the Dallas Mavericks‘ 106-98 win against the Sacramento Kings. 

Nowitzki also moved into ninth place on the league’s all-time scoring list by passing Olajuwon, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Ben Golliver: 

As NBA TV’s Tas Melas noted, Nowitzki is likely to vault past a couple other legends before the season ends: 

Sacramento has now lost back-to-back games after ripping off five-straight wins. 


Lillard, Aldridge Carry Portland in Thriller

The Portland Trail Blazers secured a 102-100 win against the Charlotte Hornets despite trailing by as many as 23 points after Gary Neal’s game-tying field-goal attempt at the buzzer was waved off.  

Here’s how close Neal was to sending the game to overtime, according to Sporting News’ Dane Carbaugh:  

For just the second time this season, Damian Lillard shot better than 50 percent from the field, finishing with a game-high 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting (5-of-8 from three) to go with seven assists and two steals. LaMarcus Aldridge added 25 points (10-of-21 shooting), 14 rebounds and three assists.

Lance Stephenson totaled 14 points and 14 rebounds while Al Jefferson led all Charlotte scorers with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting in the loss.   


Reggie Jackson’s Career-High Can’t Buoy Thunder

Reggie Jackson scored a career-high 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting, but the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s offense floundered in an 85-78 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. As a team, the Thunder shot 33.3 percent from the field and 30 percent from deep. 

The Bucks (4-4), led by 19 bench points from O.J. Mayo, improved to .500 after winning back-to-back contests for the first time in more than 100 games, according to Fox Sports Wisconsin (via Sean Grande on Twitter): 

According to, the Bucks rank second behind only the Houston Rockets in defensive efficiency through eight games, surrendering 94.2 points per 100 possessions. 

Oklahoma City (2-6) has now lost four of its last five games dating back to Nov. 3.  


Toronto Improves to 7-1

The Toronto Raptors mounted a furious fourth-quarter comeback, outscoring the Orlando Magic, 32-17, in the final frame to capture a fifth straight win. 

Kyle Lowry was tops on the Raptors with 19 points and seven dimes, but Dwane Casey’s bench really shone in the win. Lou Williams tallied 14 points (5-of-8 shooting) in 16 minutes, while James Johnson pulled down 10 rebounds in 22 minutes off the pine.  

As CBS Sports’ James Herbert reported, Johnson’s teammates appreciate his intensity: 

Evan Fournier scored a team-high 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting (4-of-7 from three) for Orlando, while Tobias Harris posted a monster line highlighted by 23 points (8-of-16 shooting), 13 rebounds and five assists. 


Quote of the Night

The Spurs may have captured their second impressive win in as many nights, but Popovich isn’t basking in the glow of San Antonio’s renewed success: 

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Is Damian Lillard’s Defense a Problem for Blazers, or Something They Can Ignore?

Damian Lillard‘s defense has been a topic for the wrong reasons since joining the Portland Trail Blazers. Coming from a small school, people recognized his defensive deficiencies would be his Achilles heel in the NBA. 

In 2014-15, it’s still a problem. 

The good news for fans is that you’ve heard what you want to hear early in the new year. Three-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge had endearing things to say about the youngster after Game 1, via The Oregonian‘s Jason Quick:

“He’s worked on it all preseason,” LaMarcus Aldridge said. “He has showed people that he is definitely trying to be better defensively, and he’s given better effort. I think everybody is seeing that the effort is there. It’s just different when you go from being a scorer to learning how to do both. It just takes time. But he has always been an overly competitive guy who wants to do well on both ends.”

Even Lillard himself recognized the challenge. ”It’s a huge deal, because it’s our next step,” Lillard said.

“Being a good defensive team is our next step, and I’m the point guard, and I most likely will have the biggest challenge on my hands every night. I’m not going to shy away from it.”

All sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, the season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder (after which the two aforementioned quotes took place) said otherwise.

With OKC in town, Quick described:

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook had 38 points and six assists and was the most dominant player on the court. He posted Lillard. He duped him backdoor for a layin. And he shot over him. Along the way, he put the Blazers’ rising star in foul trouble.

The season is still in its infancy, but even a small sample size can be telling. Before Tuesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lillard had given up an average of 25.3 points to opposing floor generals (although he held fellow star Kyrie Irving to just nine points on 3-of-17 shooting in Game 4).

The question here becomes: Should the Blazers be worried, or can they look past this glaring concern?

The easy answer is it’s something in between. Let’s start with the detractors.

The popular sentiment states Lillard must improve defensively. Just ask someone who knows a thing or two about defense. 

“He can be like Patrick Beverley [of the Houston Rockets] if he wants to, but that’s a mindset,” former point guard Gary Payton told Chris Haynes, then of (now with Payton continued:

I think Damian has to be willing and ready to play that type of way. Right now, he’s scoring so easily and he’s so good at the offensive end, he doesn’t have to think about defense. He doesn’t have to think about it because he knows he can outscore somebody.

Then again, Payton makes a point in Lillard‘s favor whether he intended to or not. For Lillard supporters, the former Weber State product is an elite player despite defensive struggles.

According to, Lillard‘s Defensive Win Shares in 2013-14 was just 1.8 compared to his Offensive Win Shares of 7.8. That equates to a total Win Shares of 9.6, which compared to Beverley’s 4.2 is downright dominant.

Taking it one step further: Look at Westbrook from last season. Although injured part of the year, OKC‘s star guard posted a total Win Shares of 5.2, per—significantly less than Lillard‘s mark. 

Falling in the middle of the two arguments, the crux of the matter is Portland needs a better defensive identity to reach elite status. Luckily for Rip City, it’s gotten that early in the year, holding opponents to 92.3 points per game compared to 97.8 scored.

Although people would love for Lillard to be Chris Paul, he’s more Derrick Rose with his athleticism and Chauncey Billups with his clutch, long-range shooting. Does Lillard need to improve defensively? Yes. Or at least, it would be ideal for the Trail Blazers’ chances moving forward. 

But at 24 years old, we can assume Lillard is never going to be Paul on defense. He doesn‘t need to be an elite defender to be an elite point guard; he just needs to be adequate.

Allowing Wesley Matthews to be a go-to defender and Robin Lopez to be a last resort will be enough. Placing Lillard on the less-dangerous guard each game will allow Matthews to do his damage defensively.

More importantly, it will allow Liilard to remain fresh for late-game offensive production.

It may not be the popular opinion, but getting Lillard to par defensively—not elite—will be what keeps him at an All-Star level or higher. Offensive struggles will fix themselves, but anything this group gets defensively will be a bonus from the ultra-productive, offense-oriented point guard of the future in Rip City.

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Why Heat know they can compete without LeBron

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have new types of pressure, but the Heat are more relaxed now.



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Spurs reloading like they do every season

It’s about time we learned the Spurs aren’t going away



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