Fordham Kicks Off Atlantic‐10 Championship with a Win
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, MARCH 12- March Madness has arrived. The four months of the regular college basketball season has concluded. Conference championships are currently underway or have recently ended. Next week, college basketball teams will be selected and seeded for the national tournaments.
Two days prior to the start of The Atlantic‐10 Championship, which began at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Wednesday night, the Manhattan Jaspers, Fordham’s Bronx rival, defeated the Iona Gaels to capture the MAAC Championship and automatically qualify for the NCAA National Tournament. The Fordham Rams (10‐20) and the George Mason Patriots (9‐22) clashed in the first game played of the A‐10 tourney at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The two teams had previously met four times with Fordham the victor in each encounter. They last met exactly three weeks earlier with Fordham winning, 80‐68. The result of Wednesday’s Atlantic 10 Championship opener was in accordance of the previous history between the two teams as Fordham was victorious by a score of 71‐65.
The first half of the contest was extremely competitive. The lead changed hands six times and the game was tied on seven occasions in the first 17 minutes. A layup by freshman Chris Sengfelder with 2:59 remaining in the first half gave the Rams a 30‐28 advantage, which they never surrendered. Another layup by the talented freshman and a jumper by senior Bryan Smith accounted for Fordham’s six point lead at the half, 34‐28. Sengfelder’s three rebounds in the final 1:42 of the first stanza helped protect the lead for Fordham. The frosh from Germany was the only player to score in double figures during the half with 15 points.
Fordham maintained its lead throughout the second half, but never reached a double digit advantage during the game. Each team scored 37 points in the second half on impressive 50 percent accuracy in shooting from the floor. In the first half, each squad netted 13 of 28 shots from the floor.
A three by Patrick Holloway of the Patriots the Fordham lead to two with 19 seconds on the clock, but two free throws by Smith and two by Sengfelder brought the Rams a six point win, 71‐65.
The Rams effectiveness of getting to the charity stripe was crucial to their victory. The netted 20 of 27 attempts while the Patriots sunk 11 of 15 free throws. The Rams scored their final nine points from the free throw line.
An injury caused Atlantic‐10 Rookie of the Year Eric Paschall to only play 11 minutes and score one point, but his absence was made up for by the spectacular efforts and talent of Sengfelder. The German native scored a career high of 27 points. Both coaches praised the freshman. Patriots’ coach Paul Hewitt remarked, “Sengfelder just played a great basketball game.” Tom Pecora commented, “He [Sengfelder] keeps getting better and better. He’s a lot of fun to coach.”
Brooklyn native Bryan Smith, a senior, received a lot of credit from his coach. Pecora said, “The job he has done has allowed Christian and Eric to develop a lot quicker than some of our freshmen have in the past.”
Smith was on the court for all but one minute of the game and scored 12 points. He described his elation of contributing to the victory in his home neighborhood, “It’s a great feeling. I have a lot of my friends and family here cheering me on and cheering the team on. I get to win in front of them, especially 10 minutes from where I live.”
The Rams, the 12th seed, move on to the next round to face VCU, the fifth seed, on Thursday afternoon.
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