Originally published in The Fordham Ram on February 11, 2016.
The Bonnies came into the game with an 8-3 record in conference play, good for fifth in the A-10. They presented Fordham with a big challenge — one made even more daunting by the absence of senior guard and leading scorer Mandell Thomas due to a sprained ankle — and the Rams performed ably, falling just short in the end.
The first half of the game was a slugfest, with neither team taking a lead larger than four. Senior forward Ryan Rhoomes, who contributed 14 points and six rebounds, led the way for the Rams. Freshman guard Joseph Chartouny added six assists.
Both teams struggled with shot selection in the first half. No Fordham player other than Rhoomes scored more than four points. Meanwhile, the entire St. Bonaventure team remained in single digits, but all who scored had at least six points. Forward Dion Wright led the way with seven. The poor shooting was mainly the result of solid defense from both sides, with Fordham forcing seven turnovers, including five steals. For their part, the Bonnies forced eight turnovers with four steals. At the half, St. Bonaventure led Fordham by a score of 31-29.
Once play resumed, St. Bonaventure was strong out of the gate, pushing the lead to 10 with 14:13 to play in the second half — for Fordham, the game looked to be a repeat of Saturday’s 82-60 loss to Saint Joseph’s. At that point, the Rams had already turned the ball over another three times, and their only points came from two three-pointers from freshman forward David Pekarek.
However, in contrast with their performance against St. Joseph’s, the Rams prevented the Bonnies from running away with the game. After Pekarek converted on one of two free throws, the Rams stole the ball on back-to-back possessions. On the second, sophomore guard Antwoine Anderson drove the center of the lane and dropped a circus layup to cut the lead to seven.
Anderson’s bucket seemed to rejuvenate the Rams. While the Bonnies would extend the lead back to 10 on a three-pointer from Wright, a free throw from Rhoomes and another three from Pekarek decreased it to six.
Once again, the Bonnies battled back and pushed the lead back to 10 with 10 minutes remaining. However, an offensive outburst from Fordham cut the lead to two points in just under two minutes. The score stood at 51-49, and it was clear that the game was going to be a barnburner.
With exactly five minutes left, the Rams evened the score at 59 off of a three from sophomore Nemanja Zarkovic. The Bonnies answered with another three, this time from guard Marcus Posley, but Pekarek responded with his fourth three-pointer of the half to retie the game.
At the 3:44 mark, Fordham finally snatched its first lead since the first half on a jumper from Pekarek. A layup from Rhoomes then pushed it to four with just over three to play.
The Bonnies refused to back down. After they made a pair of free throws with just under three to play, neither team scored for over a minute until Wright hit another pair to knot the game at 66 with 1:29 remaining.
Pekarek missed a three on the next Fordham possession, but the Rams ended up with the ball with the score still tied and the shot clock turned off. Anderson put up a three at the buzzer but could not convert. The game, an instant classic, was headed to overtime with the score tied at 66.
The Rams committed just four turnovers in the second half and forced the Bonnies to commit nine, including another five steals. Pekarek shot the lights out, going four-for-six from three and ending the half with 15 points. Chartouny added another 10 points for the Rams and made two of his three three-point attempts. As a team, the Rams shot 54 percent from beyond the arc in the second half. Noticeably absent, however, was junior guard Jon Severe, who did not play in the second half after logging just six minutes in the first.
The Bonnies opened overtime with a quick basket, but Rhoomes tied it right back up with a jumper. Posley went to the line with 3:08 on the clock and made one of two to put the Bonnies up by one. Rhoomes once again rose to the occasion, making both of his free throws to reclaim the lead with just under three to play. A pair of Chartouny free throws at the two-minute mark put the Rams up by three.
However, Fordham allowed the Bonnies to reenter the game, fouling on their next two possessions. St. Bonaventure converted on all four free throws and took the lead, bringing the score to 73 to 72.
On the Rams’ next possession, Chartouny missed a contested three-point attempt. St. Bonaventure came up empty on their next possession, and the ensuing rebound bounced in and out of the hands of multiple players until it fell to Anderson. However, he was in an awkward spot on the court and traveled, relinquishing the ball to the visitors. The Bonnies took advantage of a new possession and shot clock, running the clock down and then hitting a midrange jumper with just 18 seconds left to make the score 75-72.
The Rams decided to go for the quick three on their next position, which led to another contested attempt from Chartouny, this one more off the mark than the first. The Bonnies ended up with the rebound and made one of the two free throws off of the intentional foul to ice the game. The Rams ended up falling just short at the end of an absolute thriller, with the final score standing at 76-72.
While they failed to pull through for the win, the second half of the game seemed to signal that the Rams may finally be establishing a “value for the basketball”, as head coach Jeff Neubauer often describes it.
Rhoomes led all scorers with 23 points and added nine rebounds in his most dominant performance since the Rams’ matchup with St. John’s. Pekarek had a bit of a coming out party in the second half and ended up with 19 points, a career high. Chartouny ended with a double-double, complementing his 15 points with a career-high 11 assists. He also added four steals, contributing to the team total of 10.
As a team, the Rams shot 47 percent from the floor, including 37 percent from three, compared to St. Bonaventure’s 50 percent and 41 percent, respectively. The Bonnies out-rebounded the Rams 31-30 but committed three more turnovers — 17 to Fordham’s 14.
Overall, the Rams fared well against one of the toughest opponents on their schedule. They remained competitive for the entire game, even after facing 10 point deficits twice in the second half. Their next game will be another tough one, against a University of Richmond team that beat Fordham 93-82 in early January. The two teams will face off in Richmond on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 6 p.m.