Fordham improved to 3-1 on the young season with a 63-41 win over Saint Peter’s in the second day of the Johnny Bach Classic at Rose Hill Gym.
Here are four thoughts from Saturday’s contest:
1.) Watch your back. Under head coach Jeff Neubauer, Fordham has morphed into a program that aims to take away the basketball. The Rams forced 26 turnovers Saturday afternoon, including a season-high 15 steals. Those takeaways translated into an 18-shot advantage over Saint Peter’s and 33 points off turnovers.
The Rams recorded 263 steals in Neubauer’s first year at the helm last season and are well on course to blow by that mark this season. However, even at their current pace of 10.8 steals per game, by the end of the regular season Fordham would fall 17 steals short of the school record 350. That record was set over 30 years ago, by the 1981-82 squad.
“Really proud of the defensive effort,” Neubauer said after the win. “It’s what we’ve been talking about, and it’s what’s going to give us a chance to win. We definitely want to steal the ball. We did a much better job valuing the ball in the second half, and for us to steal it 15 times, those are numbers that will lead the country.”
Seven different players tallied a steal against the Peacocks, so there are plenty of potential culprits to step up at any point in the season. Joseph Chartouny led the way with four steals, and also paced all scorers with 14 points.
2.) What goes up must come down. Less than 24 hours after they posted a record 90 points against Lipscomb University, tied for the highest mark in John Dunne’s decade-long tenure as head coach, Saint Peter’s scored its fewest points since 2012.
Four minutes in, no one could have predicted the standstill to come. Saint Peter’s jumped out to an early 9-3 lead in the first 3:21 thanks to three baskets from senior Quadir Welton. The Peacocks then suffered through a 13:24 stretch in which a Chazz Patterson layup off a steal accounted for the team’s lone field goal.
Saint Peter’s finished the contest with a lowly 0.61 points per possession, but despite its offensive woes was able to hold Fordham to 0.91 ppp. However, the Peacocks’ inability to hold on to the ball ultimately doomed them.
“You can’t run sets against this kind of defense,” Dunne said, giving credit to Fordham’s aggressive play. “You need to space it and you need to be really disciplined with your drive and kick. We’re just not ready to win that kind of game at this point in the year. They had better energy than we did, but we’re going to learn from it, grow and get better.”
Welton, who led Saint Peter’s with 10 points, was the lone Peacock to finish in double figures Saturday. Fellow preseason All-MAAC selections Trevis Wyche and Antwon Portley were held scoreless.
“It’s the highs and lows of the game,” Dunne said of the offensive swing between Friday and Saturday. “It’s never as good as it seems when you’re playing really well offensively and it’s never as bad as it seems when you take a clubbing like we did today. In 22 hours we have a chance to feel good again, so that’s the way we have to look at it.”
3.) Growing with time. Neubauer inherited a veteran team last season when he took over as head coach. Ryan Rhoomes, Mandell Thomas, and Ryan Canty, players who had been senior members of last season’s squad, are now playing professionally overseas, leaving ample opportunity for both new and younger players to take up the mantle.
While the inheritance of quality players can help keep a team afloat during a transition year, it is the growth earned over years which brings a team together.
“Once you’ve been through it with guys, then the relationship is just different,” Neubauer said of his growing relationship with players this season. “The first year that you go through it with a group, everyone is like a freshman and that’s very hard. Joe [Chartouny] is a perfect example; we’ve been through a season together. He understands what the expectations are, and we understand what Joe’s strengths are.”
Chartouny was named Atlantic 10 and Met Writers Rookie of the Year last season, and has immediately stepped up as a leader in his sophomore campaign. The Montreal native averaged 11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 6.3 apg in his freshman campaign. His assist per game average led the Atlantic 10 and was the top mark among freshmen in all of Division I.
4.) Inspiration from the past. The Peacocks’ 41 points account for the fourth lowest total in the Dunne era. They were previously held to 30 at Robert Morris on November 13, 2010, 38 at Fairfield on February 15, 2012, and 40 against Iona on January 29, 2012.
The contest at Robert Morris was the Peacocks’ 2010 season-opener, but far from a forecast of how that year would turn out. Saint Peter’s finished the regular season 17-13, but ran the table in the MAAC tournament with wins over Loyola (MD), Fairfield, and Iona. The Peacocks went on to represent the MAAC in the NCAA tournament against third-seeded Purdue.
With that history to draw upon, Saint Peter’s certainly boasts the senior leadership to put a disappointing early-season performance behind them and reach their full potential come March.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.