Jeff Neubauer is always optimistic and Tuesday night the fifth year men’s basketball coach at Fordham University saw his team up at Rose Hill win their first game of the season. This coach had every reason to be optimistic.
His team responded in the second half. The Rams overcame a fourteen point deficit and won their season opener, 68-59 over St. Francis of Brooklyn.
But this was one game and the Atlantic-10 Conference will be on the agenda. The win was satisfying and the coach will take it.
“So many guys gave us real contributions,”said Neubauer. “We had leadership from our veterans. They have been through something like this before. They got some resolve, they’ve got some toughness, they got some experience to fall back on.”
The Rams and their coach hope this is the season they make more inroads. They have the veterans, 12 players have returned, and in the Atlantic 10 Conference not many basketball programs have that retention.
They play in a conference that has three of the top 25 schools in pre season polls. Davidson, Richmond, and Dayton are on the schedule in January when conference play begins.
As always, this won’t be easy for the Rams but they hope by mid March to go a step further when the A-10 Conference Tournament tips off at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
And if Tuesday night is any indication, despite this being the first game, Neubauer could see his team take that next step. Winning these non conference games are important.They provide some indication of what to expect in January when the schedule gets tough.
It is early in November. The Rams and their coach, well, they know the pressure is always going to be there. Alumni and supporters are starving to see their program move out of the bottom three in the conference and take that next step.
But patience may be running thin. There are always rumors that this coach needs to win. Neubauer arrived at Rose Hill four years ago. The Rams finished 17-14 overall, 8-10 in the conference, and an appearance in the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament was not the NCAA or NIT in his first year,
Everyone wants to be a part of the Big Dance in March. So winning these non conference games are as important as those in the Atlantic-10.
There were mistakes Tuesday night. There always are as a team begins to respond and find out what has to be done in that first game. There were the freshman responding and 12 returning players which is more than the other thirteen teams in the conference.
“The way we phrase it, we have twelve guys back from last year,” Neubauer said. “ look around the A- 10, you may find that teams lost six- seven guys to transfer so we do have an experienced team. Our job is to attack the rim something we did not do well last year.”
And they won the first game without Nick Honor. The highly touted recruit and leading scorer as a freshman transferred to Clemson.
But they played that second half as if they were ready for March.
Ivan Raut, the junior guard had 15 points. Two of his 3-pointers turned it around as Fordham went on a 16-4 run in that second half. Chuba Ohams, the junior forward, had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Antown Portley added 14 points.
And a senior, Erten Gazi, came off the bench and scored 11. They responded after losing so many last year by not converting the three-pointers. They have changed a bit, more inside than shooting beyond the arch.
“The problem, we were in a bunch of them,” said the coach.”If you look at how many games we lost by three last year, it’s more than most teams lose by three in a decade so I do think all those experiences from last year helped.”
And as they say, the first game is in the books that leads to optimism.
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