Fordham earns shot at VCU in second round

From left to right: Christian Sengfelder, Bryan Smith, Tom Pecora. Photo by Audry Dubon.

Alonzo Small
Sports Editor

VCU men’s basketball now knows their opponent in the second round of the Atlantic 10 conference tournament after Fordham University defeated George Mason University, 71-65.

On Wednesday, March. 11, the first of 13 conference games pitted the 12th and 13th seeds, Fordham University and George Mason University respectively, against one another for the opportunity to advance past the first round. Awaiting the Rams is fifth-ranked VCU led by head coach Shaka Smart. This season, the 22-team win was a perfect 3-0 against both Fordham University and George Mason University. Against VCU on Jan. 4, Fordham was defeated handily, losing  the contest 75-58.

Both the Fordham University Rams (9-20, 4-14 A-10) and the George Mason University Pirates (9-21, 4-14 A-10) played a closely contested game throughout. Freshman forward Christian Sengfelder’s season-high 27 points lifted Fordham pass George Mason University in the opening round for the second-straight year. Entering the contest, Sengfelder ranked third in team scoring, averaging 11.4 points per game.

Sengfelder went 10-13 from the floor and 3-5 three-point shooting. Junior guard Mandell Thomas and senior guard Bryan Smith rounded out the double-digit scorers with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Smith, a Brooklyn, New York native, was happy with the win in his return home.

“It’s satisfying,” Smith said. “We played the same team two years in a row and to get them both times is a great feeling.”

For the 2014-15 season, Paschall and Sengfelder have won multiple A-10 Rookie Player of the Week honors. Fordham head coach Tom Pecora attributed the team’s success and development  to the senior leadership of Smith and other seniors.

“We’re a young team with seven freshmen,” Pecora said postgame.  “(But) the job he (Bryan Smith) has done really allowed Christian (Sengfelder) and Eric (Parshall) to really mature a lot quicker than some of our freshmen have in the past.”

Now the team’s attention focuses on the two-time runner-ups in the A-10, VCU. In their last meeting, senior guard/forward Treveon Graham and senior guard Briante Weber both led the game with 14 point. Freshman guard Eric Paschall led the Fordham Rams with 15 points.

Paschall averaged 16.5 ppg this season. Entering the conference tournament, Paschall ranks sixth in scoring overall, but tops the division as a rookie. Coming off an injury, Paschall played a limited role in the GMU victory, playing 11 minutes and scoring only one point.

For Smart’s team to make it to their third straight A-10 conference championship game, the Rams must first eliminate a team with momentum from Wednesday’s contest. Pecora is well aware of the HAVOC and all that it has to offer.

“I’m sure they are all fired up,” Pecora said about the VCU men’s basketball team. “I’m sure they are all fired up. They have been through a little bit of a rough patch and I know ‘Shock’ will have them well prepared.”

The “Battle of the Rams” will tip-off at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 12 at the Barclays Center.

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