Ryan Grube, Contributing Writer
During a stretch that spanned 8 minutes and 37 seconds, the Rams went without a point. It proved too much to overcome for the top-seeded Black and Gold.
After winning their first two contests over Saint Joseph’s and Dayton to advance to the Atlantic 10 title game, the Rams were unable to capture their first conference championship.
VCU (23-9, 13-3 A-10) was defeated, 62-47 Sunday, by the second-seeded Fordham (25-8, 13-3 A-10). Fordham, with the win, punches its ticket to this month’s “Big Dance.”
Women’s Basketball coach Beth O’Boyle, the 2019 A-10 Coach of the Year, said the matchup was concerning given Fordham’s hot 3-point shooting.
“You look at yesterday’s game and their 3-point shooting,” O’Boyle said. “That was one of the things that we talked about from the get-go, that we had to defend the 3-point line.”
Although VCU held Fordham to 37.5-percent shooting from the field, the NCAA tournament-bound team connected on six of 16 3-pointers.
Junior center Danielle Hammond led the way for the Black and Gold with 13 points off the bench, while sophomore guard Taya Robinson added 11. Both Hammond and Robinson were selected to the A-10 All-Championship Team.
Sophomore guard Tera Reed — who entered Sunday as VCU’s leading scorer at 12.2 points — was held to just 4 points.
The Rams used strong defensive performances down the stretch to close out their first two games of the tournament. During Sunday’s championship game, they got a taste of their own medicine.
Fordham held VCU to 38.8 percent from the field and 23.3 percent from three.
O’Boyle said Fordham’s stifling defense made it tough to hit shots down the stretch.
“Their switching defense was one of the things I think we struggled a little bit with today,” O’Boyle said. “That was hard for us to get some baskets that we needed.”
After falling behind early — 11-6 in the first quarter — the Rams cut their deficit to two, 13-11, to close out the quarter.
Two 3-pointers from Fordham’s Mary Goulding to open the second quarter propelled the team’s lead to eight, 19-11. Fordham entered the half with a 30-23 advantage.
VCU attempted to cut into Fordham’s lead with a 3-point play from Hammond, followed by a triple from junior guard Nyra Williams.
The quick run helped the Rams get back within seven of Fordham, 38-31, as the two teams entered the fourth quarter.
But VCU didn’t get any closer. With every bucket from the Black and Gold, Fordham had an answer.
Breanna Cavanaugh scored 13 of her game-high 22 points in the final quarter to seal the game for Fordham.
Goulding and Cavanaugh, who were also selected to the All-Championship Team, combined for 41 points for Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley’s bunch.
VCU committed 18 turnovers and 22 personal fouls, which allowed Fordham to convert 92.3 percent (24-26) of free throw attempts.
Following Sunday’s loss, VCU is likely headed to the National Invitation Tournament, according to Charlie Creme, an ESPN bracketology expert.
The Rams will await the release of the NCAA tournament and NIT brackets on March 17, where they hope to continue their turnaround season.