Basketball is not only back at Madison Square Garden, but also at Rose Hill Gymnasium on the campus of Fordham University. The Fordham Rams hold court there, and it is a very exciting arena with loyal fans packed into a space that holds about 3,200 fans. Just a short train ride from Harlem, the Fordham University campus is near the Fordham stop on the Metro North, or the Fordham Road stop on the B, D and 4 trains.
Rose Hill Gymnasium is an intimate basketball court that brings the fans closer to the action. And boy do those fans get in on the action, sparking the Rams to victories in three of the last four home games, all of which I attended.
The first game I attended at Fordham was a December 22, 2011, match up against Texas State University, and everyone in attendance was treated to a career performance by Rams Junior Forward Chris Gaston. He scored a career-high 35 points on a sizzling 13-17 from the field and 9-12 from the free throw line, while also grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds.
The next contest, a week later on December 29, 2011, was against Georgia Tech of the powerful ACC conference. It was the first meeting between the two schools in over 21 years, and it was an exciting one from start to finish. Georgia Tech controlled the game early, and led by as many as six points, 22-16, on a three pointer by Brandon Reed, and again, 31-25, on a free throw by Reed. But the Rams closed out the last 4:14 of the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 32-31 lead at the half. The Rams opened the second half with a quick 8-2 run, and never looked back. After taking their largest lead of 10 points, 52-42 on a jumper by Sophomore Guard Branden Frazier, the Yellow Jackets made a run, cutting the deficit to one point after a three pointer by Reed in the final minute of the game. The Rams, however, nailed five of six free throws in the final 29 seconds to seal the game.
The Rams were again led by Chris Gaston, who scored 23 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, playing in all but one minute of the game. Fordham Head Coach Tom Pecora was thrilled with the team’s victory. “It’s a great win for the program, the university. You get an ACC team in here and you win, it’s a marquis win” Pecora said after the game. On the star performance by Gaston, Pecora said “He was tremendous.” Gaston was very humble after the game. “I was trying to be a leader.” When I asked him about the impact of the crowd, he responded “They made a big impact on the game. Feeding off the crowd really picked us up. They were like our sixth man.”
After two straight home victories, the Rams then hosted Harvard University, ranked #22 in the country. Not many people gave Fordham a chance, as they had not beaten a top 25 team since December 9, 2000, when they defeated #24 St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. But the Rams had all of the confidence they needed, rallying from an eight-point, first half deficit to defeat Harvard 60-54. Freshman Guard Bryan Smith led the team with 22 points on 7-11 shooting, including a spectacular 5-8 from three-point range, and Gaston aka Mr. Double-Double had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Fordham’s four-game home winning streak was finally snapped on Saturday, when the talented Xavier University of the Atlantic 10 Division came in. Xavier has won 20+ games six straight seasons, and have made the NCAA Tournament in all six years. The Rams battled the entire game, but eventually fell, 67-59, to a team that managed to slow Chris Gaston down, who scored 10 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.
Head Coach Tom Pecora, along with a young and talented team, have helped to bring exciting Fordham Rams basketball to the Bronx. With the team playing well and seven home games left on the schedule, I would imagine all games will be close to, if not completely sold out. The Rams have proved that Madison Square Garden is not the only destination for good basketball in New York City, and this team will continue to get better.