Riverdale, NY - Give me the women's game, thank you. Don't get me wrong. The men's game draws attention and has its share of excitement. Friday night will bring us Wisconsin- Georgetown plus Duke-VCU at Madison Square Garden. How can that doubleheader not excite the college fan?
Watching and covering the Fordham and Manhattan women in the annual ‘Battle of the Bronx' this past Wednesday evening, it's evident this was a basketball purist's place to be.
There are only a few hundred in attendance, and they are the beneficiaries of some less than perfect yet very enjoyable basketball. Gerald Holmes, a successful coach of the men's program at Division II Bloomfield (NJ) College, wrote on Facebook regarding the high major men's teams losing to mid or lower majors.
Holmes believes the higher majors are relying on young players not really skilled in the fundamentals as they should. "Low basketball IQ and work ethic," he termed it. Holmes went on to say coaching a freshman in college is like coaching a seventh grader twenty years ago (in the terms of skills),
Getting back to the women, years of observation through media coverage and officiating formed several conclusions. The women look to share the ball more, screen for each other and run their sets thoroughly (though some of their coaches would dispute that last point).
The women, for the most part, not everyone is perfect, are concerned less with touches and scoring averages. Their game is one showing a good deal of sportsmanship, and the emphasis is on fundamentals, not attempting Sports Center moves.
Little reason to dispute why yours truly loves the women's game. Thankfully my opinion is shared by many.
Moving on to the game...Fordham edged Manhattan 60-49 to earn their first win of the season.Manhattan dropped to 1-1. ‘Edged' is the proper description as this game was knotted with five minutes to go.
The Rams then went on a game-deciding spurt largely due to the play of G'mrice Davis a game-high 19 point scorer. The Rams found Davis inside, and the Sophomore forward converted. Interestingly, Fordham ‘s late game success was at the expense of Manhattan's best weapon.
"We pressured them, but they broke our press late," said Manhattan coach John Olenowski. "Breaking our press we just didn't react defensively and they got a few inside baskets. They really didn't do it in half court sets; it was against our pressure."
Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley felt Manhattan's pressure was their strong suit. "We are a point guard by committee," Gaitley said. "We have the front court players but the guard situation is being settled. Their press bothered us (19 turnovers) but, fortunately, we made the plays when we had to."
Fordham placed three in double figures and received another strong inside game from Samantha Clark, 10 points, and a game-high 12 boards. Amani was led by Sophomore guard Amani Tatum with 12 points. Senior forward Shayna Ericksen added eight points, virtually all coming at a crucial second half juncture.
The Jaspers were outrebounded 40-33 and shot only 30% from the floor. Regardless of the stat sheet shortcomings, Olenowski saw a positive. "Our game plan was to be in a position to win down the stretch," he said. "We were in that position but didn't get it done. Hey, that (Fordham) is a very good team that has won 20 and gone postseason the last few years."
After their opening road loss to Penn State, Gaitley could take satisfaction in getting a road win. Even if the distance between Manhattan and Fordham is only a few subway stops. "I'll tell you," Gaitley said, "that is the best Manhattan team we faced since I've been at Fordham (5th season). They are going to be a good team in their MAAC conference."