Fordham
Warren King Jr.

The Fordham Rams Men’s Basketball Team is still looking for much-needed offense, especially when playing in A-10 competition.

Rich Mancuso

Ask coach Jeff Neubauer about his Fordham Rams’ offense. It’s been a lingering issue for his team in the last seven games, including their fourth-straight loss, 59-53, Saturday to Richmond up at Rose Hill.

It was the defense that kept them in this game, and, the last seven.

Except, and sorry to repeat this, the Atlantic-10 Conference is a league that thrives on scoring. The Rams had open shots. They could not convert when necessary.

And with time running out, Fordham, 1-9 in the conference, 7-15 overall, needs to find a way to make an adjustment. If not, with the A-10 Conference Tournament a month away, the Rams are looking again at finishing at the bottom or next to last in the conference.

Neubauer is looking to find some way to get this offense going. It has to be more than one that is open for the shot. It has to be making those baskets. The Rams are finding it difficult to build on half time leads.

And, most of all, they are still looking at playing an entire game and getting contributions from the offense. The defense, again, did their part against a Richmond team that can score.

The defense stopped the open shot. At times, the Spiders made it look easy. This, as the schedule winds down, leaves little room for time, even as the Rams continue to lead the conference in scoring defense that sits 16th in the NCAA.

Regardless, this was your typical brand of Fordham basketball. Yes, the defense is good. The offense is still looking for answers.

“Defensive effort in the first half is never perfect, but it’s amazing that’s what it’s gotta be,” Neubauer said. “That’s who we are. (The) second half still good, but needed to be amazing in the second half.”

But the defense was good. Richmond, (17-7, 7-3 A-10) is playing for position, and except for Jacob Gilyard, 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and 18 points from Blake Francis, the rest were shut down.

Neubauer, though, was referring to that second half and inability to score. Antown Portley scored 12 points, Ty Perry added 11 and Jalen Cobb 10 for the Rams. They have been part of the mix.

But the Rams need more. If not, all of that defense won’t be enough to escape a bottom seeding next month in the conference tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Portley, in his last four games after sustaining an early-season injury to his leg, has scored 37 points. But the senior guard can’t do this alone with a need for others to get the offense going.

Neubauer has always looked at Portley to take that open shot. Part of the Rams second half eight-point run, that gave them a 44-36 lead, was a run to the basket for Portley.

Again, if it wasn’t for the defense, the final outcome could have been wider.

“Good to have him back,” said Neubauer. “His minutes helped. He’s one of our better players. We are a better team when he makes the shots.  We encourage in general that the ball moves.”

This is not to say that the Rams are overmatched. With their defense, they have been in games. Last Saturday, at eighth-ranked Dayton, it was a game before losing 70-56.

“We play as a team,” Neubauer said. “When you gave a guy with creativity it makes us better.”

Portley has that creativity.

But this Richmond team, striving to move up the standings in the conference, have it all. They showcase deep scoring and an uncanny ability to stop a run at the right time

The Spiders have won three straight, 17 of their last 18 meetings against Fordham, one that included an elimination game at Barclays last March in the A-10 Tournament.

“Their style for us to hold them to 59, there’s a lot of good defense in there but not enough for us to win,” Neubauer said.

No, not enough Saturday to win a conference game. And with time running out, the Rams are destined to finish last or next to last in the conference.

So that offense has to chime in immediately. If not, it will be the same story Tuesday night at Davidson.

“We have to find  more baskets somewhere in our roster,” Neubauer said.” More open looks. I’d like to see more guys produce more. We need everyone to play a little better.”

He wasn’t kidding. Because at Rose Hill this has become a defensive game and you can’t win games in this conference without the offense.

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