A Thanksgiving weekend showdown between Fordham and Loyola-Chicago offered a study in similarities between the competing schools. From my seat at the press table, it was difficult to distinguish the maroon clad fans of the two urban, Jesuit institutions, as they blended together in the newly remodeled Gentile Arena. Both programs have struggled mightily in recent years, and are decades removed from past glory. The same is true this season, as the teams were a combined 0-3 this season in games played above the Red Line.
Despite the similarities of where these two programs reside at this station in their respective lives, the contrasts between the two on the court could not be more drastic. Both teams reflected a regional flavor. The visiting Rams played exactly like the collection of athletic, New York City bred slashers that they are. Loyola's Ramblers looked more like a modern, B-rate remake of Hoosiers, loaded with fundamentally sound, tough players who could shoot the basketball. Even the head coaches looked the part. Fordham's Tom Pecora sported the slicked back hair typical of his northeastern coaching brethren, while new Loyola head man Porter Moser's close cropped cut and less audacious suit fit his Midwestern roots.
The contrasting styles weren't limited to the aesthetics of fans or players either. It bore out in the play. Fordham was clearly more athletic, Loyola fundamentally sound. The Rams' Chris Gaston was undoubtedly the most talented player on the court this day, while the Rambler offense struggled with his and his teammates' length. The funny thing about basketball, though, is that none of this matters if you put the ball in the basket more often than your opponent. That's exactly what happened for Loyola on this particular dreary Windy City afternoon.
The absence of Fordham's sharpshooting freshman Jeff Short certainly played a factor in who was putting up what shots for the Rams, but leaves plenty of room for explanation as to how they could shoot quite so poorly (29 percent from the field on the game, 2-18 from behind the arc). Conversely, Loyola freshman Joe Crisman was a revelation. Just to continue to beating the already tired Hoosiers reference to death, this kid could be the Ramblers' Jimmy Chitwood. He knocked down six of ten shots, made plays, and most surprisingly, avoided the mistakes that plagued the young guns from Fordham. Denzel Brito showed off a sweet shot as well, hitting four of seven as part of a Rambler attack that shot over 50 percent in total. This contrast in offensive efficiency proved to be the only one that mattered in a battle between programs that, on their face, seem eerily similar.
at LOYOLA (ILL.) 64, FORDHAM 50 11/26/2011
FORDHAM 1-2 (0-0) -- D. McMillan 3-13 3-6 9; C. Gaston 6-16 7-10 19; B. Frazier 3-15 1-1 7; B. Smith 4-13 0-0 9; K. Bristol 1-3 1-1 3; A. Estwick 1-3 0-0 3; M. Dominique 0-0 0-0 0; L. Samuell 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-65 12-18 50. LOYOLA (ILL.) 1-4 (0-0) -- J. Crisman 6-10 0-1 14; D. Brito 4-7 2-2 11; B. Averkamp 5-12 3-5 13; C. Kadima 3-4 0-0 7; C. Thomas 3-5 0-0 6; W. Gibler 2-6 0-1 4; J. Gac 1-3 2-2 4; J. Benkoske 1-1 3-3 5; L. Dokubo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-48 10-14 64.
Three-point goals: FORD 2-19 (A. Estwick 1-1; B. Frazier 0-6; L. Samuell 0-1; D. McMillan 0-4; B. Smith 1-7), LOYO 4-10 (D. Brito 1-3; C. Kadima 1-2; J. Crisman 2-4; C. Thomas 0-1); Rebounds: FORD 33 (C. Gaston 10), LOYO 30 (B. Averkamp 8); Assists: FORD 4 (D. McMillan 2), LOYO 17 (D. Brito 10); Total Fouls -- FORD 19, LOYO 16; Fouled Out: FORD-K. Bristol; LOYO-None.