I've spent a good number of dreary November evenings in the Rose Hill Gym over the last four years. Here we go again. The phrase ran through my mind on repeat as I sat watching the latest version of the Fordham Rams fall behind Colgate from my seat in the Rose Hill Gym student section. I had spent my Thanksgiving break in Chicago, watching this team lose to a less talented but better executing Loyola team. Hell, I've spent entire time as a student here watching the Rams lose to less talented, better executing teams (and plenty of more talented squads as well). I knew this feeling well, but it didn't make that scene in the Rose Hill Gym any better.
Worse than the action taking place on the court, though, was the sad scene in the old Gothic barn. Some came into the gym to get the free hat offered to all attendees that night, turned around and made a bee line to the nearest exit. Others strolled through to catch a few minutes of action with their friends after dinner at the cafeteria or a workout in the nearby fieldhouse. The majority who stuck around were freshman and sophomores who appeared to have nowhere better to hang out with their friends. The pep band on the other side of the court brought some spirit, but the dozen or so members were simply outranked by empty seats and warm bodies who did little else.
At one point in the first half, as the Rams continued to push but were unable to grab a lead, a fat, balding man took it upon himself as he passed by the students on his way to a set of tables in the corner of the gym that played itself off as a concession stand. His half-audible wails about making noise and not sitting on our collective hands drew a few cheers but little else. And so it went, again.
It continued. Some left, some stayed, but the scene remained the same and Fordham remained behind a Colgate team that hit threes and free throws, simple things the Rams struggled with. But something happened. Both active centers on Coach Tom Pecora's bench fouled out, forcing him to go with a four guard lineup, in addition to standout forward Chris Gaston (who had scored his 1,000th career point but done little else that night).
From this imperfect concoction of youth and raw talent, something positive sprung forth. Colgate's hot shooting tapered off in direct proportion to an increase in Fordham's defensive intensity. Freshman point guard Devon "Fatty" McMillan reeled off ten straight points somewhere along the line and the Rams came up with a boatload of turnovers en route to an imperfect victory. It wasn't pretty, and Colgate certainly fought hard in the final minutes, forcing more than a few errors from a young Fordham team.
It wasn't an upset over a marquee opponent. Nor was it a dominating victory that showed off vast talents. But those final minutes did something to the crowd in the Rose Hill Gym. The students started to make some noise. They still ignored the prefab chants the cheerleaders attempted to start, and they weren't on their feet at all, but they started making actual, bona fide noise as their Rams closed out a win.
On the way out, I heard one underclassman mention hitting up Pugsley's, a place that can best be described as a pizza grotto just across from the Fordham campus. He debated how crowded it would be with his friends before passing by me as they decided to head over. It struck me, that on this night, with a satisfying victory for the hungry faithful, that the kids, both on the floor and in the stands, were doing alright.
at FORDHAM 79, COLGATE 69 11/29/2011
COLGATE 2-4 (0-0) -- M. Rolls 4-11 0-0 11; S. Melville 2-7 8-10 13; P. Moore 4-7 2-2 13; N. Pascale 5-9 2-5 12; L. Roh 0-2 0-0 0; M. Venezia 4-11 0-0 10; B. James 2-3 4-6 10; J. Brandenburg 0-1 0-1 0; M. McMullen 0-1 0-0 0; C. Johnson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-53 16-24 69. FORDHAM 2-2 (0-0) -- B. Frazier 3-9 1-4 8; D. McMillan 6-11 8-13 20; C. Gaston 4-13 7-8 15; B. Smith 5-11 7-8 19; A. Estwick 1-3 1-4 4; K. Bristol 2-3 0-1 4; M. Dominique 3-3 1-2 7; L. Samuell 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-54 25-40 79.
Three-point goals: COLG 11-24 (M. Venezia 2-6; S. Melville 1-2; M. Rolls 3-8; B. James 2-2; P. Moore 3-5; M. McMullen 0-1), FORD 4-11 (A. Estwick 1-1; B. Frazier 1-4; D. McMillan 0-1; B. Smith 2-5); Rebounds: COLG 36 (N. Pascale 10), FORD 29 (C. Gaston 11); Assists: COLG 12 (M. Rolls 3), FORD 11 (B. Smith 4); Total Fouls -- COLG 32, FORD 21; Fouled Out: COLG-S. Melville; FORD-K. Bristol.