The 2010-11 Fordham Men's Basketball season went poorly. Poor may actually be too positive an adjective to describe the product put out by the Rams that year. It was Head Coach Tom Pecora's first season at Rose Hill after being hired away from Hofstra, where he had led the Pride to several strong seasons but was never able to get over the hill and into the promised land of the NCAA tournament. The previous regime, which had seen previous coach Dereck Whittenberg canned after a handful of games and a grand total of two victories posted for the year, left the cupboard emptier than bare--it was as barren as a lobotomy operating room ransacked by zombies. The buzz factor surrounding the program was low, expectations even lower. That team largely lived up to its expectations, beating up on a few fellow downtrodden squads and winning only one conference game in the brutal Atlantic 10. New recruits were on their way to help try and revitalize the program, ready to help sweep away the final vestiges of absolute failure.
The old guard, though, had one day to shine as bright as their successors would hope to. A Saturday evening in December became more than a blip on the radar for a giant rising toward its former glory. It transformed into an anchor upon which Fordham fans would grab to save their dreams of success from falling into an abyss. While the promise was that Tom Pecora would slowly bring about his style and recruits to campus, one thing that came with him from Hofstra was a record of beating up on the other Catholic university in New York, the one in Queens with a considerably richer basketball history. St. John's glory years in the Big East dwarfed anything ever achieved by the Rams, but Tom Pecora had beaten up on them as the Johnnies had fallen on hard times in recent years. That was bound to change under new head man Steve Lavin, and the transformation from doormat to tournament contender was obvious. A stumble at home against the A-10's St. Bonaventure immediately prior to Fordham's annual meeting with the Red Storm ensured that they wouldn't be overlooking a second consecutive sub-Red Line opponent.
Despite the game being placed right on the eve of exams, in that time when basketball takes a backseat to the impending bowl season and holiday plans, the Johnnies had clearly received their wakeup call earlier that week. They raced out to a lead, one so large that Fordham fans normally would despair and students would begin filing out of the arena. By the second half's early minutes, that margin had expanded to 21 points, with St. John's poised to cruise to a victory over the improved but still lowly Fordham squad. The Rose Hill Gymnasium, the oldest continually used basketball facility at any Division I school, rarely sells out in this century. Even when it does for a big name opponent like St. John's, the crowds couldn't be characterized as large. The 3,200 folks crammed into the stone Gothic building on December 11, 2010, could be as raucous as any bunch (which they were), but still pale in comparison to the throngs that Lavin's bunch would see night in and night out that season.
A slight momentum shift headed in the Rams' direction, and the throng seized it. The building became alive, reverberating the noise of the small yet suddenly significant masses inside that erupted every time the home team slashed the deficit. Triple after triple fell and chipped away at the lead. Fifth year senior Brenton Butler showcased the poise his years of experience had bought him. Freshman Brandon Frazier gave a peek of things to come. Alberto Estwick played beyond his moderate talent level. As each of these players lit it up from three, the crowd grew more prepared for the upset. The Rams, raging back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit, made the game their own, a stand of what the fans in the gym that day prayed that the program could be. Whether St. John's blew the game (they did) or Fordham made the team's greatest charge in years (they did as well), the experience was one that would live on for Fordham fans. For St. John's it was a trap, a blip on the radar that they moved past en route to an NCAA tournament return. A typical trap for the Johnnies, but for the men of Rose Hill, it was an anchor, a glimmer of hope for a program looking up from the edge of the abyss.
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