Women Beat Furman, Fall to #1 Notre Dame in Preseason WNIT


Asnate Fomina drives the lane against Furman in Friday’s season opener. (Andrea Garcia/The Fordham Ram)

By Sam Belden

Asnate Fomina drives the lane against Furman in Friday’s season opener. (Andrea Garcia/The Fordham Ram)
Asnate Fomina drives the lane against Furman in Friday’s season opener. (Andrea Garcia/The Fordham Ram)

The Fordham women’s team made its long-awaited return to the court last Friday, defeating Furman at home in the first round of the Preseason WNIT.

Three days later, the head coach Stephanie Gaitley’s squad traveled to South Bend, Indiana for a second round showdown with the top-ranked team in the country, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. While that game ended in a loss, Fordham gained some important experience going up against one of the country’s elite programs.

The Rams may have struggled against Notre Dame, but the Furman game was full of highlights. Junior forward G’mrice Davis scored the first bucket of the season for Fordham, finding space from around 15 feet and hitting the shot with ease. The Rams’ following two possessions featured back-to-back three-pointers from sophomore guard Lauren Holden and senior guard Hannah Missry, giving them an 8-2 lead over the Paladins. Senior forward Danielle Burns and freshman guard Kate Kreslina got on the board soon after, making it a 10-0 run.

The scoring fizzled out over the last few minutes of the first quarter, but Furman came out of the break strong, cutting the deficit to one with just eight minutes remaining until halftime. A layup from guard Tierra Hodges gave the Paladins the lead for a brief moment, but a three-pointer from Burns put the Rams back in front. Fordham then picked up a Furman turnover to go four points up.

Furman managed to tie it up again with 2:33 remaining, but a trio of Fordham underclassmen — Kreslina, freshman guard Anna Kelly and sophomore forward Mary Goulding —  contributed to a 7-0 run for the Rams. Furman’s Cierra Carter hit a three-pointer with 45 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to four. On her next attempt, another three with time winding down, Kreslina swooped in to block the shot, sending shockwaves through the crowd in the Rose Hill Gym. Halfway through, Fordham led 26-22.

The Rams came out swinging in the third quarter. It took Kreslina just 20 seconds to find Holden behind the arc for a quick three, stretching the lead to seven. While a pair of jumpers from Deanneisha Jackson put Furman back within three, the Rams proceeded to go on a 13-2 run from there, opening up a 14-point lead with just over four minutes remaining in the period. Davis was especially productive over that stretch, making a pair of layups and coming up with one steal. The Paladins attempted to regroup, but they could only tread water as the Rams kept the pressure on.

Ahead by 14 entering the fourth quarter, the women closed the game with some of their worst basketball of the day, but still managed to cruise to victory. Jackson quickly scored five points for Furman, while teammate Le’Jzae Davidson hit a three to cut the deficit to six. Meanwhile, Kelly was the only Ram to score within the first five minutes of the quarter. Furman remained within striking distance until the 4:20 mark, when Goulding hit a jumper to put the Rams back up by nine. Both sides played stingy defense to end the game, and at the end of regulation, it was Fordham standing tall with the 60-47 win.

Burns and Holden were the high scorers for Fordham, putting up 12 points apiece. In terms of all-around performance, however, Kreslina was most impressive. The Latvia native scored 10 points and grabbed eight boards, falling just two short of a double-double in her first career game.

“Kate had a great first game and I feel her best basketball is ahead as she gets more comfortable with each game,” said Gaitley. “She does a terrific job of attacking the basket and getting her teammates involved. She is a difficult matchup, and this will make us a difficult team to defend.”

“I was very impressed with our overall effort against a solid Furman team,” she added. “Our defense set the tone early and we had a balanced offensive attack.”

With some momentum in tow, Fordham traveled to Indiana for the second round showdown with Notre Dame.

While the Rams were ultimately blown out, they managed to keep things reasonably close before running out of gas in the last quarter.

Fordham’s defense rose to the occasion, holding the Fighting Irish to just 37.5 percent shooting from the field. However, the Rams were even worse in that category, making less than 25 percent of their shots from the field and going just two-for-19 from beyond the arc.

Still, every Ram who played more than 10 minutes managed to get on the board offensively, with Davis leading the way in most every category, including points (nine), rebounds (15) assists (three) and steals (four). Burns and junior guard Asnate Fomina were the other leading scorers, with eight and five points, respectively.

The Rams trailed by 15 points entering the fourth quarter. However, the Notre Dame’s enviably deep roster, along with the tired bodies of the Fordham players, led to a complete overmatch in the final period, with the score eventually reaching the final of 67-36.

While the Rams are no longer in the hunt to win the Preseason WNIT, they still get to play a home consolation game against Little Rock this Saturday. The action will kick off at 12 p.m. in the Rose Hill Gym. Then, the Albany Great Danes will visit for Fordham’s first non-tournament game of the year next Tuesday.