Women’s Basketball Falls to VCU, Takes Down La Salle


The Rams overcame disappointment in Virginia to down the Explorers. (Mackenzie Cranna)

There are some interesting parallels between this season and last for Fordham Women’s Basketball. Last year’s Rams lost three games in Atlantic 10 Conference play to Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Dayton and Davidson College, all in January.

After losing to Davidson and falling to 4-3 in conference play last January, the Rams took on La Salle University and pulled away late despite a tough test from the Explorers. After that game, Fordham ran the table en route to a conference title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

If 2019 sounds like 2020, at least to this point in the season, you’re on to something.

Let’s start with last Wednesday. Fordham made the trek down to Richmond, Virginia for a date with the Rams of VCU, one of just two remaining undefeated teams in the A-10.

Fordham came out on the short end after having two double-digit leads in the game, one in each half. The visiting Rams built a 42-32 lead late in the third quarter, but VCU outscored Fordham 30-10 over the final 13 minutes of the game to pull away to a 62-52 victory.
Fordham struggled with its three-point shot all night, going 3-19 (15.8%) overall and 0-8 in the second half. This was not lost on Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley.

“I think we settled too much for threes,” Gaitley said. “We were having success attacking the basket and when we got the switch, instead of attacking the big kid (VCU center Danielle Hammond), we just pulled threes. We’re not shooting well, let’s attack the basket.”

Fordham also struggled mightily on defense in the second half. Part of this was due to foul trouble, as sophomore Kaitlyn Downey, junior Bre Cavanaugh and freshman Sarah Karpell all had four fouls with several minutes to play in regulation. This foul trouble — and the players’ preventative response to try to avoid fouling out — allowed VCU to do whatever it wanted inside. In fact, all but two of VCU’s 23 fourth-quarter points came either in the paint or at the free throw line, as Fordham had no answer for VCU’s combination of Hammond and Tera Reed near the basket.

“I just think, as good as we did in the first half against the post, it was the opposite in the second half,” Gaitley said.

Offensively, Fordham struggled to put the ball in the basket and had just four scorers. Cavanaugh led the way with 22 points, junior Kendell Heremaia had 11 points, Downey had 10 and freshman Anna DeWolfe had nine.

Outside of those four, all other Fordham players combined to take just five shots on the game. On the other side, Hammond and Reed combined for 42 of VCU’s 62 points while Taya Robinson added 11 more. With the loss on Wednesday, Fordham fell to 4-3 in A-10 play and needed to put the game behind them as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, that could not happen right away. The Rams were forced to bus back from Richmond — a roughly six-hour trip — after the game following charter issues in Virginia. The delay forced the team to lose a day of practice in advance of its Saturday home game against La Salle, a team that was picked to finish last in the conference but has been competitive to this point in the season. As promised, La Salle did not give Fordham anything easy for the first three quarters.

The Explorers never led in the game, but kept themselves in it until the final stages, much like last year’s game. Fordham’s lead was down to one point late in the third quarter, and the Explorers had four shots to take the lead late in the third quarter but missed all of them. In the fourth, Fordham pulled away, outscoring La Salle 21-9 en route to a 62-45 win.

“It feels great, just because it went in a game of spurts,” Gaitley said. “There was a lot of different runs and when they cut it to one, I think we regrouped and gained our composure back and settled down a little bit and got good possessions offensively.”

Part of Fordham’s success was being able to stay out of the foul trouble that doomed the team at VCU. Downey earned three fouls midway through the third quarter, but played a smart game and excellent defense that allowed her to stay on the floor for most of the day. Karpell, despite battling illness, was able to hold La Salle’s best player, freshman Claire Jacobs, in check with just 11 points on 5-13 shooting.

Offensively, Cavanaugh once again led the way with 21 points and seven rebounds, continuing her tear from the start of conference play. Cavanaugh currently leads the conference in scoring and has put up at least 20 points in seven of Fordham’s eight Atlantic 10 games. Heremaia came one rebound short of a double-double with 13 points, and DeWolfe and Downey each had 12.

With the win, Fordham sits at 5-3 in conference play and tied for fourth place in the Atlantic 10. Next up for the team is a matchup with The University of Rhode Island on Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. at the Rose Hill Gym. Rhode Island has the A-10’s leading rebounder in Nicole Jorgensen and will be a tough task for Fordham, who has the A-10’s second-leading rebounder in Heremaia.