Women’s Basketball Earns Come-from-Behind Win, Gaitley Earns 200th Fordham Victory

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2021.

Fordham Women’s Basketball earned a 56-53 victory over Rhode Island on Sunday despite trailing by as many as nine points in the third quarter.

Fordham and Rhode Island faced off at the Rose Hill Gym after Fordham’s weekend games at Richmond and VCU were both canceled following positive COVID-19 tests in both programs. Rhode Island was also in need of a weekend game, as their Sunday game with George Washington was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test in the Colonials’ program.

Once the two teams made it to Sunday, Rhode Island got off to a hot start. The visiting Rams kicked off the game on an 8-1 run, and while Fordham chipped away at the deficit, the home Rams could never wrest control of the lead. Fordham cut the Rhode Island lead to one near the end of the first, but back-to-back makes by grad transfer Johanna Muzet and redshirt Emmanuelle Tahane gave Rhode Island a five-point cushion entering the second quarter.

The second quarter story was much of the same. Fordham twice cut the deficit to just one point, but Rhode Island ended the quarter on a 9-4 run to take a six-point lead into the locker room. 

In the third quarter, Fordham finally made headway. After baskets by redshirt freshman Yanni Hendley and Muzet made it a nine-point game, Fordham went on a 12-2 run to take the lead. Head coach Stephanie Gaitley’s timeout paid dividends, as back-to-back threes by sophomore guard Sarah Karpell and junior forward Kaitlyn Downey helped key the Fordham run. Four straight points by sophomore guard Anna DeWolfe put Fordham in front by one, and back-to-back threes by senior guard Kendell Heremaia and DeWolfe helped keep Fordham in front heading into the fourth quarter.

In the final quarter, Rhode Island threw the first punches. Sophomore forward Marie-Paule Foppossi gave URI the lead with back-to-back baskets, and Tahane’s layup put Rhode Island up by five with eight minutes to play. Fordham senior guard Katie McLoughlin’s jumper made it a three-point game with 7:29 to go, and both teams went without a basket for nearly two minutes thereafter. With just over five minutes to go, DeWolfe — like she has so many times this season — bailed out the Rams’ offense, with a jumper and a three-pointer to put Fordham in front. 

But Rhode Island wasn’t done. Senior guard Marta Vargas’ three put URI up 50-48 with 3:32 to play. But once more, Fordham came through when it needed points. Heremaia made a layup to tie the game with 1:56 to go, and was fouled by Vargas after an offensive rebound with 1:25 to go. She made both free throws to put Fordham ahead 52-50. Hendley missed back-to-back attempts to tie the game for Rhode Island, and two more free throws from DeWolfe made it 54-50 Fordham with 12 seconds to play. 

With Rhode Island’s chances on life support, Vargas missed a three with seven seconds left. But Muzet snagged a long rebound and made a three of her own to cut the lead back down to one with two seconds to play. Downey was immediately fouled on the inbounds pass and made both free throws to put Fordham up three with 1.2 seconds left in regulation.

Rhode Island needed a three to tie the game and force overtime. The Rams wouldn’t get it. Coming out of a final timeout, Rhode Island head coach Tammi Reiss designed a play to get Vargas open at the top of the key. For a moment, Vargas cleared space and hoisted up a three, but Fordham junior forward Meg Jonassen was in position to defend and got a hand in Vargas’ face, forcing a shot that was well short of the rim. Fordham earned the victory, head coach Stephanie Gaitley’s 200th win at Fordham.

“This was such a great team win,” Gaitley told Fordham Athletics postgame. “We showed so much toughness and resilience against a very good Rhode Island team.”

The win moves Fordham to 7-2 in the A-10 and second place in the conference standings. Fordham has now beaten Rhode Island twice this season; the Rams earned a 64-58 victory in Kingston on Jan. 8. Two of Rhode Island’s three A-10 losses have come at Fordham’s hands, and Fordham finds itself behind only undefeated Dayton in the standings. 

Fordham will be staying home this coming weekend. The Rams take on St. Joe’s on Friday at 12 p.m. and host La Salle on Sunday at 2 p.m. The momentum is squarely on Fordham’s side, and the Rams are coming together nicely as the season roars towards its conclusion.