Rams seek upset of Vols
Nashville, TN (Sports Network) – A couple of schools in search of a second
straight win meet in the opening round of the NIT Season Tip-Off from
Nashville tonight, as the Fordham Rams tangle with the 25th-ranked Tennessee
Volunteers. The winner of tonight’s Nashville Regional game will meet either
UNC-Wilmgton or Belmont for the right to advance to the semifinals at
Madison Square Garden. The Rams had some trouble in their season-opener on
Friday, but still managed to pull out a 70-68 win over Sacred Heart at
home. Fordham, which returns a few key players from a team that finished
16-16 last season, has dropped its opening round game in each of its two
previous appearances in this tournament.
As for Tennessee, it opened its 2006-07 campaign at home on Friday, posting
an easy 83-52 win over Middle Tennessee. It was the 39th victory in the past
41 home openers by Tennessee, which returns two starters from a club that went
22-8 en route to the NCAA tournament last season.
The Vols own a 2-1 edge in the all-time series with Fordham, although the
Rams won the last meeting, 93-85, in Knoxville in 1989.
The Rams were able to compensate for their 25 turnovers by dominating the
boards, 46-31, including an 18-9 edge on the offensive glass, in a two-point
season-opening win over Sacred Heart. Fordham shot a modest 40.7 percent from
the field in the win and converted 21-of-31 free-throw attempts. Chris Bethel
came off the bench and led the team with a career-high 15 points and six
rebounds. Bryant Dunston also got into the mix, as he posted 14 points on 4-
of-8 shooting from the floor. Dunston is the key to Fordham’s success and the
6-8 forward is coming off a solid 2005-06 campaign in which he averaged 16.1
ppg and 7.6 rpg.
In their season-opening win over Middle Tennessee, the Vols shot 48.4
percent from the floor and also banged home 6-of-16 three pointers. The team
did a decent job at the foul line, converting 17-of-25 attempts, and also
dominated the boards 44-34. JaJuan Smith led all scorers with 16 points to go
along with five rebounds. It was a solid showing by Smith, who has moved into
a starting role after averaging 9.5 ppg off the bench last season. Dane
Bradshaw, the lone senior on the squad, added 12 points and seven boards in
the win, while Chris Lofton was held to just six points. The sub par effort by
Lofton was kind of surprising considering he is a preseason Wooden Award
candidate following a 2005-06 campaign in which he led the Vols in scoring
with 17.2 ppg.
Tennessee is the pick here and with its trio of talented guards it should be
able get by a less talented Rams club tonight.