BRONX, N.Y. –During his team’s run to the NCAA national championship in 1993, Nolan Richardson famously likened his Arkansas Razorbacks’ approach to basketball as “40 minutes of hell.”
Such an approach can often put enormous pressure on the opposition as it did for Richardon’s Razorbacks. Sometimes, however, it can be a much shorter period of time that can spell the difference in the outcome of a game.
Fordham proved that as Kaitlyn Downey connected on a trio of 3-pointers in a span of 1:42 in the third period to help break open a close game before withstanding a late rally by Michigan State for a 71-68 win over the visiting Spartans on Nov. 21 at Rose Hill Gymnasium in the Bronx.
The win improved the Rams to 3-1 on the season while the Spartans lost for the first time in five outings on the young season. It was the second meeting in history between the two schools. Fordham defeated the Spartans 73-63 in a 1979 game in Flushing, N.Y.
The triumph over the Big Ten foe is arguably the biggest win in Fordham history.
“This team is so special,” Fordham standout Anna DeWolfe said after the game. “We have talent … we have depth … and everyone stepped up at the right time.”
Downey certainly stepped up at the most opportune time for the Rams.
She returned from a short break on the bench midway through the third period and responded just 16 seconds later by hitting a 3-pointer to pull her team to within 42-40 with 4:22 to play.
She was not done.
After teammate Asiah Dingle tied the game on driving layup, Downey connected again from the right wing to give the Rams a 45-42 advantage at the 3:09 mark of the period. She added another for good measure from nearly the same spot on the floor as Fordham’s lead ballooned to 48-42.
The Rams continued to increase their lead to as many 10 when Dingle drove the lane again to score with just six second left in the third quarter and Fordham led 54-44 at the time after outscoring the Spartans 21-9 in the quarter.
It was an abyss the Spartans were unable to fully recover from.
MSU standout Nia Clouden connected on a pair of dramatic 3-pointers of her own in the closing seconds as part of a furious comeback bid by the Spartans.
Her first 3-pointer in that span came with just six seconds left and brought her team to within 68-65, but a pair of free throws from Kendell Heremaia made it a two-possession game again and another long-range shot from Clouden with three seconds left was a case of too little, too late for Michigan State.
“This game just shows what we are capable of as a team,” DeWolfe added.
“Give Fordham credit, they play hard,” MSU coach Suzy Merchant said. “I was just disappointed in how we defended (Downey) and were not aware of her three-point ability.”
Michigan State had trouble all day against a feisty Fordham team. Ten first-half turnovers did not help the MSU cause. The Spartans, who held a slim 35-33 lead at the intermission, did not get its largest lead of the day until the third quarter when Moira Joiner hit a 3-pointer to give the Spartans a 42-37 lead with 5:10 to go in the period.
Less than a minute later it was Downey to the rescue for the Rams.
Downey and DeWolfe shared game-high scoring honors as he poured in 24 points on the afternoon. Downey connected on 10 of 17 shots from the floor, including four of nine from behind the arc. DeWolfe finished the game with 11 of 20 shooting from inside and outside as the playmaker operated the Ram offense brilliantly most of the afternoon while also handing out four assists in the contest.
Dingle also reached double figures in scoring with 13 points and added six rebounds for Fordham in the winning effort.
Megan Jonassen, who was held without a point in the game, made her presence felt in another way. She led the Rams with 10 rebounds in the game, including eight on the offensive end. Heremaia tallied a game-high five assists for the Rams.
Michigan State had three players reach digits in scoring. Clouden led the way wth 22 points, while Alyza Winston and DeeDee Hagemann added 13 and 11 points, respectively for the Spartans.
It was the second straight 20-point performance for Clouden after she netted 21 points in a 100-60 win over Bryant on Nov. 19. Winston, meanwhile, reached double figures for the fifth straight game this season for the Spartans.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.