PITTSBURGH (AP) – Bre Cavanaugh scored 22 points and Mary Goulding 19 to lead Fordham to a 62-47 victory over VCU on Sunday to win the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.
After beginning league play 4-3, including a 47-44 loss to VCU on Jan. 16, Fordham (25-8) won its final nine regular-season games to finish atop the standings with VCU before sweeping three games in the conference tournament in double-digit victories. Fordham beat No. 10 seed UMass by 11 and No. 2 Duquesne by 42 before defeating VCU by 15.
After VCU scored the first four points, Fordham took the lead for good with a 9-0 run with five points from Cavanaugh and four from Goulding. The lead was two after one quarter and seven at halftime. It was still seven after a third quarter in which both teams scored only eight points each. But a 7-2 burst capped by a 3-pointer from Goulding to open the fourth quarter gave Fordham a 12-point lead and began a 24-point final period. VCU would get within nine just once after that.
Fordham’s final field goal came with just under five minutes for a 12-point cushion, and from there it made 13 of 14 free throws, including nine from Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh was only 4-of-14 shooting from the field but made 13 of 14 free throws and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Goulding was 6 of 11 from the field with three 3-pointers and four steals. Fordham was 24 of 26 at the free-throw line to only 6 of 9 for VCU.
Goulding’s four steals were part of 18 VCU turnovers that led to a 16-5 advantage on points off miscues.
Danielle Hammond was the only VCU player to score in double figures with 13 points. Taya Robinson had nine points, eight rebounds and five assists.
“I just want to cry,” Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley said on television moments after the victory. “It’s such a great group of kids … a really focused group. … It’s been a wonderful journey.”
Gaitley, in her eighth year as Fordham’s head coach, led her Rams to the 2014 NCAA Tournament with a victory over Dayton in the conference championship game.
VCU (23-9, 13-4), after improving from a 7-22 record last season, was vying for its first conference tournament championship in its second appearance in a title game.