Men’s Basketball Falls in Battle of the Bronx, Bounces Back Against St. Thomas

Fordham Men’s Basketball used a learning experience against Manhattan to put together a full team effort and strong second half to fend off a ravenous St. Thomas squad and improve to 2–1 on the season.


Ohams picked up a pair of double-doubles to continue his early season tear at Fordham. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

From the very beginning, Kyle Neptune has said that this season for Fordham Men’s Basketball is not about the results. In the past week, though, they have experienced both glory and defeat and become better because of it.

Fordham aimed to carry the momentum from its opening night victory against Columbia University down the road to Manhattan College for the annual Battle of the Bronx. Last season was the first year since 1944-45 that these two schools did not play each other. The 112 games between the teams are the most Fordham has played against any opponent, as are the 54 wins.

This time, though, Fordham came up on the losing end, leading all of the way through but stumbling in the final minutes in a 66–60 defeat. Fordham, once again, jumped in front by way of 31 first-half points. Unlike the Rams who shot 50% from the field, 11–22, from deep in the first half against the Lions, Fordham was a mere 0–4 this time around. 

Instead, they found a means of scoring inside the paint, with 20 points coming from that area and 12 free throw attempts resulting from it. Graduate forward Chuba Ohams was particularly dominant, finishing with 17 points and 18 rebounds for back-to-back double-doubles to open the season.

Those shooting woes continued into the second half where Fordham shot just 3–11 from deep. And without an escape route in the shooting department, Fordham was forced to put the ball on the floor and faced the consequences of it. 

The team combined for 26 turnovers on the night, eight of which came from Ohams and another seven from junior guard Antonio Daye Jr., overshadowing his otherwise impressive game-high 18 points. Graduate guard Darius Quisenberry Jr., after an explosive opening night, took just eight shots in this one for 12 points and four turnovers. 

In spite of all that, Fordham was still the better side, building double digit leads numerous times and staying atop the Jaspers for 38 minutes overall. They also both outrebounded and outshot Manhattan. 

However, those self-inflicted wounds became too much to overcome as Fordham again struggled to find a late game scoring option. That was largely due to foul trouble, with Ohams and sophomore Antrell Charlton forced to the sideline on the brink of fouling out for much of the second half and both Daye Jr. and sophomore Rostyslav Novitskyi hitting the sidelines with five themselves.

Then, with things tied at 58 late, Samir Stewart drilled a corner three for the Jaspers to push them into the lead. Fordham failed to respond, resulting in the 66–60 final. The outcome may not have been as Fordham hoped, but there were a number of positives to take away from it, which were on display Monday against the University of St. Thomas.

On paper, this may have appeared to be a lopsided matchup, with the Tommies entering their first season as a Division I program. The Summit League opponent is no ordinary competition, though. St. Thomas became the first team in NCAA history to make the jump directly to DI from the DIII level, bypassing a 12-year process. 

St. Thomas dominated the DIII landscape too. One of the winningest coaches in all of the NCAA, Johnny Tauer, led the Tommies to two DIII championships, four Final Fours and a winning record in 40 of the last 41 years. The team, too, could not be more different from Fordham, returning 96% of last season’s production and all five of its starters.

That impact was seen early on, with St. Thomas taking down another New York school, St. Francis College at Brooklyn, 91–73, behind a remarkable shooting performance. This gave Neptune and the Rams something to fear heading into Monday night. Fortunately, they were up to the challenge, battling early before pulling away late behind an impressive second half for an 84–78 victory.

After pouring in 30 points against the Terriers on 12–16 shooting, Anders Nelson continued his hot scoring streak with a 29 point showing, as four different Tommies scored in double digits. In addition, they took tremendous care of the ball with just seven turnovers.

That could have proved dangerous to a Fordham squad that played like it did against Manhattan. Signs of that showed in that first half, with Fordham resorting to forced three point attempts in hopes of rediscovering its shot and a number of individual efforts to drive to the basket with little cohesion. That created a tight 39–38 contest heading into the break.

However, Fordham began to find its strengths in the second half, seeing that a more physical and team-oriented approach would be the difference. Suddenly, the team began to push the ball inside, dominating the restricted area through crafty finishing and aggressive post-up play.

In time, that work on the inside opened up opportunities from the deep, and as is often said, teams live by the three and die by three. While a perimeter team in St. Thomas struggled from deep at just under 30%, Fordham slowly began to find its shot and put the Tommies away. 

Much of that stemmed from junior Kyle Rose’s career-high 22 points on six of 10 shooting from three. Some terrific heads-up awareness from Fordham’s big men created those opportunities, with Ohams picking up a career-high seven assists  to pair with 12 points and rebounds, another double double effort and nearly the first triple double in school history.

Fordham totaled 23 assists on 29 made baskets, shooting 52.7% from the field. They too had a number of players in double figures, with Daye Jr. and Charlton adding 12 and 11 points, respectively. Beyond just impacting the scoring department, Fordham associate head coach Keith Urgo noted the importance of his guards working in the rebounding area. Fordham won the battle on the boards 42–36 as a team, including ten from Quisenberry for a double-double himself. Fordham took care of the ball better too, with just 11 turnovers on the night.

Overall, it may go down as an insignificant win against an outmatched opponent, but Fordham made numerous strides forward on Monday night. At the very least, Neptune is hoping for progress this season and his team is already showing signs of that.

Their next test comes this Friday against a Fordham staple, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, from the Rose Hill Gym before embarking on a trip down south for the Gulf Coast Showcase.