Men’s Basketball Navigates Four Game Losing Streak but Proves Much More in A-10 Play

Fordham has lost four straight games in the A-10. (courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Fordham has lost four straight games in the A-10. (courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

One month ago, Fordham Men’s Basketball concluded its non conference schedule with a narrow 72–66 loss at the Barclays Center to the University of Miami. Despite being a team that takes minimal pride in moral victories, the effort was to be rewarded nonetheless.

As the team departed Brooklyn, however, no one could have predicted the storm that has followed. It has featured the highs of a victory against La Salle University, their first in Philadelphia since 2016, to a buzzer-beating layup over Duquesne University. 

But then, there are the lows too. Those include COVID-19 pauses, the news of junior guard Antonio Daye Jr. suddenly departing the program, graduate forward Chuba Ohams Jr. missing the latest two contests and the team losing four consecutively to fall to a 9–9 record.

Considering all of that, it would have been very easy to fold. Fordham, though, has remained true to its roots that have already grown to play some of its best basketball of the season so far. 

Their Atlantic 10 saga started back on December 30 in the aforementioned contest with La Salle. The Rams have historically struggled on the road to open conference play. In fact, that’s quite an understatement. They were 0–12 when doing so in their 25 year history in the conference. That all changed this year, though.

After playing one of the poorer first halves of the season, Fordham stormed back with 43 points in the second to overcome the Explorers, 69–61. The difference came from an unlikely source too, a three point barrage by graduate guard Josh Colon-Navarro who finished with 17 points, tying his career-high.

Graduate guard Darius Quisenberry paced the Rams with 19 points and Ohams added another double-double, 15 points and 11 rebounds, in a stat line that has become all-too-familiar for the nation’s fourth best rebounder. Sophomore Antrell Charlton, whose scoring continues to fluctuate, impacted the game in other ways with a season-high nine assists himself.

Back in the Bronx nearly two weeks later after a series of postponements, Fordham showed a flair for the dramatic, falling behind and crawling back to defeat the Duquesne Dukes in the very last second, 72–71 on a winning layup from Daye Jr.

Even though there were, and still are, no fans inside the Rose Hill Gym, the shot reverberated around the nation. Fordham notched its first win against Duquesne in the last seven tries, and more triumphantly, its first ever 2–0 start in the A-10. There is no greater evidence of change than achieving the unprecedented.

Ohams etched himself into Fordham history too. In addition to achieving another double double, he patrolled the paint to a career-high eight blocks. It felt fitting that a statistical line rivaling the top of the Fordham record books ushered in an exciting new future.

But how quickly the story of a season can change.

Less than 24 hours later, Daye Jr. vanished from the program entirely. In an official press release, Fordham Athletics announced the following,

“Men’s basketball player Antonio Daye, a Fordham junior, has announced his intention to withdraw from the University for personal reasons, and will not be competing with the team, effective Thursday, January 13, 2022. The University will not be releasing any further information on Mr. Daye’s decision.”

From a purely basketball perspective, 16.8 points per game, gone. A lethal playmaker, gone. Now, those numbers will travel to Coastal Carolina. Regardless of the reasons why, which remain unknown, the Rams had one challenge in front of them: move on.

And so they have, impressively competing in the games that have followed despite all the challenges presented to them. Their record may now sit at 2–4 but the tape tells a different story, especially against some of the very best the A-10 has to offer.

First came a trip to Saint Louis, a place where Fordham has never won. This year, the one man difference showed as the Rams fell by nearly exactly Daye’s scoring output, 63–45, to the Saint Louis Billikens.

The main player expected to pick up the scoring load will be Quisenberry, who mustered up 15 on an off-shooting night. And the rest of the team followed, shooting an abysmal 16–56 overall, the worst shooting percentage of the season (29%), and 5–20 from the perimeter.

The story then shifted home, where the Rams lost to the University of Richmond Spiders, pegged second in the preseason poll, 83–70. The final line is not representative of just how close a contest it was, however.

Quisenberry buffed his scoring total to 23 and junior Kyle Rose awakened with 16 points and four triples. Ohams noticed his ninth double double of the year and Fordham collectively accumulated 17 assists. A group that had been shaken to its core just a short while ago was already beginning to emerge even stronger.

The trend forward continued against the Davidson Wildcats, a seemingly insurmountable force riding a 14 game win streak into the Bronx. Coming off two wire-to-wire contests with Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, it was certainly tempting for Davidson to let its foot of the gas against Fordham. That became even more pronounced when Ohams did not play due to a knee injury.

But, Neptune’s squad deserves more respect than that, and proved it on Saturday.

Fordham blitzed out of the gates to take a 31–24 lead into the locker room. They carried that momentum into a strong start to the second half too. However, a 15–3 run compounded by Fordham’s offensive struggles flipped the outcome entirely. Quisenberry leaned into contact in hopes of forcing one last foul call but it did not come. The buzzer sounded at 69–66, Davidson.

Quisenberry finished with 36 points, the most by a Ram since Andre McClendon in 1990 and overall for an A-10 player this season. He was recognized for it too, with the conference naming him Atlantic 10 Player of the Week on Monday, Fordham’s first since Javontae Hawkins in 2017. He averaged 29.5 points over the two game stretch, while shooting over 40% from three, and paces the conference scoring 17.9 points per contest.

As sensational as Quisenberry was, the story for Fordham will continue to come down to the others. 10 players factored into this game, including a first appearance for New Zealand sensation Zach Riley, yet none were able to hit double figures. 

That number in itself though, 10, is encouraging enough. So too are the equal number of threes, the second straight contest in which Fordham has hit double digits. The defense continued to perform too, holding a prolific shooting team in Davidson, second in the NCAA in three point shooting at around 42%, to just 23%.

While Fordham’s next opponent may not have the national ranking next to its name like Davidson, it certainly posed the same type of threat This Tuesday, Fordham made the trip to UD Arena to take on the University of Dayton.

Fordham may have shockingly won the last meeting but that was a remarkable exception, with 16 of the previous contests going Dayton’s way. This time around was no different, as the Flyers fended off Fordham to a 68–61 final score.

The play-by-play is a story Fordham will recognize all too well, stumbling early and fighting until the last minute. Dayton used a 14–0 run to take a first half lead that remained at 13 all the way until just three minutes remaining. There, Fordham made one last push, narrowing things down to six, but failing to ever creep any closer.

Quisenberry led the way with 17 points, as he has now finished in double figures in that many of Fordham’s 18 contests. Rose had another strong night too, finishing 3–5 from deep to continue a hot shooting streak sitting at 73% over the last five games. Ohams, again, did not play.

With all of that said, the last few weeks have featured a mix of emotions for Fordham. It is an incredible achievement to have competed so closely against four teams picked within the top six of the A-10. Yet, it is even more frustrating to have come up one step, one piece short.

In the end, the question of “what could have been” will continue to linger, but for a team repeatedly striving to play its best basketball at season’s end, these last few games have introduced an even more enticing question of “What will be?” 

That future, emerging out of an impossible challenge, looks incredibly promising.