Rams Rebound Against Rhode Island, Drop Two to Saint Joe’s & Bonaventure


The Rams have lost two straight after a big home win against Rhode Island. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

The 2021-22 Fordham Men’s Basketball season has been marked by a continually evolving barometer of success. Analyzed collectively, the 7-5 non-conference record could be considered exactly that: a success. That momentum carried through the first 2-0 start in the team’s Atlantic 10 history, clearly another success.

Even in the losses — five straight from Jan. 15 to the month’s end — came with a shade of optimism. Fordham fell in each of those games, yet competed against some of the top competition in the conference. It felt like a matter of time before those efforts were reflected in the final score, and that time came against the University of Rhode Island.

Then, Feb. 2, the Rams overcame their eponymous opponent with a 61-55 victory. Those in attendance, with this game being the first that students were allowed into the Rose Hill Gym — will know that the play-by-play tells a bit of a different story.

Fordham had one of its most productive halves of the season on both ends of the floor — leading 36-19 after the first. The shooting numbers did not fly off the chart — just 41.38% overall and 35.71% from deep — but Fordham received scoring contributions from a number of different names, accumulating 16 total points off the bench in the half.

The only thing better than a start like that could have been an even stronger finish. As has been the case for much of the season, a complete 40 minutes continued to evade Fordham. Rhode Island responded with a stellar second half, matching those 36 points and rattling off a 10-0 run to tie things up with just over five minutes to go.

Fordham scored 12 points during those first 15 minutes, but more importantly, finished with 13 during the final five to secure the six point victory. As was stated in the postgame press conference, Fordham would traditionally lose a game like this, but that was not the case here. Instead, its resiliency in the final moments resonates more than the lead that vanished.

“These are games you need,” said head coach Kyle Neptune. “We’ve undergone kind of a transformation this last, you know, two, three weeks. We’ve really been looking to find ourselves. I think we found ourselves in that game.”

Graduate guard Darius Quisenberry again led the way with 15 while graduate forward Chuba Ohams added a 15 point, 13 rebound double double. That may sound familiar but Fordham also received a dozen points from graduate guard Josh Colon-Navarro and a determined effort on the boards, with all but one player contributing to Fordham’s 40-38 win in the rebounding battle.

The success partly stemmed g  from starting sophomore forward Abdou Tsimbila, who Neptune referred to as a “physical freak.” He later added, “He hurts our guys in practice, literally.” Such an impact was especially valuable as Ohams continues to battle lingering injury concerns, with Neptune saying, “He’s given us everything he can possibly give us.”

It’s an attitude emblematic of the Fordham team as a whole. “I think it’s our guys’ DNA. They play hard.” Neptune later added, “We feel like we can play against anyone in the country if we play harder than them.”

That next challenge came against Saint Joseph’s University, the first of a three-game road trip. Proving just how much that effort matters, the Rams will likely still feel they should have walked out of Philadelphia with a win on a night when they shot just 14% from deep (3-21), rather than a narrow 72-69 defeat. 

Saturday afternoon’s contest followed a similar pattern of a strong Fordham start followed by an equally dissatisfying conclusion. The Rams jumped out of the gates to an early 21-12 lead but St. Joe’s responded with a run of its own, seizing a one-point lead at the halftime break.

The Hawks then gained just the bit of separation they needed with a quick second half burst, matching each of Fordham’s runs to lead by nine with three minutes to go. In typical Fordham fashion, the Rams had just a bit more drama left in them late, but it was not enough.

Quisenberry paced the Rams with 19 while Ohams delivered a measly 12 points and six boards. This time, though, junior Kyle Rose made his mark with 15 more, despite shooting just 1-4 from deep. Even more encouragingly, Fordham continued its bench production with 15, a stunning outlier to the Hawks’ zero.

In fact, a number of statistical categories favored Fordham in a big way, including points off turnovers, second chance points and points in the paint. Add in the fact that Fordham held the Hawks’ leading scorer Taylor Funk to just seven points. Because of that, even such a poor shooting night left Fordham with a sour taste in its mouth.

It’s tough to pinpoint just what exactly went wrong, but as was the case against George Washington and many games before, it seems that an inability to capitalize on open opportunities and inconsistent late game decision-making may be the culprit.

There was no such opportunity for those choices against Fordham’s next opponent, Saint Bonaventure. A respectable first half in Olean opened up to a second half beatdown and a 76–51 final outcome that can be described as the Rams’ first clear mismatch of the season.

It was only a five-point game at the halftime break, with Fordham being led by an unlikely source in sophomore Antrell Charlton, who finished with 14 to lead the Rams in scoring for the first time this year. However, an experienced Bonnies squad capitalized off of Fordham’s second half mistakes, converting 14 points off turnovers and another 12 on the offensive glass.

The shooting numbers continue to loom large, tallying up as 31.7% overall, 21.9% from three and 40% (6-15) at the charity stripe. Fortunately, bench pieces such as sophomores Pat Kelly and Rostyslav Novitskyi again gave the Rams valuable minutes. Junior Kam’Ron Cunningham contributed 11 minutes after not taking the floor since Jan. 25 in Dayton.

All of these players will become even more significant in light of Fordam’s newest challenge. The Rams’ star guard, Quisenberry, went down with a second half injury and did not return, finishing with just nine points. It’s the last thing that a team yet to fully heal its wounds needs. As has been the case all year, though, it will have to be just another test for Fordham to overcome.

Ultimately, that is how much of Fordham’s recent stretch has begun to feel: one play, one run, one break short of a different outcome. There is nothing that can be done to change that rather than to reflect and move forward.

Fordham will aim to do just that in the last stop on its road trip, Pittsburgh, for a rematch against a Duquesne University team they previously beat. Following that came three games at the Rose Hill Gym, with hopes to flip the script on a 1-7 stretch that has left the team at 10-12.

As Neptune said following the win against URI, “Just having your friends behind you definitely helps.” Fordham needs that now more than ever, both in the gym and those seeing through the current cloud and to the rest of the season ahead.