Men’s Basketball Wins 20 Games for the First Time Since 1991


The Rams are rolling in the A-10 after two big wins against UMass and Davidson. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

The running Rams have started to cut down the proverbial red tape that has plagued them for a quarter century, but for this program it has felt like an eternity. Not since 1992 has Fordham made the NCAA Tournament, and not since 1991 have they won anywhere in the range of 20 games overall, nor won more than 18 games as members of the Atlantic 10 conference.

Given the current state of the A-10, an at-large bid to the big dance for Fordham seems to be a stretch given their awful out-of-conference slate. However, a trip to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) is a growing reality by the day. If Fordham were to play in an NIT game alone, it would be the first postseason appearance for the program since 1992.

Fordham continued their historic year last Wednesday when the University of Massachusetts (UMass) rolled into the Bronx.
A once-national power back in the mid-to-late 1990s, the days of a young John Calipari, Marcus Camby and Lou Roe have long passed the Minutemen. Between the combined effort of former head coaches Steve Lappas, Travis Ford, Derreck Kellogg and Matt McCall, UMass only mustered a lone NCAA tournament appearance in 2014.

In steps a notorious screaming enthusiast and a former boss at Kansas State University and the University of South Carolina: Frank Martin. Martin is known for three things: generating one of the greatest seasons in Kansas State history behind All-American Michael Beasley, losing his mind on the sideline and taking the Gamecocks to the Final Four in 2017.

Martin’s first iteration of UMass returns only three players from last season with the remainder of the team composed of transfers from conferences like the Big East, Southeastern and the Atlantic Coast.

Going into Rose Hill, the team was already down UConn transfer Rahsool Diggins, star freshman RJ Luis and superstar Noah Fernandes due to injury. All guards, all are responsible for a majority of the scoring and distributing.

The Minutemen marched into Rose Hill and sprung out to an early 8-6 lead in the opening minutes. Martin was able to squeeze a lot out of his limited roster in the first half, with Wildens Leveque asserting himself with a vicious dunk over top of multiple Rams to make it 26-18 with six minutes to go in the first.

Fordham got as close as seven going into the halftime break with Massachusetts ending on a 7-0 up 39-32 in the first.

Weaponizing a 19-4 run to open the second half, Fordham jumped back in front with three threes from various sources in junior Kyle Rose, freshman Will Richardson and graduate student Darius Quisenberry. The latter finished with 21 points, 12 of which came from free throws.

The Rams turned UMass over 14 times, adding nine steals in the process, four of which were courtesy of Rose. Graduate student Khalid Moore added 19 points on the evening with seven rebounds, remaining extremely efficient on 8-13 shooting.

Massachusetts showed a ton of guts, a known identity of Frank Martin teams. Four players hit double figure scoring between Leveque: Matt Cross with 17, freshman point guard Keon Thompson with 13 and Brandon Martin tossing in 11 on the day. The Minutemen were able to stay in the game by utilizing a matchup-zone defense to conserve energy.

Where they came up short were rebounds and free throws. UMass only went to the line 18 times and hit 12 of their shots despite maintaining a lead in the first half. The Minutemen were also outmuscled on the glass 39-30, allowing 15 offensive rebounds to the Rams.

The Rams dominated UMass in free throws, going to the line 34 times and nailing 27 attempts in the night en route to a 77-67 win over the Minutemen. Fordham also included 18 points off turnovers despite going 4-20 from distance.

For the first time ever as an A-10 team, Fordham has won 19 games overall, the highest total since their infamous 2007 season.

With one layer of the proverbial red tape cut down, Fordham looked to make more history when they went down to North Carolina to face off against Davidson College.

All time, the Wildcats entered the matchup 14-2 against the Rams with the last Fordham win coming in 2017 at Belk Arena. It also happened to be the celebration for long time head coach Bob McKillop, with a ceremony taking place following the game.

The struggling Wildcats gave Fordham just about everything they could handle, with Foster Loyer dominating compared to his previous outing against the Rams in December. He exploded for 26 points while going 15-16 from the free throw line.

The Rams held Loyer’s helpers to no higher than 10 points, but the Wildcats took the lead four separate times and were tied with the Rams on four different occasions. The second half opened up as the Darius Quisenberry show, when he hit three of his first four long balls to balloon the Fordham lead.

Davidson utilized an 11-0 run to get back within one with just over six minutes left, that was until a series of unlucky events went against the Wildcats. Junior Antrell Charlton dumped in his patented free throw line jumper to give Fordham breathing room.
With about four minutes left, Junior Abdou Tsimbila recovered a key offensive rebound for a putback off a missed Quisenberry free throw to go back up six.

A herculean effort from both sides allowed Davidson to hang around, but Fordham kept their foot on the “Cats’” neck. Kyle Rose made a huge play to stop a fast break, going the full 94 feet in a blink to poke the ball away from Davidson’s Desmond Watson. Grant Huffman nailed a long two to keep Davidson in the hunt but to no avail.

Fordham slayed their demons and won their 20th game of the year, their first 20-win season since 1991 and their first 20-win year as an A-10 team.

The Rams’ final six games are crucial as they have a home white-out game against St. Bonaventure University on Wednesday and a test on the road against Virginia Commonwealth University on Saturday afternoon, the consensus best team in the A-10 and a team Fordham has only beaten once since they joined the conference.

Beyond that, Fordham plays two basement dwellers in the University of Rhode Island and Loyola University Chicago and two middle of the pack units in George Mason University and Duquesne University. If the Rams are to secure a double bye in the A-10 tournament, winning at least four puts them in a good position, but winning five is a practical guarantee.