Men’s Basketball Reaches A-10 Semifinals, Falls Short to Dayton


Fordham’s magical season came to an end in the A-10 semifinals. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

The magic of the Fordham men’s basketball team took multiple Ram Vans, subway routes and Uber rides to assemble their massive following of loyal students to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last Thursday. Over 1,500 students alone were in attendance for the Rams’ Atlantic 10 quarterfinal matchup against La Salle University. 

The Explorers, picked to finish within the bottom third of the conference, did earn the 11th seed in the A-10 tournament. They defeated the University of Rhode Island and upset Duquesne University in their first two games to make a run to the conference quarterfinals. 

Despite their questionable abilities on defense, La Salle entered as one of the better three-point shooting teams in the conference at over 35% as a team. Their head coach, Fran Dunphy, had the team veering on the right path at the right time. It was almost as if he turned back the clock to his days at Temple: the patented swing offense with a healthy balance of threes and drives to shoot free throws, a style that brought him years of success with the Owls.

The Rams handled Duquesne at home by 27 to clinch a much needed double bye, although it did feel the team was starting to get a bit tired but were able to regroup for a Thursday night tilt at Barclays. The Explorers did get out to a 5-2 lead early in the game thus rustling awake Fordham’s vaunted defense. A dunk by junior Abdou Tsimbila invigorated Fordham as they took over from there. 

The defense is what has kept Fordham in games all season long even when the ball wasn’t going in the basket. They held La Salle to 0-7 shooting from three in the first half alone and ended the game with 25% three point shooting despite a 5-13 tally in the second half. 

Fordham rallied behind 42 combined points from their graduate student leaders in Khalid Moore (who added 11 rebounds) and Darius Quisenberry. They also received 10 points from freshman sensation Will Richardson and six rejections from senior Rostik Novitskyi.

Scoring the ball wasn’t the problem for the Rams, especially inside the paint. What almost hurt them was free throws and three point shooting. They picked an interesting time to go 11-24 from the free throw line and 6-21 from range. 

The Rams were able to escape 69-61, overcoming Dunphy’s last ditch efforts at making it a close game in the end. For the first time since 2006, Fordham was going to the conference tournament semi-finals (they also beat La Salle in 2006 in a two-point win) to face the preseason favorite University of Dayton Flyers. 

The Flyers last ripped Fordham in January with a 82-58 victory in Rose Hill, an utter embarrassment in a gym that was filled with Dayton fans. Fordham was also dominated by one of the best front court duos in the entire nation: Toumani Camara and DaRon Holmes.  

A rematch at the Barclays once again brought out “Rose Thrill” last Saturday, no question fueling the Rams in their second tilt with the Flyers.

Outside speculation about Dayton’s immediate future has clouded above the team, headlined by lingering rumors of head coach Anthony Grant stepping down from his current post. Besides that, Toumani Camara walked on his senior night confirming he is likely not returning. It is widely speculated DaRon Holmes will declare for the NBA draft, along with transfer smoke around a number of the supporting cast. 

From tipoff, Fordham did not back down from the Flyers at all. Every punch thrown by Dayton was countered by Fordham early on, specifically from Novitskyi who stepped up in a big way with 13 points.

Richardson continued his fine postseason play with 16 points that included a massive three in the second half to take the lead. Then he hit another huge three with 6:13 left to pull back within one.

Moore also had another excellent game posting 24 points on 9-16 shooting, but it was a nightmare game for Quisenberry who only ended with eight points. The first half concluded when he drew a foul on a three point shot, but only hit one of the three free throws to conclude the first down three.

In the second half, Quisenberry took a hit to his shoulder and had to be taken out of the game. He ended up finishing the game but ran out of gas while battling his injury. The team took a total of 28 threes, hitting nine, but shot 6-15 from range in the second half which kept them in the game. 

DaRon Holmes struggled early but woke up from his nap and once again dominated Fordham in the paint. Holmes nailed 20 points contrary to his frontcourt complement, Camara, who went off for 28 points on 12-13 shooting. Timely distance hits from Mustapha Amzil and Dayton were able to slam the door shut on Fordham 78-68, capitalized by a windmill slam from Camara on a fast break. 

Fordham took Dayton to the brink but their efforts in the closing minutes were just not enough. Had Quisenberry hit those two free throws, or been 100% healthy it would have likely been a closer result. 

Losing to Dayton the way Fordham did is not shameful at all, they constructed an excellent season centered around defying expectations and a 25-8 record to show for it.

Fordham enters the offseason waving goodbye to four seniors and an abundance of underclassmen who are bound to improve under Keith Urgo’s guidance. With Urgo signing an extension Wednesday, which will run through the 2027-28 season, expect the Rams to be back next season.