BRONX, NY– Fordham Men’s Basketball opened up this season on the rise, propelling to a 12-1 overall record, performing at an elite clip on both ends of the court, and formulating into becoming a legitimate threat across the Atlantic-10 Conference.
But, the Rams’ first ultimate test of the season was circled on the calendar for this week with a pivotal matchup against the Davidson Wildcats at Rose Hill Gym.
To refresh on their history, Davidson eliminated Fordham in the A-10 Conference Championship Quarterfinals held in Washington D.C. this past March and entered the contest riding an 11-game winning streak for the series, 13-2 all-time.
Pair that, with Fordhams-best 13-game start to a season in program history against Division I opponents since 1970-1971, a Rams victory over the Wildcats had all the makings to be a potential narrative shift.
Regardless of the hot starts, and potentials, Fordham was unable to knock down shots and sustain Davidsons’ offensive unit, dropping their A-10 season opener by a final of 57-43.
The Rams began the night freezing on offense, scoring 14 points in the first half, combining as a team, 5-31 from the field and 0-16 from behind the arc.
Zach Riley and Abdou Tsimbila were the only two Fordham players to have multiple field goals going into halftime. Davidson’s Sam Mennenga led the charge with a buzzer-beater from a sensational pass out of a timeout, totaling 11 points in the first 20 minutes and 13 for the game.
Out of halftime, Fordham, led by first-year head coach Keith Urgo, switched their tone on defense, cleaning up the offensive boards and keeping the score in reach. He explained how the Rams remained aggressive while settling down and leveling up shots.
“It was ‘keep them off the offensive glass, let’s try to get out and run’ because we weren’t getting much in the half court, so we wanted to try to get out in transition,” Urgo said about his halftime message to the team.
Though never leading throughout the game, Rostyslav Novitskyi and the Rams clawed back from a 16-point deficit, and cut it down to eight. Novitskyi scored 12 points, all in the second half, forming an amped-up crowd of 1,700 on their feet awaiting a comeback that never appeared.
“We appreciate the energy that we had in the building; the amount of fans in there was fantastic,” Urgo said. “We need that to continue.”
“When we have that energy in the building, these kids feed off that.”
Darius Quisenberry, the Rams season leading scorer, voted Third Team Preseason All-Atlantic 10, returned from a one-game absence due to a nagging knee injury, and finished the night with two points, two assists while shooting 1-10 from the field.
This marked Quisenberry’s first game of the season not scoring in the double digits and only his fifth game as a Ram under 10 points.
“Quisenberry was out for a little while,” Urgo said. “Came back, couldn’t get going.”
“It’s part of the Atlantic-10, it’s a grind.”
Though unable to prevail in the comeback, dropping their second game of the season, Fordham showed consistent grit and never backed down or, in other words, refused to ‘throw in the towel’.
The Rams totaled more than double the points in the second half compared to their first half performance (14 to 29) while completing a four-minute sequence on defense of not allowing a basket.
Nonetheless, in a culmination of Fordham struggling to get to the free throw line, shooting 16-63 from the field along with 3-31 from behind the arc, Davidson had the upper-hand.
“When you go 16 for 63, you only get eight offensive rebounds; you’re not giving yourself many second chance opportunities,” Urgo explained. “Credit to them for finding bodies and getting physical. We’ve got to fight back a little more on the offensive end.”
With an intense A-10 Conference schedule on the horizon, Fordham must buckle up for what’s next: this upcoming Wednesday January 4th on the road against Rhode Island with tip-off set for 7:00pm EST.
And it seems like the Rams are already gearing up.
“We’re not going to play like that next time,” Urgo said. “We’re gonna come out firing on all cylinders.”
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Robert Rizzo writes for Latino Sports
Follow on Twitter: @RobertRiz994
Watch Sports with Rich live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with host Rich Mancuso and cohost Robert Rizzo.
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