BRONX, NY– Dating back to the start of Fordham’s season, first-year head coach Keith Urgo, emphasized the importance of developing a connection between the Rams fan base and players, while understanding it wouldn’t be an overnight process. Urgo, along with Fordham University’s athletic director Edward M. Kull, viewed the process thoroughly, and bought into it by trusting the players with their work ethic paired to the team’s success on the court.
As we head into March, we can all come to terms, and agree: Smart choice…
Following the Rams 74-71 victory over Rhode Island University this past Saturday afternoon, Fordham stands 23-6 overall, which marks the most wins in program history for a single-season since 1990-1991.
Additionally, with two games to go before the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament is held at the Barclays Center, the Rams currently sit within the A-10’s top four seeds, compiling 11 conference wins this year – the most Atlantic-10 wins for Fordham in a single-season, surpassing the 2006-2007 squad, who totaled 10.
Oh, and about that connection between the fan base and players? Rose Hill Gym, a cathedral of College Basketball, and home of the Rams, has a new title: ‘Rose Thrill’.
‘Rose Thrill’ has transitioned into an atmosphere unlike any other, sold-out crowds of 1,800+, all stomping in unison, entrenching themselves within the action. Saturday afternoon was a true representation of what comes from developing that unique fan-player connection.
“When you think of college basketball, that’s what you want to play in front of: the fans,” Rams forward and Georgia Tech transfer Khalid Moore said about ‘Rose Thrill’. “Just having that energy in the building gives you a boost and motivation.”
Indeed, Moore, 23, a product of Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, NY, was provided that boost from the crowd of 1,808 on Saturday. He compiled his 22nd game of the season with double digits, and 32nd in his college career.
Nonetheless, that ‘Rose Thrill’ energy scattered across the court as Moore, Darius Quisenberry, and Rostyslav Novitskyi each dropped 14 points, tying for a game team-high. Will Richardson, freshman guard, from Teaneck, New Jersey made an impact with nine points, and three boards as well as Kyle Rose, who achieved his career high in rebounds (eight), to add to his own eight points.
But, enough of the individual numbers, Fordham’s kryptonite is dependent on their scrappy play, and hustle on both ends of the court – constantly crashing the boards offensively, followed by immediate impact plays defensively, such as a steal, block, or knocked ball.
“That’s definitely our identity,” Quisenberry elaborated. “Just trying to get on every loose ball, and try to wear teams down. In the last four minutes of the games, you see, guys are missing free throws or air balling shots; that’s because we’re wearing them out through the course of forty minutes. You can see that when it comes down to the last four minutes, that’s when we win our games.”
Wearing teams down, the Rams have… Saturday’s contest marked Fordham’s eighteenth game this season of out-rebounding their opponent: 16-2 overall. Additionally, the Rams beat Rhode Island in the paint 32-24, on the bench, 15-10, as well as in the assists, and blocks columns.
Zoning in on Saturday’s Statistics – Rhode Island vs. Fordham
Fordham: 14 assists, six blocks
Rhode Island: 12 assists, two blocks
Going beyond the numbers much? Yes, and winning solves a lot, but not everything. Fordham’s journey began with a half-packed arena for home games this season. Now, just four months later, Rose Hill Gym is ‘Rose Thrill’, with Rams fans lining up, and knocking at the door for tickets.
“When we recruited all these guys, they wanted to be what we call ‘trail blazers,’” Fordham head coach Keith Urgo explained. “They wanted to come here and try to do something that they don’t believe had ever been done. And that’s what they’ve done. It’s a testament to their energy. Without them playing as hard as they have, without them being as successful on the court as they have… It’s probably not ‘Rose Thrill.’
“As a result, you’re starting to see the connection to the student body, and the players. Hopefully it continues to happen because it’s clear as day it’s fun to be a part of, there’s no doubt about it.”
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Robert Rizzo is a journalist and co-editor of Latino Sports
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