That First Rams Win Felt Good For Coach

Warren King Jr.

Mike DePaoli earned his first win Saturday up at Rose Hill. The interim Fordham men’s basketball coach had reason to be proud of his team after a 76-68, Atlantic 10 Conference win over LaSalle University.

The Rams (2-9) had to feel good after their second win. This season of adversity has included more than one hiatus because of COVID-19. Last week, DePaoli, a longtime assistant, took over the reigns when Jeff Neubauer was let go after six years.

“Let’s play our brand of basketball, don’t let anyone dictate to us and we’re going to play,” DePaoli said to his team.

The Rams, a team that is young and dominated in the A-10, well, they played their brand of basketball. Five players scored in double figures for the first time this season and that felt good.

Let’s face it, there have not been many good times when the Rams have felt good with another lost season and probably an early elimination in the conference tournament next month, but Saturday, they played and scored against LaSalle. a team that beat them 89-52 in early January and snapped a nine-game losing streak with the Explorers.

Then against LaSalle, the Rams finally got their late start to a season that had been pushed back and forced them to play all conference games. This game was originally scheduled for March 3rd but was moved when the Fordham-Davidson game was postponed as the Wildcats were on pause.

There were never any excuses from the previous coach and no excuses from DePaoli, though, adversity as they say will play a role in any team sport. Fordham has definitely had their share of adversity.

The Rams looked good with a season high 39 second-half points and showed they can compete in this conference, that will probably send three or four teams to post season play next month.

The coach looks to take this win into their next game Wednesday at George Mason.

“Think about this, they shot 33% in the first half and 56% in the second half, so yeah, defensively, we played one good half of basketball tonight, we need to get better defensively,” he said.

Defense and offense is the key also to winning in the A-10. Fordham, though, is looking at the adjustments. It is evident they can score and go to the basket and play their game inside or beyond the arc. They are also aware that five players scoring in double digits is not happening every game or in the next one with Mason, but this win was encouraging. Ty Perry came off the bench and scored 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting from 3-point range. Kyle Rose had 15 points and five steals, Jason Cobb scored 14 points, and Joel Soriano scored 13 and grabbed 13 rebounds.

“They’re special kids you know and that’s how this group is. I mean that they’re happy for me and I’m happy for them, and I really think that’s what makes this group special and I told them,” DePaoli said.

Soriano, Fordham’s leading scorer, notched his third straight double-double and has achieved that mark in each of the past three games, and seven of the eleven games this year. Chris Austin has also notched double-doubles in seven of his last nine games.

17 turnovers is a concern, no matter what the record shows and the Rams know they can get better as they try to stay competitive this month and go into the tournament.

“I’m happy for the guys they’ve stayed with it and stayed with it and you want to talk about you know unselfish basketball,” DePaoli said. “We did have 17 turnovers but we had 17 assists so really proud of how unselfish they played again. It just goes back to everybody, putting the team first.”

And that first win for DePaoli?

“Whatever our record is, I couldn’t even tell you,” he said. “I’m literally just focused on our next game, George Mason on Wednesday.”

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich has covered countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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