In April of last year, Fordham Men’s basketball coach Kyle Neptune took over a program that came off another losing season. He said the Rams would compete and make a statement in the Atlantic-10 Conference. Basically, a new culture would be evident.
Last week the Rams, for the first time, got off to a 2-0 start in the conference after a win over Duquesne at home. In between there have been more disruptions with the schedule because of COVID-19. It wasn’t a situation of not being competitive like last year under similar circumstances when the results were not good and resulted in another dismal season.
But there is a difference this season with Neptune and the Rams. Despite the continued adversity of schedule changes, Saturday afternoon at the Rose Hill Gym (and without graduate student Chuba Ohams due to injury who averages 13.8 ppg and a team best 11.4 rebounds) they gave Davidson a good run in a 69-66 loss.
Davidson came to Rose Hill with a 14-game winning streak which led Division 1 schools, and they were also undefeated in five conference games. The Wildcats are big up front, defending the ball well. They can score and have made their statement as a major team to contend with before the start of March Madness.
So one could figure this would be another bad matchup for Fordham. Though, again, that winning culture came into play in what has become evident with a Kyle Neptune coached team, 9-8 overall and 2-3 in the Atlantic 10.
“They were just a little too much for us,” Neptune said. “Proud of the way our guys competed. They gave everything they had. Just a few plates here and there, it just wasn’t enough.”
One play with seconds remaining could have been the difference and sent the game to overtime had graduate student guard Darius Quisenberry converted a three-pointer. He was bumped on the attempt and time ran off the clock. Quisenberry led all scorers with a season-high 36 points, hitting six three pointers and prior to the last attempt he converted a three with six seconds remaining to make it a one-point game.
Davidson made adjustments after the Rams took control in the first half. Fordham held the Wildcats to 24 points and took a 31-24 lead into the break. That new culture and chemistry has shown the Rams are never intimidated and this was a good test versus Davidson.
This is a culture that the 37-year old Brooklyn native Neptune preached, when he was hired after eight years as an assistant coach at Villanova University.
“Guys played with heart, that’s been their identity,” Neptune said. “Kind of who they are as a team. Proud of the way they competed. Our goal is to get as good as we can. Back to the drawing board and get better the next day and play another game.”
Quisenberry has been a part of this winning culture. He has scored 20 or more points in six games, was 10-for-10 in free throws, and 36 points was the first 30-point game for a Ram since Nick Honor did that against Rutgers in 2018.
Basically, the Rams always feel confident with Quisenberry on the court. They feel confident when Neptune goes to his bench having used six different lineups on the court due to COVID and the latest injury to Ohams.
And their ability to score from the outside, ten three-pointers in the game, the second straight with double-digit threes, sent a message again to the league. Indeed, they gave Davidson a good run.
“We don’t rely on our offense,” Neptune said. “We try and rely on our defense. Couple of more stops down the stretch, I thought we could close it out. “
Tuesday the Rams travel to Dayton and the Flyers have won 16 of the last 17 meetings, but something says they will see a different Fordham team because it’s a part of this Kyle Neptune culture.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso