Perhaps it goes beyond the philosophy of Fordham first year coach Kyle Neptune because the Fordham Rams have a never quit attitude. At Rose Hill Tuesday evening, before another sparse crowd, Neptune and the Rams continued their hectic A-10 Conference schedule.
VCU, the other Rams, is a viable threat to make a deep run next month in Washington D.C. at the conference tournament. They took early control and had a commanding 17-point lead in the first half. Fordham was without leading scorer Darius Quisenberry for a second straight game due to an injured knee.
But these Kyle Neptune Rams didn’t quit and made adjustments. They narrowed the gap in the second half and came up short 66-61.
“We came out and played nasty,” Neptune said. “We’re not trying to back down from everybody, trying to play hard as possibly we can. We battled in the second half, just wasn’t enough.”
And battled they did against a conference team that scores points. VCU, (17-7 overall, 10-3 A-10) ranks eighth in the nation in effective field goal percentage, second in turnover percentage, and fourth in defensive efficiency.
In due time, though, the Rams expect to be in these games at the end after overcoming a first half deficit. It was a 13-6 run that gave VCU a ten point lead, 63-53, with over a minute remaining and the closest Fordham would get was five on a pair of Jose Colon Navarro free throws with 34 seconds left.
Navarro, in his senior year, has stepped up his game. He has become a leader on the court after struggling his first few years but has adapted to the philosophy and game plan that Neptune has delivered. He finished with a career high 20 points after previously scoring 17 four times.
However, Navarro, after an intense first stanza, got some time off the court in the second half. He returned and sparked the Rams with nine second half points. It was impressive and this has been a Fordham team that has continued to show they don’t quit.
“He gave a lot in first half and got tired,” Neptune said about Navarro. “Got him back in. “I think he came out and gave a lot of energy to start. He’s got more confidence shooting the ball, more aggressive. He’s a senior playing a little more desperate. That’s a good thing.”
VCU is aggressive as all teams in the A-10 have become. All 14 teams qualify for the tournament, but the objective is getting a better seed and not finishing low in the standings. Fordham, with a new coach, kept pace, 11-13 overall and 4-8 in the conference. When conference play started, they had their first 2-0 start.
If anything, and it showed again Tuesday night, this Rams team in the Bronx has developed and competes with the elite in a conference that tends to have three teams sent to March Madness and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Chuba Ohams, starting forward who missed time with an injury last season, is one of the leading rebounders in the conference and had his 14th double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Then again, anything is possible and with six conference games remaining, the Rams play two more with George Mason and LaSalle on this homestand. They are confident about securing more wins and move up in those standings.
“We try to put ourselves in the best possible position to win and look each other in the eye at the end of the game,” Neptune said. “And that’s every game, doesn’t matter if it’s a home game, championship game, first game of the year, It’s all the same to us.”
A philosophy like that will keep a team competitive. The Rams have brought that concept to the court after taking VCU to the limit, a team that is currently second in the conference standings and got 21 points from KeShawn Curry, a top scorer in the A-10.
For sure, the philosophy is these Rams never quit. It showed again Tuesday night.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso