Fordham Men’s basketball coach Kyle Neptune said from the beginning the Rams would be identified with their defense and Wednesday evening up at Rose Hill it was no different. The Rams held LaSalle to 16 first-half points, a season low for the Explorers.
Fordham continued their defensive theme late in the second half after LaSalle made a late run in the Atlantic-10 Conference game that went to the Rams, 60-54. Regardless, Fordham took two of three games during a late season homestand and continued their push for seeding in the upcoming conference tournament.
Because offensive minded conference teams are always a factor in the tournament, a Fordham defense is significant. LaSalle will finish their season near the bottom of the conference standings in a rebuild mode.
Saturday, though, the Rams travel to conference leader Davidson, a team that ranks eighth nationally in three-point field percentage and scores points. Difference again with this Fordham team is defense that held Davidson to 69 points in a three-point loss at Rose Hill last month.
“From the beginning what are identity would be,” Neptune said again about the Rams’ defense. “We’ve been real good on the defensive end. We wanted to withstand any run that they made.”
Fordham took that first half and led 27-16 at the half. The defense went to work when the Explorers got the deficit to one, 36-35 with 10:50 remaining. Meanwhile, the Fordham defense held Josh Nickelberry, second on the Explorers in scoring, to five points which further states Neptune’s point.
There is every reason to be optimistic with road and home games versus UMass, a team, sitting near the bottom of the conference standings. A season ending home contest next Saturday with George Washington could determine the Rams position as an eighth seed out of 14 teams going into the A-10 Tournament.
And the Rams with a higher seed (13-13 overall, 6-8 A-10) have been accustomed to finishing lower which would put them in uncharted territory.
Leave the standings and seedings as the final games play out. What matters is this defense and also getting scoring from Chuba Ohams (20 points), Josh Colon- Navarro (15), Kyle Rose (10), and the contribution from sophomore Antrell Charlton with six points, 10 assists, and six rebounds.
They have stepped up as leading scorer Darius Quisenberry missed a fourth consecutive game with an injury to a knee.
“He can rebound, score points, he’s everything for us on and off the floor,” Neptune said about Ohams who recorded a fourth straight double-double and his 16th of the season to go along with a career high in points and rebounds.
It has been this defense and Neptune having confidence in his starters which provides Fordham with momentum down the stretch and gearing for the conference tournament.
“To our guys’ credit, I think they really embodied that,” Neptune said. “I think they legitimately go out every game, try to play as hard as they possibly can. We’ve gotten to be really good on the defensive end and it’s our guys. It’s our guys buying into what we asked them to do, I’m really proud of these guys.”
He added,” The last three, four, five games we have had the same team and we haven’t had that. Guys are finally settling into their roles last couple of games, kind of hit a groove. We are doing a better job of putting guys in spots.”
Defense down the stretch will win games. Playing like this, Fordham could make an impact in the tournament that takes place in a few weeks at the Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.
They expect Quisenberry back soon as he continues to be day-by-day and not rushed to return. The defense will do their part and so will the others that are playing a significant role.
“It was our defense,” Neptune said. “It’s magical once we turned up our defensive intensity we were in a good spot.”
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso