Welcome to the Atlantic-10 Conference though not friendly enough for the Fordham Rams Wednesday evening in their historic Rose Hill Gym. First conference game on the schedule and meeting an old friend.
Though, the Davidson Wildcats have not been too friendly for the Rams having won eleven straight. Last time they met in March, Davidson eliminated Fordham in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic-10 Championship down in Washington D.C.
Tthe Rams and Wildcats have a different look with their rosters since that elimination game. And with their 12-1 start and 11-game winning streak, (which last occurred for a Fordham team in 1970-71 against Division 1 opponents) they seemed invincible.
But folks this is the Atlantic-10 Conference where play is different from a competitive standpoint, as opposed to the non conference teams that Fordham took care of in the last month.
Not to say that these Fordham Rams won’t be competitive in the conference because they have been shooting the ball, rebounding, and defending. Wednesday night, though, this was Davidson.
Tthe Rams were never able to sustain any momentum. The Wildcats, with their 57-43 win, gave the Rams an initiation into conference play as both teams opened up their conference schedule at Rose Hill. So, the winning streak is over and it’s welcome to Atlantic-10 Conference play for the Rams.
“Davidson played very tough, very physical,” said Fordham coach Keith Urgo “Pressured us on the offensive glass. “We executed our game plan as well as we could do. “We went on a little run there but couldn’t make shots.”
Davidson led Fordham 29-14 at the half. They were outscored by Fordham in the second half by one point, with the Wildcats’ Reed Bailey scoring a team-high 10 points after halftime. Perhaps a better first half and the Rams could have made this more competitive down the stretch.
The Rams found a way to win games during their winning streak. They came from behind and made the open shot. But these are now conference games, not to diminish the significance of wins they compiled, which had Fordham tied for third in the nation with Charlestown for the longest winning streak in the nation.
Last year, Urgo, then an assistant to Kyle Neptune, saw first hand about the intensity of play in the conference. His team struggled, as Davidson got to the free throw line more, rebounded better, and converted their shots. In a nutshell, this is A-10 Conference play and the Rams were now being tested for the first time.
“Going to be very difficult to win games when you are struggling to make shots,” he said. “They got 26 free throws. That was a dagger.”
Desmond Watson scored 15 points off the bench with 11 rebounds for the Wildcats. He made it more difficult for the Rams to sustain any type of momentum in the second half. Watson was 5 of 9 from the field and 4 of 6 from the free throw line.
And the Rams had difficulty containing Sam Mennenga, 5 of 13 from the field and 2 for 6 from the line to finish with 13 points. But the Rams had their share of opportunities and failed to convert, including going cold at long distance as Davidson stopped Fordham from their potent offense that had them third in the conference in 3-pointers.
As Urgo said, his team deserves the opportunity to take the long shots. His team worked hard during the summer and prior to the season. But the Rams failed to convert from beyond the arc until midway through the second half. Kyle Rose ended an 0 for 28 skid and Fordham finished 3 for 31 from beyond the arc.
However, conference play is here. This is a different ballgame with Fordham now getting to the early and intense part of their conference schedule. Next is at Rhode Island and two at Rose Hill with St. Joseph’s and Dayton.
Rostyslav Novitski led the Rams with 12 points and five blocks. They will need more production from leading scorers Darius Quisenberry and Khalid Moore, as both struggled and were key factors during the winning streak
But this is now Atlantic-10 Conference play. The Rams know that winning streak is over and they meet Davidson again in mid-February at their place. Then, we should get a better perspective where they stand in the conference.
But this was not the welcome conference opener at home they were hoping for.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and co-host Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening live 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube