Saturday afternoon in Richmond, Virginia, the game is significant for the Fordham Rams when they travel to face another team known as the Rams. Those VCU Rams continue to hold first place in the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Conference.
And those Rams from the Bronx, they are not far behind. They are continuing to make a run as the conference top seed, sitting third, with an opportunity to win a game that would put them in position for a double bye heading to the conference tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in a few weeks.
It’s not an easy task to beat the Fordham Rams. They convert opportunities into baskets, play defense, rebound, and are good at transition. These are all signs of a winning team and that continued Wednesday evening with their 78-63 win over St. Bonaventure up at Rose Hill.
Saturday, though, the game is significant. The Rams know the task awaits them on the road because VCU has won the past five meetings. They have won 11-of-12 all- time over the Rams from the Bronx. So, yes, the Rams, 21-5, and with the best overall record in the conference, are anticipating this road game.
Perhaps the most significant road game for the Fordham Rams since joining the A-10 in 1995. Their 9-4 start to their conference season is their best as they prepare for those other Rams (19-7 overall, 10-3 A-10). A game Saturday that has the top conference seed VCU hosting a third, and that is Fordham.
You listen again to first year coach Keith Urgo and his team. There is confidence with this environment of winning before a rejuvenated fan base of students and alumni at the friendly confines in the old Rose Hill Gym. For the first time in many years the Fordham Rams are viable on the basketball court.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Urgo said Wednesday evening. “The goal is to be the best team by the end of the year. We still have five regular season games left. It’s going to be fun. Going to be a great road trip.”
Haven’t heard a Fordham men’s basketball coach in a long time say it would be fun at this juncture in the season. The Fordham trustees, along with Ed Kull, Director of Athletics, were convinced this was their coach to succeed Kyle Neptune who returned to coach at Villanova and that decision is looking pretty good right now.
Lugo has been saying there is always a need to improve. Though against Bonaventure, a team that has always delivered headaches to the Rams, the momentum in this quest to be a top seed was overall consistent and good basketball.
The Rams saw ten different players score. They outrebounded the Bonnies (39-24), outscored them (33-14) in bench points, and won with only one player scoring in double figures, Darius Quisenberry with 15. Their leading scorer is enjoying this ride and anticipating that trip to VCU.
The senior grad student attributes this momentum to his coach. The atmosphere at Rose Hill has also played a role, and Quinsenberry says enthusiasm is contagious pertaining to scoring from the perimeter or inside. Contagious is winning and looking to continue this momentum Saturday on the opposing court.
“Wanted to come out and extend the lead,” he said after the Rams led by seven at the break and extended their margin to 14 later in the game. “Urgo doesn’t let up. Every single day no matter. It is contagious when you make the shot.”
Junior guard Antrell Charlton scored nine points with a season high eight assists and his jumper started a 12-3 run as Fordham took a 56-42 lead on a Khalid Moore layup with 11:44 remaining.
A major component of this winning philosophy is the players. The coach constantly refers to the proper team chemistry that has got the Rams to this point and a possible opportunity at sitting first or second in the conference.
A few years ago, talking about the Fordham Rams as the best overall Division 1 men’s college basketball team in the New York City region, well that was not possible. Talking about them vying for a conference championship title and a top seed at the tournament next month was not in the cards. And having a season like this has gone beyond expectations, though Urgo has never had doubt on their capability to be where they are.
Urgo says it’s his players. He says this is building to something special up at Rose Hill and looks forward to a huge fan base supporting the Rams in Brooklyn at the tournament. Though five games remain between now and then.
“Naturally Brooklyn, that’s what we deserve,” Urgo said.” Want to see these guys go out with a bang. It’s the players, they’re the ones. They stepped up in a big way and they’ve enjoyed the ride they created. Trying to build something to sustain in years to come. Don’t understand why this can’t happen. We feel we can pay with anybody.”
On to VCU. Urgo says it will be a fun trip. And two more home games at Rose Hill including one next Saturday afternoon with Rhode Island. then for sure we will know more where the Rams stand in the conference.
Regardless, this run for the Fordham Rams has been a Thrill up at Rose Hill as they continue to say.
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