As the first half came to a close at the Rose Hill Gym, Fordham’s bench was fired up. With a 31-24 lead over Davidson, Fordham was in a prime position to end the Wildcats’ 14-game win streak. While already an unexpected turn of events, the Rams had played this entire half without Chuba Ohams, who was listed as out with a knee injury.
With Abdou Tsimbila in his place in the starting lineup, the Rams quickly used strong perimeter defense to get ahead 6-2. Against one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, Fordham turned this game into a battle under the basket, as both teams struggled from three. With up to three guys under the hoop at any given moment, Fordham was able to extend their lead by staying with the play, grabbing tough rebounds, and putting extra pressure on Davidson playmakers such as Foster Loyer.
“We just tried to stay with some of their shooters and play extremely hard,” Coach Neptune said, praising his team’s first half intensity. “It’s been our identity since we got together. I wish I could take credit for it, but it’s just a part of who they are.”
The first made three pointer of the game was scored by Darius Quisenberry, nearly 11 minutes into the game. Quisenberry would finish the first half with 18 points shooting 4-10 from beyond the arc. Davidson was 2-9 in that same period.
Ahmad Harrison, who started his second game of the season, was a pillar of that intensity, and was involved in several major plays in the first half. Solid cuts to the hoop and a steal from Harrison were just a few of the plays that kept the Rams up early. Outside of Harrison and Tsimbila, this was a breakout game for several of Fordham’s bench players. Rostyslav Novitskyi recorded 19 minutes in his first appearance since December 5th, while Zach Riley hit the court for the first time since joining the team over winter break. According to Coach Neptune, recent injuries, as well as Antonio Daye’s departure, influenced Fordham’s deep rotation.
“We have a lot of flux in our roster right now, so we have to rely on other guys,” Neptune said. “We figured we’d do it by committee, and we gave a lot of guys chances.”
Heading into halftime, Davidson had begun to close the gap, but Darius Quisenberry’s consistency beyond the arc kept them at bay before the break.
As the second half opened, Fordham continued to muscle their way to a 15-point lead. Frustration was clearly mounting within the Wildcats, which could be seen after several physical plays, including one in which Luka Brajkovic hurled some words at Tsimbila following a rough foul at the basket.
Putting their emotions aside, Davidson quickly locked in to go on an 8-0 nothing run of their own, closing the gap to just two points with 11 minutes to go. Davidson forward Sam Mennenga was a huge part of this rally, scoring 10 points in the second half. With fast-paced ball movement and turnover heavy defense, Davidson was able to take at 47-46 lead with a Foster Loyer layup, but it was followed up immediately with an Antrell Charlton 3 to keep the Rams alive.
Unfortunately for the Rams, their physicality could not outlast a Davidson team that clearly outsized them. With Abdou Tsimbila and Antrell Charlton fouling out late in the second half, Fordham’s options on defense and offense grew thinner and thinner, as the Wildcats found a second wind. However, down 6 with 1:44 left to go, Fordham kept pushing.
Josh Navarro and Darius Quisenberry hit some clutch threes to keep the Rams within 1 in the final seconds. Quisenberry would finish the game leading all scorers with 36 points.
“You put him in any spot and he can make a shot. He’s a born scorer,” Neptune said. “He’s done this before in his college career so no one is surprised, the least of all him.”
With a slim lead and a few seconds on the clock, Davidson would begin fouling to keep Fordham from trying to get off any more three pointers. Fordham would do the same to give themselves more time to get a play in, but Davidson was too consistent behind the line for Fordham to gain any ground. On the final play, Darius Quisenberry tried to chuck up a three while hoping to draw contact, but was unsuccessful in both endeavors. While a call there could have changed the game for the Rams, Coach Neptune made it a point not to dwell on one shot or one call.
“Its easy to look at the last play of the game and say, alright, that’s why you lost, but the reality is we made mistakes. We made coaching errors. Our guys probably could have been a bit more prepared offensively, so we’ll go back to the drawing board and try to get better from this and move on to the next game.”
2-3 in conference play, the Rams will now prepare to play Dayton on Tuesday. In terms of Chuba Ohams’ injury, Coach Neptune has described his status as day to day.