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Fordham Mounts Big Second Half Comeback to Take Down UIC 79-65

As Fordham Football closed out their 2022 regular season with a 52-38 win over Colgate, many fans in the stands trickled out of the Coffey Field bleachers, and into the Rose Hill Gym for a Rams doubleheader. In the opening game of the Tom Konchalski Classic, the Fordham Rams tipped off the first game of their three game slate against the University of Illinois at Chicago in front of a loud home crowd.

Despite the home court advantage in this MTE, UIC came out strong against Fordham in the first half, matching the Rams speed well in transition, and dominating the paint with forwards like Cameron Fens, who grabbed 8 points in the first half while bodying Abdou Tsimbila in the paint. In terms of executing plays, Fordham looked solid, as Abdou Tsimbila cut into a 4-0 opening UIC run with a backdoor dunk, and Antrell Charlton made a quick decision to drive in for a layup to keep the Flames from getting too far ahead. However, while the Rams were finding guys open and moving the ball well, big shots just would not fall. When the Rams were on defense, UIC frequently took advantage of some ill-timed switches to find open lanes and score 18 points in the paint. Just like against Arkansas, Darius Quisenberry and Khalid Moore were completely locked down, with Moore only playing 4 first-half minutes due to foul trouble.

“That was kind of the first time, other than you know, Arkansas, where we got punched in the mouth to start,” Coach Urgo said postgame. “We were able to kind of weather the storm with Kahlid Moore on the bench with foul trouble in the first half, and we really thought about putting him back in, but you know, our guys just kept fighting and hanging in there.”

With UIC getting up by as much as 15 on Fordham, Fordham clearly needed to make some big adjustments on both ends of the floor come halftime. Getting to work a bit early, the Rams dialed up their defensive intensity, triple teaming UIC ballhandlers to force the ball out of their hands and grab some shots in transition. Big men were key pieces for Fordham in the final 10 minutes of the half, with Rostyslav Novtiskyi adjusting very well on offense. Taking advantage of a mismatch, right after the under-12, the Senior Center drove hard to the basket for a monster dunk to help get Fordham’s deficit down to single digits. In the final 5 minutes of the half, the Rams went 3-4 from deep to get UIC’s lead all the way down to 7 entering the break.

Entering the second half, Khalid Moore was back on the floor, breathing new life into Fordham’s offense. Playing the 4 for a large part of the second half, Moore once again worked well off whatever his teammates were trying to run to cut into UIC’s lead. Moore would score 9 points in an 18-9 run for Fordham that would get the game tied at 51. Four of those points were off of two big dunks in transition that got the Fordham crowd on their feet, and when he hit the game-tying three off a swing-pass from Antrell Charlton, the Rose Hill Gym practically exploded. Throwing up three fingers in celebration, Moore signaled to his teammates and the fans that they were not ready to tap out yet.

“I just kind of wanted to get the energy on,” Moore said regarding his celebration. “I know we went on a long run, so I was just get that energy in the building.”

After going scoreless in the first half, Moore would finish the game with 14 points, 3 rebounds, an assist and a block. Amongst teammates like Darius Quisenberry, Moore immediate impact on the team could not be understated.

“He can play the one through five. He doesn’t play the one for us, but he can,” said Quisenberry regarding Moore. “He’s a huge piece for us and a huge mismatch for us on the court. I love playing with him. He’s a great teammate, and a great person.”

Quisenberry, who snagged a season high 25 points for himself, was once again all over the floor for the Rams in the second half. Like he has been doing all season, Quisenberry continued to drive hard inside for high arcing layups, frequently ending up on the floor before heading right back on defense. 3-8 from deep, Quisenberry was able to compliment this strong performance in the paint with a few huge shots beyond the arc. Defensively, the graduate guard worked well in tandem with Moore and Kyle Rose, who recorded 4 steals in the second half that really formed the backbone of Fordham’s night defensively.

“That’s our identity,” Quisenberry explained. “That’s what we based our program off of; defense. I feel like we didn’t do that as much in the first half as we did in the second, [and] you see the results in the second half.”

In the second-half, Fordham flipped a 7-point deficit into a 14-point win to go 3-1 on the season. With two more games left to play in the Tom Konchalski Classic, Coach Urgo expressed his excitement for the next two games, and how big of a role the Rose Hill crowd will play.

“I felt [that] the fans were fantastic,” Urgo said. “Especially with the home football game [right before]. You know, you could see some turnover; people came from the football game, that’s a long day there. They toughed out and came to the Rose Hill. So obviously the more folks we have in this building, the more of an advantage is for us.”

Fordham’s next matchup in the classic is on Monday evening against Holy Cross, who lost their first game in the event to Stonehill College 81-79.