Photo by Hunter Hensel
After the “Shirtless Herd” was unable to bare their torsos in Fordham’s quarterfinal win over La Salle, they adapted. In a Saturday Semifinal matchup with the Dayton Flyers, the Herd displayed a re-used slogan of “BRONX BUILT,” this time painted on white tank tops.
We have improvised.
— Barstool Fordham (@FordhamStool) March 11, 2023
Improvise and adapt; a philosophy shown both in the stands and on the floor for the Fordham Rams this week. Mentioned in Friday’s pre-game press conferences, as well as by Freshman Guard Will Richardson after Fordham’s semifinal loss, dynamic basketball stemming from the Rams defense has been a key in every game this season.
“That’s what wins championships,” Richardson said in a post game presser. “You know, the offense will come, and if you always focus on the defensive end, [you can] stop the opposing team. That has always been our goal.”
Big stops, especially in the paint, would be crucial for the Rams right from tip, as Dayton Forwards DaRon Holmes II and Toumani Camara pressed early. Pressing hard on Fordham defenders such as Rostik Novitksyi, Camara pulled out every big man play in the book; backing in on Novitskyi and spinning to get the and-1, then taking advantage of a mismatch to get the backdoor inside feed to put the Flyers up 5-2. Shooting 6-7 at the half, all within the arc, Camara would lead Flyers scorers at the break with 13 points. DaRon Holmes, who scored 9 in that same time span, fought through double teams to finish strong at the hoop, while also getting off good looks at mid-range, such as a deep 2-pointer near the left corner to put the Flyers up 36-32.
Through all of the trouble the two Dayton stars caused for the Rams, Fordham kept pace with the Flyers, utilizing plenty of the tools fans have seen all season long. Down low, Rostik Novtiskyi put in work under the hoop for 7 points and 2 offensive rebounds in the first half. Despite shooting 3-13 from 3 in the first, Darius Quisenberry and Antrell Charlton worked off increased Abdou Tsimbila ball screens for open looks. However, throughout the game, but especially in the first half, it was Khalid Moore who led the way for the Rams, scoring 14 points in the first 20 minutes by tuning his play-style into the physical game presented to him.
“He came with a vision. He wanted to be a focal point, and he certainly was,” said Head Coach Keith Urgo of Moore, who finished the day with 24 points and 7 rebounds. “He was phenomenal. Hopefully he gets All-Tournament Team.”
In his only year with the Rams, Moore averaged 15.5 points per game en route to an All-Atlantic 10 3rd Team selection. When asked about Moore’s contribution to the team beyond the stat sheet, and the legacy he leaves behind at this program in just one year at Fordham, Coach Urgo brought up Moore’s humility, as well as the championship experience he had during his time with Georgia Tech.
“A lot of times when kids transfer, as far as grad transfers, they come into the locker room and they think–especially from the high major level–they think they’re bigger than the program,” Coach Urgo explained. “He was, ‘be seen not heard’ for the first month, to the point where we had to say: look, man, you’re the best player on the floor most of the time. You can start being vocal. You’ve been through it.”
Entering the second half down 3, the Rams and Flyers continued to press each other inside. On the left side arc, Khalid Moore dished to Novitskyi, who spun over Holmes with a successful hook shoot to get the Rams within a point. After a Toumani Camara alley-oop and Mustapha Amzil 3 pointer put the Flyers up by 6 points, Will Richardson and Kyle Rose hit back to back shots from the wings to tie the game at 41, with Richardson giving the Rams a 44-41 lead, their largest of the day, on the next possession from the right corner.
“My teammates always have confidence in me,” Richardson said, explaining how he has found his shot over the course of the season. “They always tell me: when you have your shot, take it. They [have] always been telling me, you’re going to be fine, you’re going to be good, and [to] just keep playing.”
Richardson finished second in scoring for the Rams behind Moore with 16 points off of 4-7 shooting from 3 point range.
As the game moved back inside, it was Moore and Quisenberry fighting in transition to counteract the impact of Holmes and Camara down low. Back down 52-48, Khalid Moore gets the and-1 layup to put the Rams back within 1. Backing into a falling Rostik Novitskyi, DaRon Holmes got room for an open dunk to put the Flyers up 56-53, then made a free throw on an ensuing possession to put Dayton up four. Despite missing a three pointer from the top of the key, Darius Quisenberry intercepted a pass from Malachi Smith and bolted in transition for a layup to cut Dayton’s lead back down to 57-55.
Quisenberry, who took some hard contact on his right shoulder earlier in the second half, was taken to the side and looked at by Fordham Athletic Trainers before coming back in and finishing the day with 8 points and 3 rebounds. When asked about what Quisenberry leaves behind, Coach Urgo was quick to highlight his character and work ethic.
“He’s a man, both on and off the court,” Coach Urgo said. “He carried himself with such great character. He fit at Fordham and he bleeds the name on the front of the jersey. Every day he would come in and work harder. He was an unbelievable example for guys like Will Richardson.”
In two years at Fordham after transferring from Youngstown State, Quisenberry averaged 16.7 points per game, earning All-Atlantic 10 Second Team honors this season.
With a late advantage on Fouls, DaRon Holmes powered his way inside on multiple possessions in the final minutes of the half, hitting crucial free throws to put the Flyers up 63-58, then 65-58. Holmes would finish the day 6-7 from the free throw line. A Mustapha Amzil 3-pointer would put Dayton up 68-58 with 3:38 left to play, a killing blow for the Flyers that helped punch their ticket to a meeting with VCU in Sunday’s Championship Game.
With the 78-68 loss, the Fordham finishes the season 25-8, tying the 1990-91 Rams for the second-most overall wins in program history.
As the College Basketball offseason moves faster and faster every year, Coach Urgo acknowledged the attention to detail of Fordham Basketball and the Athletic Department to compound on the success of the 2022-23 season, but also stressed the importance of looking back and celebrating this year’s seniors.
“The effort and the energy and the selflessness that it takes to be this successful at this level, it takes so many different people,” Coach Urgo said. “We’ve got a program filled with selfless people from top to bottom, and that’s what it takes. So [I’m] just grateful for everybody.”