Despite the repeated slogan from “The Shirtless Herd,” displaying ROSE THRILL for the final time in Fordham’s historic home venue felt fitting. In a regular season finale with a tournament double-bye on the line, that energetic push from the Herd was primed to be a difference maker.
In a pre-game ceremony, Darius Quisenberry, Khalid Moore, Rostik Novitskyi, and Pat Kelly were honored alongside manager Adam Wernoch in celebration of Senior Day. Seeding implications and records aside, Coach Urgo emphasized postgame the importance of honoring these players, who not only have led the way in this historic season, but who have also developed lifelong bonds with their teammates, the coaching staff, and the Fordham community at-large.
“The relationship that I have with these two guys [Darius and Khalid], hopefully will last 40-50 years,” Coach Urgo said. “They’re better people than they are players, and their impact on this program will be forever.”
With Kelly making his first career start, the Rams and Dukes tipped off for what soon became a very physical first half. Off to an early 9-4 lead, Duquesne mainly moved the ball through senior forward Joe Reece. A strong stretch-4, Reece’s versatile shot selection allowed him to get a three from the top of the key, then follow it up a few possessions later with a pick and roll dunk. 16 of Duquesne’s 32 first half points were scored in the paint.
Despite the slow start from the field, the Rams quickly picked up their own offensive tempo and opened up the floor. On a Darius Quisenberry dish, Antrell Charlton hit Fordham’s first 3 of the day to cut the Rams’ deficit to just two points. Following a Kareem Rozier jumper, Quisenberry kicked the ball out again to Khalid Moore on the right corner to put the Rams down just 11-10. Will Richardson would give the Rams their first lead of the day, intercepting a pass from Rozier to take it in transition and jam it home for a 14-13 lead. After some back-and-forth buckets, Duquesne neutralized Fordham’s spacing and paint presence, following it up on the other end with continued strong finishing from Reece.
Shortly after the under-4 media timeout, the physicality of this game came to a head when, down 30-29, Quisenberry met RJ Gunn on a drive in the paint. With lots of contact on both sides, Quisenberry hit the ground hard after Gunn attempted to push off the Rams guard. After some extra words thrown around on both sides and separation by the officials, Gunn was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul and a technical, resulting in 4 consecutive made free throws for Quisenberry, followed by a Fordham inbound that resulted in a Khalid Moore and-1. A 7-point play, Fordham instantly established a 6-point lead from which they would never look back.
“[It was] just [about] taking their momentum,” Quisenberry said regarding the sequence. “We came into the huddle and I told them that they’re [Duquesne] kind of messed up in the head. We took that momentum into that seven point swing, just put our foot on their neck and never looked back.”
Before halftime, a 7-point lead quickly became a 13-point lead as the Rams connected on a few big last minute jumpers. In the second, Fordham cut Duquesne’s shooting efficiency nearly in half (40% in the first half from the Dukes, 24% in the second), forcing the Dukes to shoot 0-11 from deep in the half en route to a 27-point Rams win. Improving to 12-6 in Atlantic 10 play, Fordham finishes the regular season 24-7 overall, 18-2 at home.
With the third seed locked in, and the Herd finally allowed on the court to celebrate with the players in a postgame mosh pit, the Rams devoted most of the postgame presser to reflect on their regular season, specifically regarding how much they surpassed preseason expectations.
“They had us ranked eleventh at the beginning of the season,” Quisenberry said, recounting the preseason A-10 poll. “We knew what we were capable of coming into the season [and] we felt that was kind of disrespectful. I feel like now everyone gets to see what we’re capable of.”
For Coach Urgo, not only has Fordham proven what they’re capable of on the floor, but with the help of the university, the students, and the alumni base, the Fordham community at-large has made significant strides in propelling Fordham’s basketball culture forward.
“It started with the Board of Trustees and President Tetlow, and obviously a commitment to Men’s Basketball,” Coach Urgo detailed. “Now it’s funneled out into the community at-large. Two hours prior to the game, the lines were off the chart for tickets. There’s hundreds of students being turned down [for admission] because the building isn’t big enough for them. I’d rather have it that way.”
Closing the door on Rose Hill Gym for the season, Fordham students will have the opportunity to fill a much larger venue this Thursday night, when the Rams play in the final game of the Quarterfinals at 7:30 PM. Via Twitter on Sunday Morning, Coach Urgo called for all Fordham fans within “300 miles of Brooklyn” to come root for the Rams. On Sunday afternoon, Fordham Basketball announced that discounted tickets would be sold to student at the Fordham Ticket Office on Monday.
Attention @FordhamNYC students!
All students who buy a ticket will also receive a Great Day to Be a Ram t-shirt.
More details to come. pic.twitter.com/4U79jJfpUn
— Fordham Basketball (@FordhamMBB) March 5, 2023
In the opening round on Tuesday, 11-seed La Salle will take on 14-seed URI. The winner of this game will advance to play 6-seed Duquesne to earn a spot against Fordham on Thursday.