Looking for their first back-to-back conference victories since 2018, the Fordham Rams travelled to Pittsburgh to take on a Duquesne team whose season has seen a few ups, and a lot of downs. Despite the Rams falling to 1-3 on the season, the close 48-45 score proves that the game was a valiant effort from the Bronx-based basketball team. Here are the three biggest details fans should remember from this Saturday matinee matchup.
Dukes Stepping Up Despite Departures
Shortly before tip-off, the public was informed that Duquesne would be playing without two of it’s starters, both for today and the foreseeable future. According to Zachary Weiss of Pittsburgh Sports Now, Sophomore Guard Maceo Austin would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons,” while Junior Guard Sincere Carry would be “taking time away from the program.” Prior to Saturday, Carry had led the Dukes in assists with an average of 4.2 per game.
In their first game as the starting guard combo for the Dukes, Tavian Dunn-Martin and Toby Okani proved that they could be a formidable duo. Okani was all over the ball in the first half, helping his team stay competitive after missing six of their first seven shots. Okani finished with 5 points, 5 boards, and 3 blocks, including a huge denial on Chris Austin to give his team space to take their first lead of the game. Offensively, Dunn-Martin put on a show, scoring a team-high 11, including Duquesne’s final 3-point dagger that prevented Fordham from fouling for the win.
Eyisi Alleviates Pressure on Soriano
In their first three games of the season, Fordham’s biggest problem was their size. To speak a bit more specifically, their lack of it. While Joel Soriano has clearly been Fordham’s premier big this season, their overreliance on him as the main force in the paint has often led to a repetitive offense, and a weakened defense once the big from Yonkers gets into foul trouble. Looking at Fordham’s win against Dayton, if Chris Austin hadn’t had such a hot shooting night, then the Rams would have been in some serious trouble once Soriano fouled out.
Early on in the first half on Saturday, Soriano had already racked up two personal fouls. While on Wednesday this might have meant a defensive lapse for the Rams, Junior Guard Onyi Eyisi finally returned to the level of play we’ve seen from the previous two seasons. Getting his first start of the year, Eyisi put up some commendable big man numbers, with 8 points and 9 rebounds, shooting 75 % from the field. With Eyisi and Soriano making up the 4-5 slots on the rotation, Fordham is finally balancing itself out in terms of talent.
Cobb and Austin Continue to Fill Their Roles
Throughout the season, Coach Jeff Neubauer has expressed his satisfaction with Jalen Cobb’s ability to adapt his role on the basketball court. While not putting up points at the same rate last season, Cobb has learned how to be an effective player in other on-ball aspects, providing crucial assists and rebounds to help his teammates flourish. Today, Cobb filled all of those roles, recording 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals, while also being able to notch 8 points. Those 8 points come off of a 20% shooting performance that saw Cobb miss all 7 of his shots beyond the arc, but, you know, baby steps. Chris Austin continued his role as the breakout scoring star for the Rams, notching 17 against the Dukes to complement the 20 he scored against Dayton on Tuesday.
Overall, we’ve seen the offensive load spread across this entire Rams roster, as they continue to develop in this unprecedented season. While their lack of non-conference play makes their record look a little bare, all they need to do is carry their current momentum into March in order to be a solid A-10 Tourney team.
The Rams play next on Wednesday when they host the Bonnies at 2.