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Fordham Basketball: 7 Keys Through 11 Wins

With their 11th conference win over Rhode Island last Saturday, the 2022-23 Fordham Rams have officially clinched their best Atlantic 10 record since joining the league in 1995, surpassing the 2006-07 team which finished 10-6 in conference. Despite a loss to George Mason this past Wednesday, the Rams have one more shot to push that win total up to 12 against Duquesne this afternoon, which would also secure their spot in the quarterfinals of the 2023 Atlantic 10 tournament.

Before the Rams face the Dukes one more time, and before they head down to Brooklyn, let’s run through the players, quotes, and moments from throughout this season that help encapsulate how this Rams team got to their current position, and how much further they can go.

Rose Thrill




These are just three of the phrases seen painted across the torsos of students know as “The Shirtless Herd.” Dubbed by Coach Keith Urgo himself, the group has become a fixture of the larger student section as Rose Hill Gym, which has been sold out for Fordham’s last 5 home games (Duquesne will cap off the season at 6 sellouts in a row). Fordham is undefeated at home in that same span, with an overall home record of 17-2 (6-2 against A-10 opponents). In this recent stretch, Coach Urgo has opened every postgame presser by shouting out the crowd, comparing their influence on the game to that of a sixth man.

“I don’t know if we pull that [win] out the way we did without the energy in the building,” Coach Urgo said following Fordham’s win over Rhody. “Their best player [Ishmael Leggett], who was hot at the time, missed the front end of a one-and-one because of the energy and how loud [it was]. I don’t know if that would have happened three months ago, two months ago in the non-conference.”

As for what it means on the court, Darius Quisenberry, Fordham’s leading scorer at 16.9 PPG, describes the late game energy from the Herd as an adrenaline shot.

“It just gives you that much more energy to go harder,” Quisenberry described last Saturday. “It gives you just one more percentage [of energy] to dive on that loose ball, get that 50/50 ball, [or] get the rebound.”

The sideline sections have been just as packed, filled with both fans and occasionally alumni of the program. Before the Rhody game, in which the 1970-71 Rams team was honored at halftime, former Fordham Head Coach Digger Phelps was seen waving his arms and hyping up the herd. According to Coach Urgo, support from Rams past is a testament to the forward progress this program is making.

“It’s incredible that these guys get to see that there is a tradition here at Fordham,” Coach Urgo said of his players. “And now that tradition is strong, it’s revitalized, and it’s going to continue to be that way moving forward.”

Letting Your Stars Cook

In 9 of Fordham’s 11 conference wins, the top scorer for the Rams has been either Darius Quisenberry or Khalid Moore. While Fordham is a team that prides themselves on their depth, there’s no doubt that these two have been the heart and soul of the Rams on both ends of the floor.

Heading into the season, Coach Urgo highlighted the importance of Quisenberry becoming a leader on this roster, and it has shown both on the stat sheet and in postgame interviews. Offensively, Quisenberry has made rampaging drives to the hoop his signature move, pushing his way through defenders to finish at the glass, drawing plenty of contact along the way. Against UMass in early February, the graduate guard took more shots at the free throw line (finishing 12-14 from the stripe) than from the field (4-10) en route to 21 points. Against URI, Quisenberry never left the floor, playing for 4o minutes for the second time this season (he played for 40 against Maine).

“That’s just our identity,” Quisenberry said. “Just playing until you hold up a fist.”

On that point, Coach Urgo was quick to point out that Darius did not hold up a fist that afternoon.

As for Khalid Moore, the graduate transfer has brought all the knowledge, skills, and intensity an ACC champion could bring. Excelling as a stretch four for the Rams, one of Moore’s biggest strengths is his dynamic shot arsenal. Against George Washington, Moore hit mid-range shots, nailed kick-out threes, and finished hard in the paint en route to 30 points. Defensively, his size allows his to contend with larger forwards for rebounds (he leads the team with 6.5 RPG), while his speed lets him fly 94 feet in transition to pull off some monstrous dunks.

Antrell Charlton’s Jumper

“Everybody knows I like to shoot middy.”

While maintaining his role as a floor general, leading the Rams with 3.6 assists per game, Antrell Charlton has taken huge strides in improving his scoring, most notably by developing a signature mid-range shot. Whether it’s to spark a Fordham run, keep a run going, or ice the game such as against La Salle this year, Charlton’s pull-up from the elbow has been near automatic. From 2021-22 to 2022-23, Charlton has increased both his in-conference efficient field goal percentage and his true shooting percentage by around 10%, all while shooting, on average, one less three pointer per game. When asked about this shot, it was clear that the emotional impact is just as important for Charlton as the two points it added to his scoring total.

“It just gives out team confidence when I’m making those shots,” Charlton said after a 72-67 win over Maine.

Coach Urgo’s thoughts, although more concise, echoed a similar sentiment following the late November victory.

“He needs to shoot it more.”

Physicality and Defensive Identity

While Quisenberry leads in scoring, Moore leads in rebounds, and Charlton leads in assists, it’s Kyle Rose who leads the team in +/- per 100 possessions. The longest tenured Ram on this roster, Rose was a part of the 2019-20 Fordham team that finished the shortened season ranked 9th nationally in defense. Now, Rose leads this year’s Rams squad in defensive rating during conference play, the cornerstone of a defense that every player on the roster considers to be the core of their identity as a team. In 6 of Fordham’s 11 conference wins, the Rams trailed at halftime by as much as 7 points (against UMass). However, by focusing on wearing opponents down, and locking down top contributors like James Bishop (4 points in the second half on January 28th) and Yuri Collins (1 assist on January 31st), the Rams can and have set themselves up for stunning second half surges.

“We talk about 40 minutes, wearing them [opponents] down over the course of 40 minutes,” Coach Urgo said following the win over UMass.

While Kyle Rose wears opponents down in transition and on the perimeter, it has been the primary focus of guys like Rostyslav Novitskyi and Abdou Tsimbila to chip away at opposing big men. Two traditional bigs whose increased role Coach Urgo emphasized preseason, both Novitskyi and Tsimbila have seen some big jumps in their defense that has allowed Fordham to lead the conference in blocks as of this morning. Novitskyi, who has started the last 13 games for Fordham, has become an incredibly mobile, aggressive center on both ends, showing steady signs of improvement this year that culminated in 14 points, 6 boards, and 4 blocks against Rhode Island.

Increased Freshman Production

Following Will Richardson’s first double digit performance, 14 points in a win over Tulane, Coach Urgo explained that the freshman guard’s breakout performance came down largely to an increase in confidence. Even for a four-star recruit, the jump from high school ball to Division I can be jarring, but Richardson’s performance against Tulane was proof that it was a jump he was more than capable of making.

“I think he was a little tentative, trying to make sure he fit in and get everyone involved,” Coach Urgo said after the 95-90 win in New Orleans. “Now we’re just telling him ‘look, man. You gotta go try and make plays. You gotta be aggressive, stop thinking so much.'”

In conference play, starting every game since the La Salle win, Richardson’s usage has exploded as a catch and shoot guard that provides immense defensive pressure in the backcourt. Shooting 41.3% from three point range this season, Richardson was named A-10 Rookie of the Week on February 20th following a 21-point performance in an 80-61 loss to VCU. Following Fordham’s 3-game road trip that saw them rack up wins against La Salle, Duquesne, and Saint Bonaventure, Coach Urgo reiterated Richardson’s increased confidence as a starter, describing how a shift in focus has yielded impressive results.

“His energy and focus is on [what] the team needs. Instead of second guessing what he needs to do, [he’s] just going out there and playing a bit more freely, and as a result you can see some decent production.”

Alongside Richardson is freshman forward Elijah Gray, who also has had an increased presence in the lineup during conference play. Under Darius Quisenberry’s tutelage, Gray has seen both a 67% increase in minutes and a 15% increase in scoring from non-conference to conference play. Acting as a key frontcourt piece off the bench, Gray got the go-ahead bucket in Fordham’s win over Saint Louis, while also icing the game against UMass with an and-1 tip-in.

Knowing Your Role

Heading into today’s final regular season slate, Fordham right in the middle of the conference in bench production with an average of 18.33 bench points per game. As mentioned when talking about the Rams defense, Fordham’s depth and dynamic use of starters has been huge for in-game longevity, as starter-caliber players like Kyle Rose and Abdou Tsimbila can come off the bench for an extra punch during close stretches. In both conference and non-conference play, a total of 7 Rams have started at least 10 games.

In terms of other role players, the Rams rotation of Patrick Kelly, Romad Dean, and Zach Riley have seen their fare share of big moments. Romad Dean and Pat Kelly (who has seen reduced minutes due to injury), while sharing the floor with a more traditional big like Tsimbila or even Elijah Gray, can excel as shooting power forwards. Zach Riley, another physical defender, has had several electric catch-and-shoot moments to propel Fordham runs and send Rose Hill to their feet.

The Hunger

While already a record-setting season for the Rams, this Fordham team has made it clear that their 2023 doesn’t end with a successful regular season. When asked about connections between this year’s Fordham team and the one honored last Saturday, Coach Urgo stressed the importance of not reflecting on a season before it’s over.

“We’ll talk about that stuff at the end of the year,” Urgo explained. “We have done nothing. They [the ’70-’71 team] have 26 wins, and they deserve all of those accolades. These guys [the ’22-’23 Rams] aren’t really focused on anything [besides] just waiting for the day, and that’s what we need to continue to do.”