Image Courtesy Fordham Athletics
Going against a very large lineup, it was clear that Fordham needed to get physical. In a Sunday afternoon home game against the George Mason Patriots, Fordham had some initial trouble getting past Mason’s forwards, including Josh Oduro, the A-10’s reigning lead scorer. While Abdou Tsimbila and Chuba Ohams were effective as the usual big pair on the floor for Fordham, an early Mason lead showed that Fordham would have to get gritty if they were to come away with the win in this one.
As Oduro and Xavier Johnson got the Patriots off to a 5-0 start, Ohams and Tsimbila got to work. Defensively, Tsimbila put on the pressure with hands outstretched, not getting the turnover, but poking the ball out of bounds to stop the play and break up Mason’s momentum. After snagging a defensive rebound, Tsimbila and Fordham took it the other way. After not getting a good look at three, Ohams and Tsimbila went into a high low scheme, producing an opening Ohams layup. Plays similar to this, interspersed with aggressive defense by guys like Josh Navarro, allowed Fordham to bring this game back within a bucket. As Mason continued to pressure, Coach Neptune continued to experiment with bigger lineups, with Ohams, Patrick Kelly, and Rostyslav Novitskyi all on the court at the same time.
“They have size across the board. We tried to match that,” Neptune said regarding his rotation. “That’s why we had kind of a weird lineup out there today. It was the hand we were dealt.”
After missing their first five shots beyond the arc, Patrick Kelly hit a three to give Fordham a 9-8 lead, there first of the game. While the Rams and Patriots traded buckets at a pretty even pace, several of Fordham’s key role players were part of some excellent plays. Antrell Charlton weaved his way into a nice finger roll. Josh Colon-Navarro followed a nice three with an aggressive forced jump ball. Ahmad Harrison sailed through the air to snag a rebound over two Mason players. Overall, Coach Neptune was very impressed with how bench players made the most of their minutes today.
“Antrell is just one of our smartest guys, he just knows everything that we’re doing,” said Neptune of Charlton, who would finish the game with 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. “He’s one of our coaches on the floor. He’s a glue guy out there.”
With Fordham making a push, Mason opted for four men in the backcourt, allowing the Patriots to embark on a 13-2 run following the under 8 timeout. While Fordham was able to climb back just before the break, they entered halftime down down 26-24. Chuba Ohams and Mason’s Xavier Johnson lead all scorers at the break with 10 points apiece. Defensively, Fordham limited Mason to just one offensive rebound in the first half.
As the second half got underway, Kyle Rose opened scoring for Fordham with a big three, and followed it up with an aggressive lunge to force a jump ball. After fighting off a few Mason attempts to retake the lead, the Rams would take their largest lead at five with an Antrell Charlton layup and Abdou Tsimbila dunk.
Aided by a very loud Rose Hill student section, the Rams used some very unselfish, fluid ball movement to work their way up to a 7-point lead. With every Fordham bucket, block, or forced turnover, the Rose Hill Gym was more than happy to erupt in support of their players.
As Mason brought the gap back down to two, the last 3 minutes or so of the game saw both teams once again going blow for blow. Chuba Ohams, already a major presence in this one, completely took over both ends of the paint. In one late sequence, Ohams sandwiched a strip block between two excellent post moves to get Fordham within one and then back on top.
“I cannot say enough about that kid, he does so much in every category,” Neptune said. “When you watch the game after, even if he doesn’t score the ball, you see what he does from a defensive standpoint. His size, length, intelligence, rebounding is just so much for us.”
Ohams would finish the day with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Xavier Johnson would lead all Mason scorers with 19.
As the game came down to free throws, Fordham was able to come away with the 50-47 win. In the first meeting between Kyle Neptune and Kim English as Atlantic 10 head coaches, it was clear that there was nothing but respect between the two after a tough game.
“You look at what his team has done this year, they started 4-0, beat Maryland, beat Georgia, had huge wins in conference,” Neptune explained. “As a fellow first year guy, you know how hard it is to have the attention of your team and get them disciplined the way he has them. They’re playing great basketball. I’m happy we got the win tonight but I always cheer for them.”
With the win, Fordham improves to 5-8 in A-10 while Mason falls to 6-6. Continuing their homestand Wednesday, the Rams will next take on the La Salle explorers.