The opening minutes of Fordham’s regular season finale against George Washington was defined by strong defense on both sides. As no side able to score a bucket until nearly two minutes into the game, Fordham’s Abdou Tsimbila played into his size advantage over GW’s Hunter Dean to lock down the paint and snag any rebounds. For GW, their physicality around the arc prevented Fordham from moving the ball how they wanted, resulting in an early shot clock violation.
Once the scoring did get started for Fordham, it was the Rams’ two seniors who drew the most excitement from the crowd. In their last home game in a Fordham uniform, both Josh Colon-Navarro and Chuba Ohams were ready to put on a show. On Colon-Navarro’s opening three pointer, followed by Ohams’ dunk to put the Rams up 5-0, a packed Rose Hill Gym didn’t hesitate to erupt. When asked about the atmosphere in the Gym, Coach Neptune emphasized how important that atmosphere was for his guys before the conference championship.
“I know our fanbase is very proud of what our guys have accomplished this year, and I think they’re extremely proud of Chuba,” Neptune said. Explaining further, Neptune talked about how special it was for the crowd to get behind Chuba in his last game.
“He’s been for who knows how many years now. He knows everybody, the fanbase knows him, the community knows him. I’m really glad he could leave Fordham that way.”
Once George Washington got on the scoreboard, as Hunter Dean drove hard through Abdou Tsimbila for a layup, the rest of the first half was relatively back and forth. Both teams played at an incredibly fast pace, darting from one end of the court to the other to barely give their opponent time to get set on defense. To keep up with this fast pace, Coach Neptune really reached deep into his rotation early on, with 10 Fordham players getting time on the court in the first 8 minutes of the game.
“I think our versatility is one of our strengths. Our guys know that no matter who goes into the game, we have a certain standard that we want to uphold.”
A notable player who got some time for Fordham today was Kam’ron Cunningham, who scored his first points in nearly a month.
For GW, their biggest strength in the first half was their three point shooting, as well as how some of their role players stepped up. Even though Joe Bamisile did get his first bucket until the 5:29 mark of the first half, Brayon Freeman scored 11 points in the first half, while Qwanzi Samuels was 3-3 from three point range. GW as a team would shoot 6-10 from beyond the arc.
At the half, Chuba Ohams was one rebound shy of continuing his double double streak.
In the second half, GW turned their defensive intensity up to 11, with Fordham matching it pretty closely. Rostyslav Novitskyi sent the crowd on their feet with a huge block on Hunter Dean, then followed it up with a three pointer to put Fordham up 46-39.
“Rostyslav didn’t play basketball for maybe a year and a half. If you think about it, he hasn’t played a full season since he’s been in the states,” Coach Neptune said, explaining Novitskyi’s journey from junior college to Fordham. “He’s gotten better and better.”
Around the 11:30 mark, Ohams would snag his 10th rebound to secure his eighth consecutive double double, and his 20th overall this season. With this double double, Ohams now holds the Fordham record for most double doubles in a single season.
Before Ohams and the crowd had much time to celebrate, the Colonials quickly began mounting a comeback. Joe Bamisile and Brayon Freeman hit two big three pointers, and Ricky Lindo tied the game at 61 with a layup in transition. While GW’s sudden burst may have caught the Rams off guard, Coach Neptune explained that his team adjusted well enough to handle it.
“The A-10 is such a great league,” Neptune said. “No team is going to lay down and say ‘ok fine you can have it.’ They had a lot of fight, and i thought our guys came out extremely focused to start the half. GW made their runs, threw their punches, and our guys just took it and kept coming.”
During those runs, Fordham was able to hold of GW’s top scorers in Joe Bamisile and James Bishop, who recorded just 11 and 8 points respectively. According to Coach Neptune, locking down those two guys was a huge part of his team’s game plan. Neptune explained that preparing for those two players produced a lot of “sleepless nights.”
“I cannot express enough how good those two players are, and how much we respected them coming in here. The shots they make when you watch them on film is so impressive. I’m really proud of the way our guys handled those two.”
As the game came down to free throws in the final two minutes, George Washington struggled to hit much at the charity stripe. In the second half, GW made just 6 of their 14 free throws. On a Hail Mary inbound pass from Antrell Charlton, Darius Quisenberry was able to get the last layup and secure a 70-66 victory. Ohams led all scorers with 23 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks.
Fordham finishes their regular season 8-10 in conference play, and 15-15 overall. As of the conclusion of the game, they hold possession of the eighth seed in the conference tournament. Their 8-10 record is also their best performance in conference play since 2016. While Neptune acknowledged this record and what it means for the continuing development of the program, he said the focus of his team now is their next game in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
“It doesn’t matter when it is, we’re going into every game as if it’s our super bowl. We don’t look at any other game any differently. Game to game, we’re not saying ‘oh now we’re trying to play hard.’ Every game is our most important game.”