Heading into Thanksgiving, the Fordham Rams are off to their first 5-1 start since 2018, due in large part to their undefeated run in the 2022 Tom Konchalski Classic. While a favorite in all three of their wins against UIC, Holy Cross, and Stonehill College, this MTE tested Fordham in plenty of areas that will be key to a successful 2022 campaign. As the Rams enter a short break in their season for the holidays, let’s see how the Rams excelled in the final two games of the tournament.
Monday-Fordham 67, Holy Cross 53
In their first basketball game against traditional football rivals Holy Cross since 2005, Fordham put on their best defensive first half of the season against the Crusaders, leading to a football-like score at the break, as the Rams lead 36-12. Offensively, the Rams used their size advantage to double up the Crusaders’ scoring efforts in the paint at 12-6. In the early minutes after tip-off, Coach Urgo could be heard yelling from the bench “ATTACK! ATTACK!” as Fordham flew in transition. As usual, Darius Quisenberry was at the center of this attack, working in tandem with Khalid Moore for strong finishes under the basket for 10 points before the break. While Quisenberry being the first to double digits has been standard for the Rams, the graduate guard’s performance against the Crusaders was also noteworthy for how he moved the ball. As high tempo buckets stopped falling, Quisenberry led the effort in executing plenty of swing-pass plays around the perimeter to find any open man who can shoot.
“Obviously, I was struggling a little bit from the offensive end and missing a lot of shots,” Quisenberry said, explaining his shift in focus. “But [Coach] talks about being a big time player, so you try to affect the game in other ways than scoring the ball, and I feel like I tried to do that today.”
Quisenberry entered halftime with 7 assists, and finished the game with 8. In terms of guys picking up on offense where Quisenberry struggled, Kyle Rose was once again a big piece for the Rams, leading all Fordham scorers with 15 points by the end of the game. Rose and Quisenberry were 2 of 5 Rams who finished the night When asked about spreading the floor, Quisenberry reiterated the trust he has in his team to share the offensive workload.
“We have a lot more depth this year,” Quisenberry said. “We can go to a lot of guys down the bench and they can give us a lot of good spurts [while] the level intensity doesn’t drop on the court.”
Defensively, the Rams started off the night running a pretty traditional zone. At the perimeter, Antrell Charlton led a physical performance at the perimeter while Abdou Tsimbila maintained his presence down low. In between, Khalid Moore picked apart Holy Cross passes to snag two of Fordham’s six first half steals. By halftime, the Rams held their opponents to shooting just 17% from the field. However, early in the second, Holy Cross flipped the script, sinking seven consecutive shots from the 17 minute mark to the under-12 timeout for a 17-5 run. While hot hands were the biggest factor in that Crusaders run, their defense was also impeccable, forcing three turnovers in that same run as they stuck hard on Fordham shooters, limiting any passing lanes and forcing the Rams to start chucking the ball up. According to Coach Urgo, Fordham started slipping simply because they had briefly lost their main defensive philosophy.
“Keep your foot on their throat,” said Urgo as he recounted what he told his guys at the half. “Unfortunately, we didn’t do that. Our goal is to put together a 40 minute game, and whenever that happens, I think we are going to be really good. I think we’re right around 25 or 20 in the first half. It’s pretty impressive. I think we put about five minutes together in the second half.”
In those five minutes that Urgo described, likely the final, the Rams were able to halt the Crusaders’ run by forcing Holy Cross to shoot 3-10 from the field, compounding on a strong offensive first half to come away with a 14-point win.
Tuesday-Fordham 71, Stonehill 60
Against the Stonehill Skyhawks in the Classic’s Finale, it was clear Fordham had a lot of energy to expend before Thanksgiving break. Right from tip, Fordham looked to overpower Stonehill with their speed. In transition, guys like Khalid Moore and Antrell Charlton drove hard to the hoop, spinning and winning to help snag 14 Fordham points in the paint before halftime. Stonehill, who took down Holy Cross in their first game, and put up 71 points in a loss to UIC, came out strong defensively, but struggled to respond on the offensive end. Like against Holy Cross, the Skyhawks were keen to press hard at the perimeter, but Fordham once again moved the ball too fast for Stonehill to keep up.
In several instances, Fordham seemed to be moving too fast for even themselves, and Stonehill was able to capitalize. Will Richardson, a player whose speed and intensity Coach Urgo has prioritized refining, committed 1 of Fordham’s 8 total turnovers in the first half, but was also at forefront of Fordham’s dynamic ball movement. As the Rams got out to a 21-7 lead right after the under-16 media timeout, the ball was once again flying around the perimeter for 31.9% shooting from the field. Fordham excelled on kick-out plays in the first half as well to overcome some of the mid-range physicality from Stonehill. On a few possessions, it felt like Fordham was a bit too inclined to pass, leading to several jumpers going up with the shot clock expiring. Recognizing this, the Rams were able to adjust to Stonehill’s zone and work more in the paint, snagging 7 offensive boards for 14 points down low in the first half.
“They went in zone, so we kind of got stagnant, started shooting a little too much sometimes,” Quisenberry said. “Once we started dropping the ball in the paint, finding people down low, that’s when we started finding our success.”
In terms of finding people down low, there was no recipient more frequent against Stonehill than Khalid Moore. Scoring a career-high 24 points, Moore shined all over the floor offensively, but on Tuesday the paint was his strong suit. Contributing primarily as a power forward, Moore made himself open after setting picks for mid-range jumpers and put-back layups. As Fordham spaced out the floor, Antrell Charlton lobbed one up for Moore to make a huge back door slam to put the Rams up 33-25. As the Rams struggled from the field coming out of halftime, Moore scored Fordham’s first 9 points of the period, with Abdou Tsimbila scoring the first non-Moore bucket with 9:46 remaining in the game. As the Rams picked it up in the final minutes to close out an 11-point win, Moore closed out his first career game scoring over 20 points.
While Quisenberry and his teammates would no doubt take time to celebrate this milestone for their teammate, the graduate guard expects plenty more performances from his highly anticipated transfer teammate later this season.
“I told him, when we are here together, that his role is bigger here,” Quisenberry explained. “Yesterday he was kinda slacking, but we told him today ‘we’re gonna need you, we’re gonna need you a lot.’ He showed up for us [today], and I think that’s big for us, and he’s gonna have to keep showing up for us day in and day out.”
Following the conclusion of the game, two Fordham Rams, Khalid Moore and Kyle Rose, were named to the All-Classic Team, while Quisenberry was named Most Valuable Player of the event. When asked about his contribution to Fordham in this event and over these past two seasons, Quisenberry attributed his success to maintaining a consistent philosophy.
“My dad always told me, because I go so hard every day, about being just a big time player, and an every day guy,” Quisenberry explained. “So that means, to me, affecting the game in multiple ways. If you’re not scoring the ball, you can still be a leader, talk to your guys, get guys going with assists, or rebound the ball, which I tried to do tonight.”
The Fordham Rams will continue their homestand on Sunday Afternoon, when they take on the Harvard Crimson.