Heading into their first game since December 12th, most would expect Fordham to be a bit groggy as they regain their footing for conference play. Early on against La Salle, this seemed to be the case as the Rams failed to score in their first five possessions. Defensively, the Rams were outmuscled and outsized below the basket, giving the Explorers plenty of room to crowd the glass and stretch possessions out to two, three shots before the ball went the other way. Leading the first half effort for La Salle was no doubt Clifton Moore, who notched up 12 points, 4 blocks, and 2 steals before the break.
Despite the strong showing from La Salle early on, the Rams found a way to keep fighting. While back-and-forth doesn’t describe this game, there was definitely a unique ebb and flow throughout that would see one team build an 8+ point lead, followed immediately by their opponent chipping away until they had one of their own.
While guys like Darius Quisenberry continued to push for looks under the basket, Fordham’s offense really couldn’t get going until Josh Navarro came off the bench. Navarro made an immediate impact when he entered the game, tying the game at 5 apiece with a 3 pointer. While his numbers were great all game, it was Navarro’s energy that really sparked the Rams’ first rally.
This rally, which allowed the Rams to take a 15-12 lead, was led almost entirely by Chuba Ohams. Drawing a lot of pressure early on, Ohams put his diverse offensive skillset on display for four consecutive buckets. In two and a half minutes, Ohams scored eight points off of a layup, an hook shot, an alley-oop, and a jumper. As the half continued, Darius Quisenberry and Antonio Daye made major contributions to the scoring effort with some strong finishing under the hoop.
Defensively, while Moore proved a major problem for the Rams, Fordham was able to lock down a few other key La Salle scorers to prevent a major explorers run. Fordham’s key target on defense was Josh Nickelberry. Averaging 12.8 points per game this season, Nickelberry was held to just 3 points on 1-for-5 shooting. La Salle’s biggest offensive strength was their ball movement, which was on full display at the wing. With a minute left to play, a Brantley to Brickus to Brantley three pointer brought the lead to five at the break.
As the second half opened, it looked like Fordham had forgotten a lot of what they had learned earlier on, allowing La Salle to jump to a quick 11 point lead. After a quick timeout from Kyle Neptune, the Rams seemed to regain their senses, calming down offensively, and working around the mismatch to force three consecutive La Salle turnovers. Fordham went into a 3/4 press at several points in the second half, which prevented any La Salle leads from getting too out of hand. Fouling also worked in Fordham’s favor, as the Explorers struggled behind the line, finishing the night 9-for-16.
As Fordham chipped away at La Salle’s lead, it was Josh Navarro once again leading the charge. After Antonio Daye tied the game at 42 with a layup, it was Navarro who put the Rams up 45-42 with a three pointer, a lead they would never relinquish. Fordham would go on to shoot 50% from deep in the second half.
Opening conference play at 1-0, Fordham earns their tenth win against La Salle all-time. The Rams will try to bring the series to 17-and-11 when they face La Salle at home on February 23rd. Until then, Fordham shifts their focus to taking on UMass at home this Sunday.