Image Courtesy Fordham Athletics
Midway through the first half, graduate guard Darius Quisenberry chucked up a shot from the deep left wing, drawing contact as he finished his follow through. As the shot went through and the ref blew his whistle, signaling an and-1 opportunity, the student section at Rose Hill gym erupted in a cacophony that had not been heard in a long time.
However, in the new Kyle Neptune Era at Rose Hill, these bursts of excitement seem to be here to stay.
The energy felt during Quisenberry’s jumper could be felt throughout the women’s and men’s basketball double header in the Bronx on Tuesday night, as fresh faces in the men’s program led the charge in a season opening victory against the Columbia Lions. This was Fordham’s first non-conference game since their win against Coppin State on December 30th, 2019. According to head Coach Kyle Neptune, the energy in Rose Hill Gym was palpable even in his office during the women’s game, and overwhelming once his own team hit the floor.
“The energy level was really good for us to start and then go down the stretch,” Neptune described. According to Neptune, his team spent the opening minutes of the game riding on the excitement created by the women’s team, who took down Quinnipiac 79-71 in overtime. “I could barely hear myself at times. I definitely knew our guys couldn’t hear me.”
In order to maintain the excitement, fans looked to stellar performances from players like the aforementioned Quisenberry, whose tenacity on offense notched him 25 points off of 8-for-18 shooting. Quisenberry’s success with high-volume shooting was a pleasant change from the slow-paced Rams offenses of the Neubauer era. Last season, Fordham failed to score more than 50 points in a game on 7 occasions. On Tuesday, the Rams had 49 points at halftime. When asked about Quisenberry’s performance, Coach Neptune was satisfied, yet unsurprised, describing tonight as the perfect showcase for what he thinks the Youngstown State transfer is capable of.
“He made shots, but we’ve seen him to that before in practice, he’s done that his whole career. It’s just what he does.”
Defensively, Fordham spent the first half locking down Columbia. In the opening minutes, it looked like the Rams were forcing Columbia to play 5-out, not only forcing tough contested shots, but also forcing turnovers via the shot clock and drawn offensive fouls, a Josh Navarro specialty. In the second half, Fordham was able keep the Lions at bay, but not as effectively as in the first. Coach Neptune attributed this minor lapse both to a dip in momentum, as well as Columbia adjusting to Fordham’s game plan.
“I think our energy level tailed off a bit towards the end of the second half,” Neptune described. “I don’t think we had as much fire in the first, but that’s just Columbia. They handled the pressure and made their adjustments. Nothing against our guys, Columbia just had their run.”
Luckily, whenever the energy got muddy, there were guys on this Fordham roster that could step in and help their teammates keep their composure. Antrell Charlton, a sophomore transfer from Indian River State, played this role Tuesday night. Along with scoring 12 points off of 5-for-7 shooting, Charlton was frequently seen calming down teammates after a tough call, or acting as floor general to relay assignments and plays from Coach Neptune.
“He’s a natural leader. He’s one of our guys with a calming presence out there, one of the guys that does literally everything on the floor,” Neptune said. “You’ll see him at point guard, at two, at three, he can guard a five. He’s just strong, intelligent, he does a little bit of everything on the floor. He’s definitely a calming presence for us.”
Coach Neptune explained that the cohesion he’s seen on this team has formed all on the players on volition, and that the guys on this team go above and beyond every day to stick their necks out for each other.
While this was the first taste of this year’s Fordham Rams for many fans and analysts, for Coach Neptune and his team, this opening game was just another step on a journey that began many months ago. For this year’s Rams, Tuesday night’s win was what they hope to be the first of many.
“This was our first game, but we’d already started the season back in June,” Neptune explained. “The Guys were here the whole summer working, we were on them hard the whole summer. They sacrificed a lot, so our message to them was just that this was another step in the journey we started in June.”
The Rams next challenge will be against Manhattan this Friday, in the latest edition of the famed “Battle of the Bronx.” For coverage of that game and more on your favorite Rams in the A-10, be sure to stay tuned on A10talk.com and on Twitter @a10talk.