Fordham’s Thursday night win against LIU got off to a bit of a shaky start. With Ahmad Harrison making his first start of the season, and Abdou Tsimibila his second, it was clear that Coach Neptune wanted to respond to LIU’s large roster. According to Coach Neptune, this lineup change was foreign only to those watching, as his team enters every game prepared to run whatever lineup necessary for the win.
“We’ve switched things up maybe 3 or 4 times this year already, so it’s nothing new for us,” Neptune explained. “Our guys know that no matter what, we come in and we’re ready to play, so the lineup doesn’t really matter to us.”
The decision to play two bigs worked out well for the Rams, as they were able to keep up with an LIU team with some serious physicality under the hoop. The Sharks’ biggest threat was no doubt Senior Forward Isaac Kante, who scored 16 points against Fordham. A 2-time CAA All-Conference player with Hofstra, Kante has had plenty of NCAA experience as a formidable big man, including a year stint at Georgia.
Along with Tsimbila seeing some extra minutes tonight, Pat Kelly made his debut for the Rams tonight at forward. Despite missing all five of his shots, Kelly made a solid contribution off the ball and made some very smart passes. Aside from the talent he brings to the floor, Coach Neptune is very excited about how long Kelly will be able to wear a Fordham jersey due to the current eligibility guidelines.
“He’s an older guy, but he’s got four years to play,” Neptune said. “He knows everything we need to do. He brings shooting, and he brings some toughness and intelligence. He’s gonna be a big piece for us moving forward.”
While Fordham led by just six at halftime, a few adjustments defensively really allowed the Rams to break away down the stretch. Over the course of the game, Fordham handled the mismatch a lot better, and were able to switch effectively to provide the proper coverage depending on the play. Offensively, Fordham’s success came in their ball movement. They still shot under 30% from deep, a stat that will need to improve before A-10 play, but each Ram’s ability to get themselves and their teammates in the right spot for the right shot has continued to improve.
The Rams’ most successful connection against LIU was no doubt between Chuba Ohams and Antrell Charlton. Ohams finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds, with two of his biggest buckets coming off of Charlton dimes. Charlton would finish with 3 assists in total. This duo’s chemistry was no doubt something that Neptune has been very pleased to see progress this year.
“I think it’s something we struggled with early, and we definitely showed it on more of an organizational and coaching level, because we just weren’t organized,” Neptune explained. “We’re getting better. I don’t know if any coach in America is going to say “that’s exactly where we want to be.” We’re a work in progress till our last game, so hopefully we can continue to get better.”
Fordham’s work will continue on Sunday when they take on the University of Miami at the Hall of Fame Invitational in Brooklyn. The biggest test for the Rams so far, Coach Neptune made it clear that despite the prestige around their opponent and the venue, his team has to treat this game just like any other. To put it like Coach Neptune did, his team has to treat every game like they are playing Miami at the Barclays.
“If the venue and the team gets you excited, you don’t win your other games,” Neptune said. “We’ve tried to instill in our guys that whenever you step on the floor, you’re playing your biggest game.”
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