Even with Sam Waardenburg at the five, Miami had a tough time stopping Chuba Ohams in the first half. According to Miami Head Coach Jim Larranaga, his Hurricanes spent most of their time on defense figuring out how to keep the ball out of his hands. Early on, this effort was largely fruitless, as Ohams went 5-for-5 for 11 points in the first half. Ohams benefitted largely from good ball movement from guards like Antonio Daye, who was able to feed Ohams on several instances in which he played the mismatch down low.
“He was a handful,” Larranaga said.
Aside from Ohams, Fordham’s guard consistently found themselves in the position for smart shots. Kam’Ron Cunningham made himself and immediate presence offensively, and was able to cash in on an excellent pass from Antonio Daye. While 3-point shooting was still lacking, 4-for-17 in the first, Fordham’s cohesion on offense made a major impression on Miami.
“The Fordham Rams have a very specific style of playing offense,” Larranaga said. “You have to be able to guard what they do pretty darn well or they’ll score 80 or 90 points.”
Defensively, the Rams were able to take complete control of the paint. Abdou Tsimbila played one of his best halves of the season defensively, recording one of Fordham’s two first half blocks. Even when they weren’t getting blocks, Fordham’s defense was tenacious. Antrell Charlton, who has largely served as Fordham’s glue guy this season, was at the center of the Rams’ defensive effort. Rebounding was a major team effort, and the Rams headed into the break outrebounding the Canes 17-15. Heading into halftime, the only thing Fordham needed to improve was their perimeter shooting. With a 37-35 lead over Miami, this one would come down to the hotter hand.
As the second half got underway, it was clear that Miami was up to the task, and Fordham could not respond. Almost immediately, Miami took control offensively and worked their way into a 44-39 lead. Before the Rams could make any adjustments, Miami was off on a 14-2 run, with a 55-43 lead that Fordham would chip away at with several runs of their own, but never recover from completely. According to Coach Neptune, a big cause for Miami’s run was unprepared defense. In a season full of new faces, there are still times where Neptune’s roster is not as cohesive as they need to be, especially against an opponent like Miami.
“We just gotta get a bit more organized,” Neptune said. “We’re still getting to know each other and our games. We’ve got a good break where we can put some things in and refine some things, so we’re looking forward to that.”
Offensively, Fordham had little answer to Miami’s lockdown of Chuba Ohams. After going perfect from the field in the first half, Ohams was limited to just one shot in the entire second. Coach Neptune attributed this stark defense to his own play calling, saying that he probably should have given Chuba some more opportunities late in the game. Outside of Ohams, Fordham was unable get crucial stops on defense after a few impressive ones. The Rams would get the deficit down to 4 points, and then Miami would find their way inside to keep a tie just out of reach.
“Our guys have been down a bunch of times and we’ve come back,” Neptune said. “Unfortunately it wasn’t enough today but it was good positive momentum moving forward.”
After today’s game, the Rams will rest for 10 days before finishing their non-conference schedule against Georgia Southern. With the long rest period, Coach Neptune will look to work a lot of what Fordham’s learned into their game plan, as well as give his players some much needed rest. In as tight of a schedule as Fordham has played, Neptune sees a lot of upside in this break, and will treat it like a mini training camp.
“I think our guys need to get better. We played a lot of games in a short period of time, so we’ll take this time to rest. I think it’s well needed.”