Fordham Men’s Basketball Caves to George Washington, 53-49

A tumultuous Rams season comes to a close in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Championship



Joel Soriano, FCRH ’23, recorded 10 points and 10 rebounds in Fordham’s first round defeat.

The Fordham men’s basketball team’s season came to a close on Wednesday after George Washington University (GWU) defeated the Rams in the first round of the Atlantic 10 (A10) Championship, 53-49. Fordham ended the season with a record of 2-12, with nine of the team’s losses coming by double digits.

It’s no secret that this past season was not smooth for the men’s basketball team. Whether it be untimely injuries, COVID-19 quarantines or a mid-season coaching change, it seemed like the Rams faced misfortune at every turn. Despite this, the mindset of the team remained positive.

“It’s tough to have rhythm and it’s tough to stay in shape when you take two-week pauses,” Interim Head Coach Mike DePaoli noted when reflecting on the past season. “Has it been easy? No. But we’re playing basketball in the middle of a pandemic, so I think that right there is a win in itself.”

“The word ‘proud’ doesn’t do enough. There’s not one ounce of disappointment in me.” Mike DePaoli, Fordham men’s basketball interim head coach 

The Rams entered a COVID-19 pause from activities the day after suffering a Feb. 13 loss to Saint Louis University. This meant the postponement of games, restriction of team meetings and an overall interruption of what limited momentum the Rams had gained up until that point.

“The guys didn’t have to stay just in their dorms … so we had the guys running around campus,” DePaoli commented on his team’s recent pause. “It’s not ideal, not what you want to be doing in the month of February … but you have to control what you can control in a year like this.”

photo of mike depaoli during george washington game
In his first postseason game as head coach, Mike DePaoli led the team in a hard-fought contest. (COURTESY OF FORDHAM ATHLETICS)

Fordham looked to avenge its season-opening blowout to the Colonials by defeating them in back-to-back seasons at the A10 Tournament. However, after an explosive 13-2 Colonials start, it looked like the Rams were in store for a repeat of their loss on Dec. 30. Led by forward Ricky Lindo Jr., GWU ’22, George Washington surged ahead early, taking a 25-10 lead 13 minutes into the first half.

The Rams were down, but in the final minutes of the first half, it was evident that they would not go down without a fight. Fordham answered immediately, launching a five-minute stretch in which they outscored the Colonials by 13 points. Suddenly, a 15-point lead dissipated into one of just two points. After starting the game with a victory in clear sight, George Washington finished the half making just one of its final nine shots, going into the break ahead 28-25.

While Fordham shot 22% in the opening half of its December matchup against George Washington, the Rams hit 42% of their buckets in the first 20 minutes of their postseason, an improvement that left them just three points behind going into the break. The Rams’ star forward Joel Soriano, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’23, had eight points and five rebounds in the opening frame but was overshadowed by Lindo Jr.’s 14 points and six rebounds.  

joel soriano dribbling a ball next to a george washington player
Joel Soriano, FCRH ’23, was a major paint presence for Fordham throughout the game. (COURTESY OF FORDHAM ATHLETICS)

George Washington’s cold streak carried over to start the second half, but the offensive struggle was contagious. Both the Rams and Colonials shot poorly from the field early, going scoreless for almost four straight minutes. Fordham finally managed to break the drought and eventually took their first lead of the game seven minutes in, 34-33.  

But as DePaoli said, the final 10 minutes “turned into a fight.” The Rams and Colonials mirrored each other, suffering similar stretches of ice-cold and red-hot shooting.

Up until the final three minutes, it looked like the Rams were going to upset the Colonials and advance to face George Mason in the next round. However, the trend of streaks continued, but not by mirroring how the half started.

Fordham hit a cold spell at the most crucial point, allowing the Colonials to regain control of a game that was once clearly theirs. George Washington turned on the jets and went on a 6-0 run in the final 2:40 to not only regain but secure the lead. On top of this, the Colonials stopped the Rams’ offense for the final three minutes of game time, ensuring the 53-49 victory.

In the end, the Colonials emerged victorious in a game that many thought would be competitive.  Despite the loss, the Rams showed a resilience that was promising for not only the future of the team but also the future of DePaoli. When asked about the current state of the head coach search post-game, Soriano put it bluntly. 

“Right now, my head coach is Mike DePaoli,” Soriano said.

Another bright spot for the Rams was the reemergence of senior forward Chuba Ohams, FCRH ’21. A staple of the Fordham team since his arrival in the 2016-17 season, Ohams had missed the entire season with a knee injury he sustained last season. DePaoli was initially pessimistic that Ohams would be ready to appear in the playoffs.

“He’s very anxious to get back onto the court,” DePaoli noted prior to Wednesday’s competition. “But as I’ve told him time and time again, I have to do what the doctors tell me you’re capable of.”

Evidently, Ohams was ready to compete. In what could have been the redshirt senior’s final game as a Ram, Ohams shot 3-for-7, scoring six points and securing six rebounds in his 19 minutes off the bench.

photo of chuba ohams from the back, making a shot against george washington
Chuba Ohams, FCRH ’21, returned from injury with a valiant postseason effort against GWU. (COURTESY OF FORDHAM ATHLETICS)

Ohams was an uplifting figure in the Rams’ locker room going into the game. After the game, Soriano spoke to the senior’s leadership and perseverance. The program would agree that he is a proven leader, and a spark the Rams were missing all year. 

Ohams “is a strong individual,” Soriano said. “What he went through was amazing.”

This season may not have gone as planned for the Rams, but it did prove that the success of a season cannot always be measured by wins and losses. The perseverance of Ohams underlines the resilience of the entire 2020-21 Fordham men’s basketball team. 

“The word ‘proud’ doesn’t do enough,” DePaoli reflected after the game. “There’s not one ounce of disappointment in me.”

For every hurdle the Rams faced, the players did their best to leap over them. While this didn’t result in W’s in the standings, it is certainly something that every member of the Fordham men’s basketball team can be proud of. Merely completing an entire season in such a hectic climate is a commendable accomplishment, one that inspires optimism for the future and illustrates the toughness of the Fordham squad.

And while the players may feel brief disappointment in the wake of Wednesday’s loss, the determination they displayed when confronted with a plethora of challenges during this tumultuous season will certainly stick with them for years to come. This determination may be crucial sooner rather than later, with uncertainty surrounding the head coaching position clouding the future of the Fordham men’s basketball program.