What Goes Up Must Come Down: A Cold Winter Break for the Rams

Fordham men’s basketball faces a long Atlantic 10 road ahead after a historic start in 2022-23



In his first year as head coach, Keith Urgo has led the Rams to a 15-4 season.


The Fordham men’s basketball team was on a tear as the halfway mark of their season — the end of the fall semester — came and went. The Bronx hoopers won 11 games in a row, including an impressive, high-intensity victory over Tulane University in New Orleans on Dec. 3. The Rams promptly flew home from the Big Easy and ripped through a home stand that saw them defeat Wagner College, 72-59; Binghamton University, 77-62; and Central Connecticut State University, 90-77. In their final home game before the start of the Atlantic 10 (A10) conference schedule, they defeated the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) 80-77 in overtime on Dec. 22.

However, on Dec. 28, the Rams froze against A10 competitor Davidson College in a 57-43 defeat. Their season seemed optimistic, but their slate of games over winter break reinforced important lessons for the budding team.

A New Identity

Fordham has come together this year. Credit for this can be given to Kyle Rose and Antrell Charlton, both Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’24, due to their dramatic improvements over the previous season. Rose, despite playing fewer minutes, has seen his points-per-game spike from 7.5 to 9.7. Charlton has been a difference maker; his late game scoring and timely long range shots have uplifted the Rams. Notably, his field goal percentage has gone from 33% last year to 45%, and his free throw conversion rate has improved by 30%, up to 90%.

According to Charlton, his improvement comes from confidence. He knows that if he plays well, he will elevate his team. 

“We harp on our defense; that’s our identity at Fordham”Antrell Charlton FCRH ’24

“Everyone is always on me about being more aggressive,” Charlton said. “It gives the team confidence when I’m making those shots. To me, it just brings energy to the whole team.”

However, despite his production uptick, Charlton is most proud of his team’s defense.

We harp on our defense; that’s our identity at Fordham,” he said. “We harp on our attitude all the time — any adversity, just stay the course.”

The Forwards

Following the departure of Chuba Ohams, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) ’22, who joined a professional team in northern France late in the summer of 2022, the Rams’ interior play was fraught with questions and doubts. The next two men up were Rostyslav Novitskyi, FCRH ’23, and Abdou Tsimbila, FCRH ’24, and suffice to say that they have worked together brilliantly. 

Tsimbila’s minutes have shot north two-fold and in his new role, he is scoring 6.4 points per game, a radical improvement over his 2.7 in the 2021-22 campaign. He is averaging 7.7 rebounds, twice that of the previous season and, most notably for a post player, his free throw percentage has improved by nearly 10%.

Novitskyi, an imposing and physical forward from Kyiv, Ukraine, has been Tsimbila’s frontcourt partner. What Novitskyi does to defenders is almost magical: He is shooting at a 72% clip from the field and is averaging 5.2 rebounds a game — 40% of which are offensive boards. Novitskyi’s interior abilities and footwork are prized skills in a game that increasingly prioritizes the 3-point shot.

“These guys really like each other. They root for each other, and there’s no animosity.”Head Coach Keith Urgo

But the most significant change for the Rams this season came on the coaching front. When former Head Coach Kyle Neptune left Fordham to take the reins of the famed program at Villanova University, the Rams were faced with the distasteful reality of a third coach in as many years. Nevertheless, the program proceeded under the leadership of Head Coach Keith Urgo, who has elevated his squad. 

“Whatever is necessary,” Urgo said of his players’ mentality after a 72-67 victory over the University of Maine. “We talk about having a great attitude and playing for 40 minutes; it doesn’t have to be pretty every night, but we just find a way to get it done.”

Rose, the starting guard, remains level-headed. His outlook on the early season has been one of progression, not reward. If his squad came out with a win and marked improvement, that was enough to warrant satisfaction.

“We just want to get 1% better each and every day,” Rose said after the VMI game.

A rude first test of the season against No. 10-ranked University of Arkansas on Nov. 11 ended predictably with a resounding 74-48 defeat for the Rams. But it steeled their resolve, invigorating them and sending them off on a decimating sweep of their pre-conference schedule. 

After mediocre seasons, the men’s basketball team was finally performing. The Rose Hill Gymnasium felt alive for the first time in a while, and the Rams seemed poised to add basketball to its list of truly competitive programs. Part of this success can also be attributed to unity. Urgo sounded off on the camaraderie of his team.

“These guys really like each other,” he said. “They root for each other, and there’s no animosity.”

Urgo has been a powerful leading presence for the Rams. While the Rams’ 12-1 record entering the A10 demonstrated their dominance, the looming specter of conference play would soon give them another wake up call that they aren’t soon to forget. 

Winter Break

On Dec. 28, the Rams scored just 43 points in a total breakdown versus Davidson. Stephen Curry’s alma mater is now second-to-last in the conference standings, adding tremendous weight to Fordham’s second loss of the season.

The A10 slate over winter break demonstrated one thing above all: that Fordham is not invincible. The Rams’ historic win streak ended when reality rolled down the window. The A10 is a fierce competition, and if the Rams’ performance in five conference games is any indication, a difficult road lies ahead.

A brief review of the Rams’ tumultuous January games follows.

Much has been expected from Richardson, and the LaSalle game was his breakout performance.

Jan. 4 at Rhode Island

The New Year was yet another heartbreaker for the Rams, who suffered a defeat at the hands of the University of Rhode Island (URI), 82-79. The deceptive box score highlights Darius Quisenberry’s, GSAS ’23, tremendous 33-point night, off 4-of-11 from behind the arc and 91% from the stripe. The rest of the Rams carried their weight, and URI hardly out-rebounded or out-shot its competition until the waning minutes of the first half. 

By the end of the first half, Rhode Island had jumped to a double-digit lead that they would only briefly relinquish for the rest of the contest. Tsimbila’s 12 rebounds were insufficient. Rhode Island star Martin Malik, URI ’23, led the way with 23 points and 5-of-9 from 3-point range.

Jan. 7 vs. SJU

After dropping their 11-game win streak and adding two losses to their season, the Rams secured a hopeful 12-point victory against Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) on Jan. 4. In the initial 10 minutes of the first half, SJU scored 25 points against the Rams, holding a nine-point lead. Quisenberry and Charlton led the Rams in points, each scoring in the double digits. 

The competition was not in the Rams’ favor until the end of the first half, when they began to close out SJU’s lead. The Rams made their move in the second half. Eight minutes remained as the Rams’ lead increased, 53-47. After a barrage of Fordham free-throws, the competition closed out 66-54. 

Jan. 10 vs. Dayton

On Jan. 10, the Rams lost by 24 points to the University of Dayton. Dayton scored 15 points in the first seven minutes, and the Rams quipped back with only two. Quisenberry underperformed as he only put up three points, well below his 16.3 average. 

However, the outcome was not entirely surprising. Dayton hasn’t allowed its opponents to score more than 60 points in its past seven games. 

Fordham is a new team, and it is ready for what lies ahead.

The Rams struggled in the first half, only scoring 18 points as Dayton scored 33. Fordham’s pace changed in the second half as the team put up 40 points to Dayton’s 49. It wasn’t enough, and the Rams lost 82-55. 

Jan. 14 at LaSalle

The Rams picked themselves back up after their loss against Dayton, as four days later they won a close contest against La Salle University, 66-64. The game was won at the buzzer, and it wasn’t short of spectacular as Charlton drained the finisher. 

Both teams had offensive highs in this competition. Fordham’s star this game was Will Richardson, FCRH ’26, who put up 19 points in 26 minutes. Much has been expected from Richardson, and the LaSalle game was his breakout performance.

Looking Ahead

The Fordham men’s team had a gloomy January, far from what fans were expecting after their historic run. But a 65-58 win over Duquesne University on Jan. 21 may hold off a complete fall from grace. 

The Rams will face the St. Bonaventure University Bonnies on Jan. 25. The outcome of the game will likely have little impact on the standings, as the Bonnies (7) are just one spot above Fordham (8). However, a win against the Bonnies would extend the Rams’ win streak to three.

Fordham is now eighth in the A10, and the next four games for the team are all against higher-ranked competitors. However, Urgo is hardly discouraged. His attitude has been consistent this season: Fordham is a new team, and it is ready for what lies ahead.

“I’m not so sure that any teams here at Fordham have had this much depth in a long time,” Urgo said. “Everyone’s contributed at some point or another.”

This sentiment has been echoed multiple times by Urgo and his players. If there is one thing to look forward to as the Rams march on, it’s their grit and determination.