The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

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The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

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February 21, 2024

What’s Going on With Men’s Basketball?

More than halfway through this season, the Rams have failed to capture the spark that catapulted them to surprising success last year
Head Coach Keith Urgo predicted that Japhet Medor, FCRH ’24, and Fordham’s leading scorer, will return to court on Jan. 24 after he suffered an ankle injury on Jan. 17.

On Jan. 23, 2023, the men’s basketball team owned a 15-4 record following back-to-back Atlantic 10 (A10) wins against La Salle and Duquesne Universities. The Rams had only lost twice at home that season and were well on their way to having one of the most successful runs in the program’s history. 

This year’s campaign tells a much different story. Fordham has already lost seven times at home this year, and its record lies at a middling 8-10 overall. With under half of the season remaining, this drastic transformation begs the questions: What is going on with the men’s basketball team and what can fans expect down the stretch? 

To assess the season thus far, we must begin with a brief overview. After an offseason in which Fordham lost its two leading scorers and a number of key players, it was clear that fans would be seeing substantial changes in the 2023-24 season. As the nonconference schedule rolled on, the coaching staff, led by head coach Keith Urgo, established new rotations and gameplans for the current assortment of players.

The Rams ended their nonconference schedule with a 6-7 record. This opening period of the season featured some crucial moments for the developing squad. 

Fordham suffered a disappointing loss against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) at home but beat the University of North Texas in a thrilling 60-59 battle at the Barclays Center just days after. The Rams dominated Manhattan College at the Rose Hill Gymnasium, winning the Battle of the Bronx by the largest margin since 1986, 93-61, but were decimated by St. John’s University, 77-55, at Madison Square Garden. 

These repeated ups and downs suggest that there was little consistency for the Fordham team early on. They lost at home to NJIT, a team at the bottom of the America East Conference, yet they beat North Texas, a top-100 team fighting for first place in the competitive American Athletic Conference, at a neutral site. Through all of these early-season successes and shortcomings, however, the team was setting the table to prepare for the beginning of A10 conference matchups.

“We got a lot of young guys that are learning details, learning what it takes each and every day, every single possession, and that’s just kind of part of the process,” Urgo remarked after the NJIT loss. “We just gotta continue to get better, stay more connected, and continue to learn through different types of situations.” 

With a few simple fixes, sharper execution, and a healthy roster, brighter horizons may be ahead for the Rams.

The Rams are five games into its A10 conference schedule. Their 2-3 record so far suggests that they have continued on the same average trajectory of play, but the reality is more complex. 

The conference schedule opened with an away game against George Washington University. Fordham emerged victorious with a score of 119-113 in a thrilling affair that required three overtime periods to decide a victor. Four Rams finished with over 18 points, and the exhausting road to victory underlined the team’s resilience.

Following this thrilling A10 opener, Fordham dropped a winnable game at home against La Salle University, 81-76. La Salle built up a nine-point lead heading into halftime and successfully fended off an attempted comeback by the home team. 

Then sitting at 1-1 in conference play, the Rams trekked to western New York to face the St. Bonaventure University Bonnies. After a highly competitive game, Fordham defeated its top-100 ranked foe, 80-74. An important part of the victory for the team was the return of Joshua Rivera, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’26, who had missed the previous four games due to an injury. 

Enraptured crowds of Fordham fans have followed the tumultuous basketball season with bated breath. (COURTESY OF FORDHAM ATHLETICS)

The Rams could not stay healthy for long, however. The fourth conference matchup of the season was a home game against Davidson College. In front of a packed Rose Hill Gymnasium, Fordham fought to keep the game close. 

With the game tied at 15 and 9:11 remaining in the first half, Fordham’s leading scorer Japhet Medor, FCRH ’24, rose for a fastbreak layup and was met by an attempted block that sent him hurtling into the stanchion. He was forced to leave the game with an ankle injury and did not return.

Despite a poor shooting performance and the loss of Medor, Fordham kept the game close throughout the second half. With 2:56 remaining, an Elijah Gray, FCRH ’26, three-pointer cut the Davidson lead to three, at 63-60. In the final three minutes, however, the Fordham offense went cold, and using steady free throw shooting and sturdy defense, the Wildcats ultimately emerged with the victory, 79-69.

Medor missed the Rams’ most recent game as well, this time against the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers. Playing in front of Fordham fans once again, the Rams lost another close one, 65-61. Medor’s scoring spark was clearly absent, as Fordham was held to its lowest point total since its 22-point loss to St. John’s University on Dec. 16. Despite keeping the game close throughout, the Rams fell to 2-3 in the A10.

“We got a lot of young guys that are learning details, learning what it takes each and every day, every single possession, and that’s just kind of part of the process,”

There are some clear culprits to point to for the position that Fordham finds itself in right now. For one, injuries have plagued its conference schedule, with Rivera missing Fordham’s first two A10 games and Medor missing the majority of the Davidson game and the entire Loyola game. 

Additionally, Fordham’s free throw percentage has been downright lousy. The Rams sit at second-to-last in the A10 free throw percentage rankings, making only 66.8% of their shots from the charity stripe. Looking at some of Fordham’s recent losses, better free throw shooting could have led to extremely different outcomes. For example, in their five-point loss to La Salle, the Rams made only 13 of their 21 free throw attempts. 

The home court advantage that Fordham became known for last season has not translated to this year. The Rams are only 4-7 at Rose Hill this season, so Urgo has made repeated pleas for fans to pack the Gymnasium, stressing that the team feeds off of the crowd’s energy. Fans have even taken to social media to coordinate a new iteration of last year’s “Shirtless Herd,” a group of Fordham students that frequently led chants and invigorated the crowd. 

Fordham fans may have reason for optimism. Despite their shortcomings, the Rams have kept their losses close. The largest margin of defeat in A10 play was only 10 points against Davidson, and even then they trailed by one possession late in the second half. With a few simple fixes, sharper execution, and a healthy roster, brighter horizons may be ahead for the Rams.

“We got a lot of young guys that are learning what it takes to win in the Atlantic 10, and every single day, every single night, it’s a battle,” Urgo emphasized after Fordham’s loss to Davidson. “Our guys are starting to understand what it takes, and slowly but surely they’re all getting better.” 

This year’s season certainly has a different feel than the last, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As the season has progressed, the team developed and players carved out new roles for themselves. Most importantly, the foundation is being set for the future, with underclassmen such as Gray, Rivera, Will Richardson, FCRH ’26, Jahmere Tripp, FCRH ’27, and Romad Dean, FCRH ’26, establishing themselves as key players in the program’s future. 

Behind the leadership of Medor, who will hopefully return to action soon, Antrell Charlton, Abdou Tsimbila and Kyle Rose, all FCRH ’24 – who tied the school record of 126 in games played against Loyola Chicago – the Rams are sure to remain competitive down the stretch. Fordham will be back in action on Wednesday when it takes on the University of Rhode Island at 7 p.m.

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About the Contributor
CHRIS MURRAY, Sports & Health Editor
Chris Murray (he/him), FCRH ’24, is a sports & health editor at The Observer. He is a political science and humanitarian studies double major with a minor in psychology. He is a Mets, Knicks and Rangers fan and spends his time trying new food or enjoying the outdoors.

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    Grammar-istJan 26, 2024 at 1:23 pm

    The phrase is “bated breath,” rather than “baited breath.”