BROOKLYN — The Fordham Rams had led all of NCAA Division I basketball in most wins after trailing at halftime this season. That luck ran out in the semifinals of the A-10 Tournament at Barclays Center.
The Rams struggled to shoot from three-point range and the Dayton Flyers won the points in the paint battle as Fordham fell 78-68 on Saturday. The loss was a disappointing end to an impressive season for the Rams, which saw the program record its first 20-win season since 1990-91.
The defeat likely ends Fordham’s NCAA Tournament dreams, which haven’t been a reality since 1992 long before any of the current members of the Rams were born. They could also receive an invite to the NIT.
Fordham spent nearly all of the game trying to play catchup after falling behind early on. In the end, the Rams found themselves in front for a mere 2:36. The Rams had worked to cut the deficit to just a point twice in the final 10 minutes of the game, but Dayton managed to punch back every time.
After Will Richardson hit a three with 6:13 left on the clock the Flyers went on a 13-4 run for the next 4:34 to put any hope of a comeback out of reach.
“You know, basketball is a game of runs, you know, it’s up and downs,” Will Richardson said. “We always try to no matter what’s going on just stay steady. Don’t get too high when things are going good. Don’t get too low with things going bad and so even when they did go on their 9-0 run, you know, we still played our game and still do what our coaches told us to do.”
Moore finished the afternoon with a team-high 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, along with seven rebounds. Will Richardson had and shot 4-for-7 from three-point range, while 16 points Rostyslav Novitskyi had 13 points.
“He came with a vision. He wanted to be a focal point and he certainly was,” Fordham coach Keith Urgo said about Moore’s play. “He was phenomenal. He was phenomenal yesterday. … He gave us everything he had and he came every day he continued to get better. He never put his head down.”
Urgo added: “He’s a winner, both on and off the court in the classroom and in the community. He’s Beloved. Right? So I’m really proud of the player he became.”
Darius Quisenberry had eight points for the Rams and steals. Quisenberry struggled from the floor, knocking down just three of his 12 shots.
Fordham shot 32.1% from three-point range in the loss and 44.6% from the field. The struggles were punctuated during the first half as the Rams knocked down just three of their 11 attempts from beyond the arc, with their first three of the game not falling until nearly halfway through the opening half.
Things picked up a little bit for Fordham in the second half as they knocked down back-to-back threes in the opening minutes of the second half.
The Rams played from behind from the opening jump in the first half after letting the Flyers get a 5-2 lead in the opening minute and a half. Fordham managed to cut the deficit down and Quisenberry gave the Rams a brief lead off a turnover with 16:38 left in the half.
Bronx native Malachi Smith knocked down a pull-up three and then he forced a turnover of his own to open up a 12-8 Dayton lead a little less than five minutes into the game.
Abdou Tsimbila tied the game at 12 with a second chance layup with 13:29 on the clock and The Flyers extended their lead to eight after R.J Blankley knocked down a three with 6:21 left in the opening half. The Rams cut the deficit to four after Quisenberry hit a three of his own and Moore went 2-for-2 from the free throw line.
The Rams went into halftime down 36-33 and the Flyers came out of the gate in the second half opening up a six-point lead.
the Rams quickly swung the game the other way with a 6-0 run that included two big threes from Will Richardson and one for Kyle Rose. Richardson’s first of the run cut the deficit to three, followed by Rose’s to tie the game and Richardson’s second to put them up by three 3:22 into the second half.
The two sides traded baskets before the Flyers gave themselves a four-point cushion off baskets from R.J. Blakney and Daron Holmes II. It was a gritty play by Khalid Moore that pulled the Rams back within one.
Moore missed his first shot attempt, but dove to the ground to get the loose ball and eventually got a second chance layup and a foul called.
After the Flyers had taken a 57-53 lead with 8:07 left in the game, Quisenberry picked off a pass on the defensive end of the floor and drove the length of the court for a layup to make it a two-point game. However, it was then that the Rams’ shooting cooled down as they missed their next four shots allowing Dayton to run away with the game.