BROOKLYN — It was a Bronx vibe in Brooklyn and the Fordham Rams rode that all the way to a 69-61 win over the La Salle Explorers in the quarterfinals of the A-10 Tournament.
For 40 minutes, Barclays Center in Brooklyn transformed into the friendly confines of Rose Hill Gymnasium that Fordham knows so well. The Rams have enjoyed impressive success, which included the school’s first 20-win season, and have made Fordham home games one of the hottest tickets in town.
“I felt like it’s definitely kind of surreal,” Khalid Moore, an Elmont, NY native, said of the atmosphere inside Barclays Center. “For me growing up in this area, something like that is a dream come true. You know, something that you you live for when you look up to college basketball. That’s the kind of crowd that you want to play in front of. It was definitely a dream come true.”
Darius Quisenberry added: “The whole community and obviously, our students did a tremendous job just bringing energy the whole game, and we fed off of that.”
The Rams will play Dayton on Saturday in the A-10 tournament semifinals as they continue their NCAA Tournament dreams which are now one game closer to reality. Fordham hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 1992 when they were still in the Patriot League
It was Moore’s 20-point effort on Thursday that helped lead the Rams to a win and their first conference semifinals appearance since 2017. It was Moore three off a turnover with 15:36 left in the game that gave Fordham a five-point lead and stopped a 9-2 La Salle run to open the second half.
The Rams had entered the quarterfinals matchup with La Salle with an 8-21 record in the A-10 tournament, but that didn’t mean much to this iteration of the Fordham basketball team. In a win in line with the makeup of the team this year, Fordham held true to its gritty identity.
The Rams hustled for rebounds, dove for loose balls and moved the ball quickly in transition. Fordham finished the night with the edge along the glass and had 16 points off the turnover.
And in crunch time, Fordham did what they’ve always done and came up with the big play. Moore and Quisenberry combined for six points after Moore’s crucial second-half three to give Fordham an 11-point cushion.
Jhamir Brickus cut the lead down to six with a three with 9:19 left, but the Rams pushed it back to double digits on their next two possessions. Fordham did it again with 7:20 left in the game and Moore knocked down a turnaround shot in the paint and then the Rams forced a turnover that allowed Moore to complete the driving layup.
Fordham went tit-for-tat with La salle through the final stretch of the game as they traded baskets, but the Explorers never managed to get over the hump. Quisenberry came up with a huge three with 45.8 seconds left in the game to give Fordham some more space.
“Those kids never stopped and we knew they wouldn’t stop,” Fordham head coach Keith Urgo said. “They’re gonna play 40 minutes. It’s a credit to (La Salle coach Fran Dunphy) and his staff and those kids because they fight.
Moore shot 6-of-14 from the field and finished with a double-double after grabbing his 10th board of the game late in the game. Quisenberry had a game-high 22 points, along with six assists and three rebounds and Will Richardson had 10 points and a pair of steals.
Kyle Rose shot 3-of-6 from the field off the bench for the Rams.
The Explorers had jumped to a quick 5-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game before the Rams answered back to tie the game. It was a three by Rose that evened the score at five just over two and a half minutes into the game and Abdou Tsimbila gave Fordham the lead with a fastbreak slam dunk with 15:50 left in the half.
Rose gave the Rames the lead again 37 seconds later with a driving layup. Rostyslav Novitskyi put Fordham up by six with a second-chance dunk and moments later Richardson had them up by six again with a turnaround jumper.
The Rams cut the lead down to two when Jhamir Brickus scored off a driving layup with 10:40 left in the first half. The Explorers made it a two-point game again when Daeshon Shepherd dunked to cut it to a 15-13 Rams lead.
A 10-3 run over the next 3:25 opened up a 27-18 lead for Fordham that was highlighted by four points from Richardson and a pair of baskets by Darius Quisenberry.
The Rams went into the half with a 34-23 lead punctuated by a buzzer-beating dunk by Moore.