Men’s Basketball Falls to Flyers in Dayton

A+strong+half+and+defensive+effort+were+not+enough+for+Fordham+to+overcome+one+of+the+nation%E2%80%99s+best.+%28Courtesy+of+Fordham+Athletics%29

A strong half and defensive effort were not enough for Fordham to overcome one of the nation’s best. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Andrew Posadas, Managing Editor

Fordham Men’s Basketball had its toughest road test of the season, traveling to Ohio over the weekend for a match-up with the Atlantic 10 Conference’s first place team in Dayton University. Although the Rams were able to outscore the Flyers 39-34 in the second half, it was not enough, as the seventh ranked team in the nation beat Fordham convincingly 70-56.

After what head coach Jeff Neubauer called his team’s “best defensive effort and best overall performance of the year” against St. Bonaventure University last Wednesday, albeit in a losing effort that went into overtime, the Rams needed to shift their focus toward Saturday’s game against Dayton.\

The Flyers came in with the third best scoring offense in the country, averaging over 83 points a game this season and shooting the ball as a team at an absurdly efficient 53%. Leading the charge for the conference’s best team is the conference’s best player: forward Obi Toppin, who finds himself on four national player of the year watch-lists and is projected to be a top 10 pick in this year’s NBA draft.

Early in the first half, Toppin made his presence known by scoring five quick points. Dayton opened the game by going on a 7-2 run, ultimately taking a 13-4 lead after back-to-back three-point baskets. Slow first half starts have plagued Fordham all season, and they reared their ugly head again at the UD Arena. The Rams were held to just 31% shooting in the first 20 minutes of regulation, scoring only four points in a 10-minute span.

It would take nearly 12 minutes before the Rams broke the double-digit mark, as a staunch Dayton defense was able to use its superior size and length to continually make offensive possessions difficult. What further complicated matters was the absence of sophomore center Onyi Eyisi, who did not play after suffering an injury in the loss to St. Bonaventure. The Rams had only one player taller than 6’4” appear in Saturday’s game, and Dayton took full advantage of the size discrepancy on the court.

The Flyers took a 36-17 lead at the half, and it seemed abundantly clear that Fordham was no match for Toppin and Dayton’s prolific attack. However, as has been the case this season, the Rams offense was finally able to wake up in the second half behind the efforts of sophomore guard and leading scorer, Jalen Cobb.

Cobb took it upon himself to jumpstart Fordham’s offense after foul trouble held him to four points in the first half. Cobb scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, with the Rams doing a majority of damage from beyond the arc. Fordham shot 9-of-14 from the three-point line in the second half, playing hard until the final buzzer.

Even though they were able to shoot 54% from the field during that stretch, Fordham was never able to cut the deficit back down to single digits. Dayton would ultimately win by 14 behind 18 points from both Toppin and guard Trey Landers, improving to 9-0 in conference and 20-2 overall. The loss drops the Rams to 1-8 in the A-10 and 7-14 on the season.

Cobb is now averaging 15 points in the last six games, quickly becoming coach Neubauer’s best scoring option. Senior guard Antwon Portley was the only other Ram to score in double-digits, adding 10 points and three rebounds.

Fordham Men’s Basketball is back in action this Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Rose Hill Gymnasium against the University of Richmond. The game can be heard on WFUV 90.7 FM and seen exclusively on ESPN+.