skip navigation
Screen shot 2015 04 03 at 2.35.51 pm

Fordham holds off La Salle in A-10 quarterfinals

03/10/2023, 12:15am EST
By Jared Leveson

Jared Leveson (@jared_leveson)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Nobody thought No.11 La Salle would play in its first Atlantic 10 quarterfinal since 2015. 

Khalil Brantley thought otherwise

“I feel like a lot of people, they didn’t expect us to be here,” the 6-foot-1 guard said. “I’d be on the phone with people, and I’m like, ‘I think we can win it all.’ They’d be like, ‘Ahhh I don’t know.’” 

“First game, second game. I felt like even though everybody felt like we shouldn’t be here I felt like we should have been here and if a couple of plays went our way, the whole game would have been different.”

The ball bounced the right way and shots fell for La Salle during their first and second round wins at the A-10 tournament, but all basketball seasons come to an end, some just earlier than others. 

La Salle sophomore Khalil Brantley had 18 points in Thursday's loss. (Photo: CoBL File)

No. 3 Fordham’s defensive approach, strong shooting night, and friendly crowd put a stop to La Salle’s A-10 tournament run. Head coach Fran Dunphy’s Explorers fought till the very end, but fell short, 69-61 at the Barclays Center. 

“We had some tough times in different segments of the year, but we always found a way to fight back and I thought we tried that tonight,” Dunphy said. “We needed a play here, a player there, maybe a missed shot here or there from the Fordham guys.

I’m proud of every one of them and how hard they fought, the energy and enthusiasm they brought everyday.” 

Fordham just got by La Salle during their lone regular season meeting at Tom Gola Arena, winning 66-64 on a buzzer beater back in January. Although the Rams handled the Explorers this time and never let the lead drop to less than four points in the second half. 

Fordham led for 34:41, but La Salle had a response for each punch thrown by the Rams. 

Trailing by as many as 11 points mid-way through the second half, La Salle clawed its way back from a 34-23 halftime deficit. 

La Salle’s second-half surge came after it rediscovered their shooting confidence. 

“When we came back into the locker room, I looked at my guys and I was telling them, ‘We work at this everyday, so just shoot it with confidence,” Jhamir Brickus said.

“We were telling people don’t get down on yourself,” Brantley added. “If you got the open shot, take it cuz this is what we work on. This is what we do. It started on the defensive end. I thought that defensively we picked it up [in the second half.]

A steal by Fousseyni Drame turned into a Jhamir Brickus fast break lay-up with 1:10 remaining that cut La Salle’s deficit to 61-57.

Fordham’s all-conference second team guard Darius Quisenberry (22 points, six rebounds, and three assists) pulled up from the left-wing and netted a three ball with 46 seconds remaining that extended Fordham’s lead to 64-57. 

The Explorers still didn’t back down as Brantley cut their deficit to four points with twenty seconds left, but it just wasn’t La Salle’s night.  

“It’s basketball,” the 31-year head coach, Dunphy said. “You just keep fighting and keep plugging away. If you can get a stop on one end and get a score on the other and then you can set your defense. It’s frustrating, but it’s what we live [for]. It's the life that we live.”

Brickus (13 points)  and Brantley (18 points), who starred for La Salle during the A-10 tournament and scored a combined 45 points in their second round upset over Duquesne, had another strong night against Fordham. 

The duo were the only Explorers who finished in double digits and shot a combined 12-of-26 (46%). Fordham head coach Keith Urgo knew it’d be hard to stop La Salle’s “Killer B’s,” but succeeded in keeping the ball out of their hands. 

“What we wanted to do was pretty much have them see multiple looks,” the first-year head coach said. “We played multiple defenses to keep them off guard. We did everything we could to keep the ball out of their hands. We blitzed ball screens sometimes. So one-on-one you are going to have a very difficult time stopping them so we were trying to mix up looks, force tough contested two’s, which I think we did a really good job of.” 

With their shots limited and forced to move the ball because of double teams, part of the scoring weight was placed on La Salle’s supporting cast, who struggled in supporting Brickus and Brantley. The remaining Explorers shot 12-of-38 (31%). 

Fordham outpaced La Salle’s one-dimensional scoring threat and went 26-of-56 (46.4%) from the field and had three players in double-digits, senior Khalid Moore (20 points), freshman Will Richardson (10 points), and Quisenberry. 

“We did a good job of setting screens and going downhill,” Urgo said about Fordham’s offense. “I thought we did a really good job of finishing at the rim.” 

Fordham’s size and depth was too much for La Salle to bear, but Dunphy’s squad played hard until the final buzzer. 

Dunphy should return key pieces from this year’s team, starting with Brickus, Brantley, Anwar Gill, Daeshon Shepherd, Rocius Jocius, if those players choose to stay instead of exploring the transfer portal. Even their veterans, including A-10 sixth man of the year senior Josh Nickelbery and Fousseyni and Hassan Drame, could return, as they each have one year of eligibility remaining.

“Right now, we could have 12 scholarship guys come back,” Dunphy said. “College basketball has changed now. We’re in a whole different world. Could we have eight at one point? Could we have six at another point? Who knows.

"We’re going to sit down and interview everybody next week and take their temperature, see where everything is, but these kids have opportunities now and you have to deal with that and I’m hoping they all make great choices in whatever they’re doing. 

“I want them all to come back to La Salle and have a great year next year, but who knows where this is gonna go? We’ll see how it goes, but I’d be thrilled if all those guys came back and we could get after it.” 

The Explorers had an up-and-down, streaky season. They finished below .500 and went on a five-game win streak and experienced two separate five-game losing streaks, including one before the A-10 tournament.

They’ve held their head high through it all and continued doing the same after their quarterfinal loss and spoke optimistically of their season, despite missing out on postseason basketball outside of their conference tournament again.  

“We had a lot of new guys (and) a lot of new personalities on the team,” Brantley said. “Like I said before, nobody expected us to be here, so the resiliency for us to get through a lot of adversity, coming off a losing streak and to come to the tournament and make some noise. … We were the 11th seed playing the three seed in the quarterfinals. We haven’t been here since 2014. 

“I feel like this was a great experience and we would want to come back and actually make a longer run.”

D-I Coverage:

HS Coverage:

Small-College News:

Recruiting News:

Tag(s): Home  Contributors  College  Division I  La Salle  Jared Leveson