Crusaders Travel To Lafayette For Patriot League Opener

Jan. 4, 2007

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The Teams: Holy Cross (9-6, 0-0 PL) vs. Lafayette (6-9, 0-0 PL)
Date: January 6, 2007
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Place: Allan P. Kirby Sports Center (3,500), Easton, Pa.
Television: College Sports Television; Lafayette Sports Network; Gary Laubach, play-by-play; John Leone, color
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester;, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
Lafayette Radio: WEST 1400 AM, Easton, Pa.; Dick Hammer, play-by-play; Carl Schumacher, color
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 24-13
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 77, Lafayette 61 (February 4, 2006; Easton, Pa.)

Pos.  No.  Name                Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      10  Keith Simmons       6-5   205   Sr.
F      21  Alex Vander Baan    6-8   205   So.
C      00  Tim Clifford       6-10   270   Jr.
G       1  Torey Thomas       5-11   185   Sr.
G       2  Kyle Cruze          6-2   175   Jr.

THE SERIES WITH LAFAYETTE: This will be the 38th meeting between the Crusaders and the Leopards on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 24-13. The Crusaders have won the last four meetings between the schools, but in 2003-2004 Lafayette swept the season series. Prior to that, Holy Cross had won three straight and four out of five meetings. For games played in Easton, the Crusaders hold a slim 9-8 lead, having won three of their last four visits to the Kirby Sports Center. The schools first met on Feb. 4, 1947, with Holy Cross posting a 50-40 victory at the Boston Garden.

Overall: Holy Cross leads, 24-13
In Easton: Holy Cross leads, 9-8
At the Kirby Sports Center: Holy Cross leads, 9-8
Ralph Willard vs. Lafayette: 9-6
Fran O'Hanlon vs. Holy Cross: 12-11
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, four games
In Overtime: Tied, 1-1

HOLY CROSS TO WRAP UP LONG ROAD TRIP: When Holy Cross faces Lafayette on Jan. 6, it will end a stretch of 11 games over six weeks away from the Hart Center. The Crusaders stand 4-6 so far on the road trip, with a 3-4 record in away contests and a 1-2 mark on neutral courts. Holy Cross has defeated Yale (63-58), La Salle (68-48), Delaware (49-47) and Boston University (73-70 in overtime), while falling to Syracuse (72-64), Dayton (69-53), Duke (57-45), Providence (77-68), George Mason (58-46) and Niagara (67-61). The Crusaders finally return to the Hart Center for their next game, on Jan. 9 against Army.

CRUSADERS IN PATRIOT LEAGUE OPENERS: Holy Cross is beginning its 17th season of play in the Patriot League with the contest against Lafayette. During their first 16 years in the conference, the Crusaders have posted an 11-5 record in their first Patriot League game of the season. Holy Cross has come out victorious in six of its last seven league openers, including two victories over both Colgate (68-51 in 1999-2000; 68-55 in 2000-2001) and Army (61-45 in 2002-2003; 60-32 in 2003-2004), and one win over both Lafayette (86-57 in 2005-2006) and Navy (70-57 in 2001-2002). The lone loss during that time came at Bucknell in 2004-2005 (59-43). The Crusaders also stand 10-6 all-time in their first Patriot League road game of the season, with a 5-2 mark under Ralph Willard.

SIMMONS ENJOYING OUTSTANDING SENIOR YEAR: Senior guard Keith Simmons (Kingston, N.Y.) has been Holy Cross' top player this season, averaging 17.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 15 games played this year. During Wednesday's victory at Boston University, Simmons posted his third career double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. In the previous game against Delaware, he led the team with 17 points, two rebounds and two assists. Simmons also had a big night against Niagara, scoring a team-high 23 points and pulling down three rebounds. Some of Simmons' other top performances this season have come against Syracuse (game-high 22 points), Harvard (20 points, six rebounds), Providence (20 points, four rebounds, three steals), Hampton (19 points, six rebounds, two assists), Siena (18 points, 11 rebounds), Fairfield (18 points, five steals), William & Mary (16 points, eight rebounds, school single-game record-tying seven steals), Dayton (15 points, seven rebounds) and La Salle (14 points, six rebounds, three steals). Prior to the start of the year, Simmons was selected as a 2006-2007 preseason mid-major All-American by (one of just 25 players from across the nation to be chosen to the squad). He was also named preseason All-Patriot League, after earning first team all-conference honors in both his sophomore and junior years. In 32 games played last season, Simmons averaged 14.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, while shooting 52.5 percent (158 of 301) from the field and 47.6 percent (60 of 126) from three-point range. Entering the Lafayette game, Simmons has scored 1,337 career points as a Crusader, while making 49.6 percent of his field goal attempts (461 of 930) and 43.4 percent from three-point range (169 of 389). Simmons is currently the all-time Patriot League leader in career three-point field goal percentage, and while ranking second all-time at Holy Cross in three-point field goals made and 16th in points scored.

STEALING THE SHOW: Through the first 15 games of the 2006-2007 season, Holy Cross has averaged 9.1 steals per game, including a high of 16 steals against Fairfield. Senior guard Keith Simmons has recorded 35 steals so far this season, while tying the school single-game record with seven steals in the victory over William & Mary. Senior guard Torey Thomas has also posted 35 steals on the year, and junior guard Kyle Cruze (Knoxville, Tenn.) has chipped in with 15 steals. In 32 games played last season, the Crusaders totaled 290 steals, for a Patriot League-best average of 9.1 steals per game. Holy Cross reached double figures in steals 11 times last year, with highs of 16 against Harvard and 15 against Lafayette. Kevin Hamilton led the team with 102 steals last year, while Thomas added 77 steals last season. With his 102 total steals, Hamilton set new Holy Cross and Patriot League single season records. Hamilton's average of 3.3 steals per game last year also set a new Patriot League single season record.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2006-2007. Through the first 15 games of the year, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 61.2 points per game, 42.7 percent shooting from the floor, and 37.2 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross has also averaged 9.1 steals and 3.8 blocks per contest, while forcing the opposition to commit 16.9 turnovers per game and outrebounding its opponents by 1.0 boards per contest. In addition, the Crusaders have held nine of their first 15 opponents to under 60 points during regulation. Last season, Holy Cross allowed just 60.5 points per game, while holding its opponents to 40.2 percent shooting from the floor and 30.3 percent shooting from three-point range. The Crusaders also forced their opponents to commit 16.0 turnovers per game, while averaging 9.1 steals and 3.5 blocks per contest, and outrebounding the opposition by 3.9 boards per game. Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Holy Cross has held the opposition to only 59.0 points per contest. In addition, the Crusaders ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense in four of the last five seasons (sixth in 2001-2002 at 59.6; third in 2002-2003 at 58.7; seventh in 2003-2004 at 58.6; and fifth in 2004-2005 at 56.8).

BOSTON UNIVERSITY RECAP: Keith Simmons posted a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds, to lead Holy Cross to a 73-70 overtime victory over Boston University at Case Gymnasium on Jan. 3, 2007. Simmons added three assists and three steals, while hitting three of four free throw attempts in the final minute of overtime to secure the win. The Crusaders jumped out to an early 23-12 lead with 11:14 remaining in the first half, but the Terriers responded with an 8-0 run of their own and eventually tied the score at 32-32 heading into the locker room. Holy Cross was able to build its lead back up to seven points on two occasions in the second half, before Boston University tied it up at 57-57 with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Colin Cunningham then hit a three-point field goal with just 1.1 seconds remaining, to put the Crusaders up by three. But the Terriers' Tyler Morris made a desperation three-pointer as time expired to force overtime. In overtime, Boston University built an early three-point lead before Tim Clifford drained a three-pointer to tie up the score. The Terriers were able to go back in front by two, but Alex Vander Baan made a three-pointer of his own to put Holy Cross back in front 68-67 with 1:47 left to play. The Crusaders were clinging to a two-point lead (71-69) with 15.6 seconds left, when Boston University's Corey Lowe was able to hit just one of two free throw attempts. Greg McCarthy was fouled grabbing the rebound after the miss, and hit both free throws to conclude the scoring. Torey Thomas finished the night with 16 points and three assists, while Clifford added 16 points, three assists and three blocks. The Terriers were led by Lowe with 24 points, while Morris added 23 points and four rebounds.

THOMAS SHINES IN SENIOR SEASON: Senior point guard Torey Thomas (White Plains, N.Y.) is once again among the top players in the Patriot League this season, averaging 12.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.3 steals per contest. In Wednesday's victory at Boston University, Thomas recorded 16 points and three assists, while hitting four of six shots from three-point range. He also had a strong all-around game against Niagara with 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Earlier this year, Thomas recorded 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals against Siena, while posting 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals against Fairfield, including a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining in overtime to win the game. Some of his other top performances this season have come against La Salle (14 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals), Providence (13 points, four rebounds, four steals), Dayton (13 points, four rebounds, four steals), Harvard (12 points, six assists), Hampton (10 points, five rebounds, five assists, four steals), George Mason (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals) and William & Mary (10 points, four rebounds, four assists). Thomas was named preseason All-Patriot League prior to the start of the year, after being named second team all-conference last season. A year ago he averaged 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals per game, while making 34 of 96 attempts (35.4 percent) from three-point range. Thomas finished the 2005-2006 season as the Patriot League's leader in assists, while ranking second in steals, fourth in rebounding and 14th in scoring. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Thomas has now totaled 918 points, 423 rebounds, 375 assists and 208 steals. He currently ranks third all-time at Holy Cross in career steals and eighth in career assists, while needing 82 points to become the 43rd 1,000-point scorer in school history.

HOLY CROSS SHARES LA SALLE INVITATIONAL TITLE: Last weekend, the Crusaders finished in a three-way tie for first place at the La Salle Invitational with a 2-1 record, to claim the 13th regular season tournament title in school history. At the La Salle Invitational, Holy Cross defeated La Salle (68-48) and Delaware (49-47), while falling to Niagara (67-61). This marked the second title for the Crusaders in their last three tournaments, including the 2005 William & Mary Tip-Off Classic where they defeated High Point (85-73) and William & Mary (67-55). Prior to that, Holy Cross had not won a regular season tournament since the 1982-1983 season, when it defeated Davidson (65-62) and Iona (66-65) to capture the crown of the Worcester County Classic, played at the Worcester Centrum.

THE LAST MEETING WITH LAFAYETTE: Kevin Hamilton totaled 22 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and three steals to lead Holy Cross to a 77-61 victory over Lafayette at the Kirby Sports Center on Feb. 4, 2006. Keith Simmons added 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists for Holy Cross, which had a 50-24 rebounding advantage in the game. The Crusaders scored the first five points of the day, and would increase their lead to nine points (21-12) with 12:38 left in the first half. But Lafayette then responded with a 13-0 run, to take a four-point lead. The score stayed close for the rest of the first half, before the Leopards took a 36-31 lead into the locker room. Lafayette was still up 38-33 with 18 minutes left in the game, when Holy Cross went on a 25-7 run to regain the lead for good. Hamilton scored nine of his points during that run, while Simmons added seven points in the spurt. The Leopards would get no closer than eight points the rest of the way, as the Crusaders made 12 of 15 free throws in the final 10 minutes. Holy Cross also held Lafayette to just five of 21 shooting (23.8 percent) in the second half. Torey Thomas recorded 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists for the Crusaders, while Tim Clifford had 10 points and four rebounds. Andrei Capusan led the Leopards with 22 points and seven rebounds.

WILLARD CONTINUES IMPRESSIVE RUN AT HOLY CROSS: Ralph Willard is now in his eighth season as the Crusaders' head coach, and currently owns a mark of 143-86 during his time in Worcester. He stands in third place on the all-time school list for career victories, behind only George Blaney (357-276 / 1972-1994) and Lester "Buster" Sheary (155-36 / 1948-1955). Willard has led the Crusaders to three Patriot League tournament titles and three trips to the NCAA Tournament, during the 2000-2001, 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 seasons. He has also guided Holy Cross to Patriot League regular season championships in 2000-2001, 2002-2003 and 2004-2005, with the 2002-2003 squad posting an overall record of 26-5 to come up just one win shy of the school single season record for victories. During the 2000-2001 and 2004-2005 seasons, Willard was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year, and in 2004-2005 he was also one of 10 finalists for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award. Prior to his time at Holy Cross, Willard spent five seasons as the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, and four years as head coach at Western Kentucky University. He led Western Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament during each of his final two seasons (advancing to the Sweet 16 in 1992-1993), and his overall career record stands at 287-210. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is presently ranked 97th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5440 through games of January 3. The Crusaders are currently the highest ranked team in the Patriot League, with the second-highest ranking belonging to Bucknell (134th, .5131). In addition, Holy Cross' non-conference schedule ranks as the 136th hardest in the country. The Crusaders concluded the 2005-2006 season ranked 111th in the country in the RPI with a rating of .5304. Holy Cross also ranked 49th in the nation in the RPI at the end of the 2004-2005 season with a mark of .5657, to place ahead of four at large selections to the NCAA tournament.

CLIFFORD PLAYS BIG IN THE POST: Junior center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) looks to be one of the top big men in the Patriot League this season. In Wednesday's victory at Boston University, he totaled 16 points, three blocked shots and three assists. Previously, Clifford totaled 12 points and four rebounds against George Mason, after leading the team with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots at Providence. Earlier in the year he scored a team-high 22 points on nine of 11 shooting from the field at Harvard, while totaling 13 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots against William & Mary. Through the first 15 games of the year, he is averaging 10.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest. Overall last year, Clifford averaged 7.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots per game, while making 96 of 194 (49.5 percent) field goal attempts. He was even more impressive against Patriot League opponents, averaging 9.7 points per contest and hitting 54.2 percent (52 of 96) of his shots from the floor. Clifford's top games of 2005-2006 came against American (27 points, four rebounds and four blocks, while hitting nine of 15 shots from the floor and eight of nine attempts from the foul line) and Brown (21 points, seven rebounds and four blocks). Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Clifford has now totaled 478 points, 258 rebounds and 108 blocked shots. He currently ranks fourth all-time at Holy Cross in career blocks.

VANDER BAAN LOOKS TO BUILD ON ALL-ROOKIE SEASON: Sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) is once again a key member of the Holy Cross lineup this season, after being selected to the 2005-2006 Patriot League All-Rookie Team. In the victory at Yale, Vander Baan totaled 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. In the previous contest at Syracuse, he grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds to go along with eight points and four assists. Vander Baan also posted his first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds against Siena, while recording nine points and six rebounds against Hampton. In 15 games played so far this season, Vander Baan is averaging 6.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest, while making 44.4 percent of his field goal attempts (32 of 72). In 32 games played last year, Vander Baan averaged 6.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest, to rank ninth in the conference in rebounding. He also led all Patriot League freshmen by earning league Rookie of the Week honors four times last season (Nov. 21, Dec. 27, Feb. 6, Feb. 20). Vander Baan's top week of the 2005-2006 campaign came at the San Juan Shootout, where he averaged 15.7 points and 7.0 rebounds over three games, while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor.

HOLY CROSS HAVING GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders have averaged 31.6 rebounds through the first 15 games of the 2006-2007 season, and are currently outrebounding their opponents by an average of 1.0 boards per game. Holy Cross' top rebounding game so far this year came against Siena, when it held a 43-21 advantage on the glass. The rebounding load has been well balanced, with five different players currently averaging at least 3.2 boards per contest. Sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game, while senior guard Keith Simmons has averaged 5.7 boards per contest. Senior guard Torey Thomas (4.7 rebounds per game) and junior center Tim Clifford (4.0 rebounds per game) are also enjoying fine seasons on the glass, while freshman forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) is chipping in with 3.2 boards per game.

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross stands 4-0 at the Hart Center so far this season, and now owns an all-time record of 280-105 in the building. The Crusaders currently have an eight-game home winning streak, after going 11-2 at the Hart Center last season with an 8-1 mark against Patriot League opponents. Holy Cross also stands 36-5 in Patriot League regular season home games over the last six seasons. In 2004-2005, Holy Cross posted an overall record of 12-3 at home, including a 10-game winning streak. Since the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, the Crusaders now have an overall mark of 68-12 at the Hart Center. The building opened on Dec. 1, 1975, and since that time Holy Cross has posted a winning record at home in 27 out of 31 seasons, while posting double-figure home victories 14 times.

CRUSADERS PICKED SECOND IN PRESEASON POLL: In the 2006-2007 Patriot League preseason poll, Holy Cross was picked to finish in second place in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. The Crusaders received 86 total points in the poll, to trail only first-place Bucknell (96 points). Holy Cross received three first-place votes in the poll, with the Bison earning 12 first-place votes and American one. Following the Crusaders in the poll were American (third, 70 points), Lehigh (fourth, 64 points), Colgate (fifth, 48 points), Lafayette (sixth, 35 points), Navy (seventh, 31 points) and Army (eighth, 18 points).

SIMMONS AND THOMAS NAMED PRESEASON ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE: Senior guard Keith Simmons and senior guard Torey Thomas were both named preseason All-Patriot League, in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. Holy Cross was the only team in the league to place more than one player on the preseason all-conference team. Along with Simmons and Thomas, other selections to the squad were Bucknell senior center Chris McNaughton, American senior guard Andre Ingram and Lehigh senior guard Jose Olivero. All five players on the preseason All-Patriot League squad were named either first or second team all-conference at the conclusion of the 2005-2006 season.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 88th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1233-795 (.608), while making 23 postseason tournament appearances -- 11 trips to the NCAA Tournament and 12 to the National Invitation Tournament. In the history of collegiate basketball, Holy Cross is one of only 16 schools to have won the NCAA Tournament (1946-1947) as well as the National Invitational Tournament (1953-1954). Throughout its history, Holy Cross has had six first team All-America selections, sent 10 players to the National Basketball Association, had four players inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, had 23 players drafted by professional teams, had three players go to coach professionally, and had 15 players who have coached in college, including current Crusader coach Ralph Willard.

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders are currently ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in two categories, through games of Jan. 1. Senior guard Keith Simmons and senior guard Torey Thomas are also ranked among the national leaders in steals. The rankings:

Category        Rank  Player / Team   Avg.
Steals            31  Holy Cross       9.3
                  35  Torey Thomas     2.4
                  43  Keith Simmons    2.3
Scoring Defense   42  Holy Cross      60.6

SIMMONS AND THOMAS NAMED CAPTAINS: Senior guard Keith Simmons and senior guard Torey Thomas have been selected as the Crusaders' captains for the 2006-2007 season. Both players are three-year letterwinners for the Crusaders, and will take over the leadership role from Kevin Hamilton and Kevin Hyland, who served as the Crusaders' captains as seniors during the 2005-2006 season.

SCOUTING THE LEOPARDS: Lafayette enters the game with an overall record of 6-9 on the year. The Leopards have lost two straight and three of their last five, with their last victory coming on Dec. 22 against Mount St. Mary's (58-56). Junior forward Matt Betley currently leads the team in scoring with an average of 11.0 points per game, in addition to pulling down a team-best 4.2 rebounds per contest. Junior guard Bilal Abdullah is averaging 9.5 points per contest, while sophomore guard Andrew Brown is chipping in with 8.4 points and 3.7 assists per game. As a team, the Leopards have hit 37.2 percent from three-point range, while taking nearly half their shots from behind the arc. Lafayette is led by head coach Fran O'Hanlon, who owns an overall record of 168-161 in 13 seasons with the Leopards.

HOLY CROSS ON THE RADIO: Once again this season, the majority of the Crusaders' basketball contests will be carried by WTAG 580 AM in Worcester. For the 18th straight season, Bob Fouracre will call the play-by-play for most of the games. In addition, Jeremy Lechan and Dick Lutsk are in their third year on the Holy Cross broadcast crew, and will handle either play-by-play or color commentary for selected games. WTAG is currently scheduled to air 22 of the Crusaders' 30 regular season games. In addition, WCUW 91.3 FM in Worcester will air seven Holy Cross contests which are not included as part of the WTAG package. All 30 regular season games will also be carried live over the internet at "". In addition, the Holy Cross student station, WCHC 88.1 FM, is scheduled carry a number of games this year.

CRUSADERS ON TELEVISION: Holy Cross is currently scheduled to have 10 games shown on live television during the 2006-2007 season, with other television appearances still to be announced. During each of the last two years, the Crusaders had 10 television appearances, including four games on ESPN2. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule for the 2006-2007 campaign:

Date     Opponent            Television Outlet
Nov. 27  Syracuse            ESPNU
Dec. 6   Duke                ESPN2
Jan. 3   Boston University   CN8
Jan. 6   Lafayette           CSTV / Lafayette Sports Network
Jan. 9   Army                WCTR-TV3
Jan. 12  Bucknell            ESPNU
Jan. 26  Lehigh              ESPNU
Jan. 31  American            WCTR-TV3
Feb. 9   Bucknell            ESPNU
Feb. 25  Lehigh              Service Electric

DRIBBLES: The Crusaders were a perfect 13 of 13 at the free throw line against Niagara on Dec. 29, marking the first time in school history Holy Cross has made all of its free throw attempts ... The crowd of 19,235 at the Holy Cross-Syracuse game on Nov. 27 was the largest to ever witness a Crusader game during the regular season (attendance records are not available prior to the 1982-1983 season). It is also the third largest overall crowd to ever see Holy Cross play, behind the Kansas game in the 2002 NCAA Tournament (26,612) and the Marquette game in the 2003 NCAA Tournament (20,960) ... Sophomore forward Colin Cunningham (Memphis, Tenn.) had eight points and two assists in Wednesday's overtime victory at Boston University, including a pair of key three-pointers late in regulation. Earlier in the year, he scored a season-high 11 points at Syracuse ... Junior guard Kyle Cruze scored a career-high 15 points in the victory at La Salle, then had career-highs of six assists and six rebounds against Niagara ... Sophomore center Greg McCarthy (Mansfield, Mass.) has totaled 28 points and 14 rebounds, while playing 119 minutes in 14 games this season. Last year, he totaled four points and one rebound in 15 minutes of action all season ... Freshman forward Eric Meister has started his collegiate career strong, averaging 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest. He pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds at Harvard, and had nine rebounds at Boston University.