Crusaders To Face Lafayette In Patriot League Opener

Jan. 5, 2006

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (7-7, 0-0 PL) vs. Lafayette (6-6, 0-0 PL)
Date: January 7, 2006
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
Holy Cross Radio: Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; Jeremy Lechan, color; WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet
Holy Cross Student Radio: WCHC 88.1 FM, Worcester
Lafayette Radio: Dick Hammer, play-by-play; Phil LaBella, color; WEST 1400 AM, Easton
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 22-13
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 81, Lafayette 60 (February 11, 2005; Worcester, Mass.)

PROBABLE HOLY CROSS STARTERS:
Pos.  No.  Name               Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      10  Keith Simmons      6-4   210   Jr.
F      21  Alex Vander Baan   6-8   195   Fr.
C      41  Kevin Hyland       6-8   245   Sr.
G       1  Torey Thomas      5-11   170   Jr.
G      14  Kevin Hamilton     6-4   190   Sr.

THE SERIES WITH LAFAYETTE: This will be the 36th meeting between the Crusaders and the Leopards on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 22-13. The Crusaders won both meetings between the schools last year, 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 Worcester, the Crusaders hold a 12-4 advantage, including wins in four of the last five games. The schools first met on Feb. 4, 1947, with Holy Cross posting a 50-40 victory at the Boston Garden.

SERIES QUICK FACTS
Overall: Holy Cross, 22-13
In Worcester: Holy Cross, 12-4
At the Hart Center: Holy Cross, 12-4
Ralph Willard vs. Lafayette: 7-6
Fran O'Hanlon vs. Holy Cross: 12-9
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, two games

CRUSADERS IN PATRIOT LEAGUE OPENERS: Holy Cross is beginning its 16th season of play in the Patriot League with the contest against Lafayette. During their first 15 years in the conference, the Crusaders have posted a 10-5 record in their first Patriot League game of the season. Prior to last year's loss at Bucknell (59-43), Holy Cross had won five straight 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 Navy (70-57 in 2001-2002). The Crusaders also stand 10-5 all-time in their first Patriot League home game of the season, with wins in four out of the past five years. The last time Holy Cross lost its conference home opener came in 2003-2004 (60-58 to Lafayette in overtime).

THOMAS CONTINUES TO HAVE STRONG SEASON: Junior point guard Torey Thomas (White Plains, N.Y.) is once again one of the Crusaders' top players this season. He has averaged 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.1 steals per game through the first 14 games of the year. Thomas has also been shooting well as of late, making nine of 18 attempts (50.0 percent) from three-point range over the Crusaders' last six contests. In Monday's victory over Boston University, he totaled 14 points, six rebounds and five steals, while in the game at George Mason, he totaled 16 points and six rebounds. Thomas was previously named to the All-Tournament team at the San Juan Shootout, after averaging 10.3 points, 4.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds over three games, and hitting four of seven (57.1 percent) three-point attempts. He had 11 points, six assists and five rebounds against Tennessee-Chattanooga, and added 13 points, four rebounds and three assists against Mississippi State. Earlier in the season, Thomas recorded a career-high 23 points, five assists, five steals and four rebounds against Fordham. He also played well at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic, in a pair of games against High Point (20 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals) and William & Mary (15 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and four steals). Last year, Thomas played in 31 games with 22 starts, averaging 7.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.8 steals per contest. Entering the Lafayette game, he has career totals of 537 points, 259 rebounds, 219 assists and 140 steals.

SIMMONS SHINES AS A STARTER: Sophomore guard Keith Simmons (Kingston, N.Y.) has moved into the starting lineup for the Crusaders this season, after serving as Holy Cross' sixth man in 2004-2005. Simmons had 15 points and five rebounds in the victory at Northeastern, while totaling 14 points and a career-high five assists against Brown. He previously recorded a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds at Siena (hitting seven of 11 field goal attempts and three of four shots from three-point range), and while posting 18 points and five rebounds at Vermont. To open the year, Simmons was named to the All-Tournament Team at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic, after averaging 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in the two games. Simmons posted his second career double-double against High Point with 21 points and 10 rebounds, then added 16 points against William & Mary. On the season, he is averaging 12.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 42.9 percent (24 of 56) from three-point range. A year ago, Simmons earned first team All-Patriot League honors, after averaging 12.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest. He enters the Lafayette game with a career field goal percentage of 47.4 (274 of 578), while hitting 43.3 percent (107 of 247) of his three-point attempts.

HAMILTON ENJOYING ANOTHER OUTSTANDING SEASON: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton (Queens Village, N.Y.) is once again one of the top players in the Patriot League this year. He recorded 12 points, six rebounds, five steals and four assists in the win over Boston University, while totaling 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists at Northeastern. Hamilton was previously named Patriot League Player of the Week and to the All-Tournament team following the San Juan Shootout, after averaging 26.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in three games, while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor and 57.1 percent from three-point range. He began the tournament by scoring a career-high 38 points against Tennessee-Chattanooga, while making 13 of 20 shots from the floor and seven of 10 three-pointers. Hamilton then added 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals against Clemson, before totaling 27 points, six assists and three steals against Mississippi State. Earlier this season, Hamilton was named Patriot League Player of the Week and Most Valuable Player at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic. He scored 22 points on eight of 11 shooting in the victory over High Point, then had 18 points and nine rebounds in the win over William & Mary. Hamilton has now scored in double figures in 12 of the 13 games he has played this season. On the year, he is averaging 16.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals per contest. Last season, Hamilton was named Patriot League Player of the Year, first team All-Patriot League, All-Patriot League Tournament and an honorable mention All-American. In 32 games played last year, Hamilton averaged 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.8 assists. He has now scored in double figures 65 times during his Holy Cross career, including 55 times in his last 61 games.

HAMILTON IN THE RECORD BOOKS: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton has put his name among the all-time leaders at Holy Cross in a number of statistical categories. Against Cincinnati, Hamilton hit a free throw at the 4:34 mark of the first half to become the 41st player in school history to score 1,000 career points. He now has 1,157 points during his four-year career as a Crusader, to stand in 25th-place on the school's all-time scoring list. In addition, Hamilton is already the Crusaders' all-time leader in career three-point field goals made (182) and attempted (524). He also has a good chance to become Holy Cross' all-time leader in steals, as he currently has 221, standing just 25 behind current record-holder Jave Meade (246 steals, 2000-2004). In addition, Hamilton has tied the school single game records for steals (seven against Harvard) and three-point field goals (seven against Tennessee-Chattanooga) this season.

BOSTON UNIVERSITY RECAP: Torey Thomas totaled 14 points, six rebounds and five steals to lead Holy Cross to a 57-55 victory over Boston University at the Hart Center on Jan. 2, 2006. The Crusaders turned in another outstanding defensive effort, limiting the Terriers to just 55 points and two of 13 shooting from three-point range, in addition to recording 12 steals and five blocked shots. The Crusaders held a 27-22 halftime lead, and seemed to be in control of the game early in the second half, expanding their lead to eight points (38-30) with 14:34 left to play on a three-pointer by Thomas. But the Terriers responded with a 10-2 run of their own to tie the score at 40-40 with 10 minutes remaining in the game. The score was tied once again at 44-44, when Omari Peterkin hit a jumper to give Boston University its first lead of the second half. The Terriers expanded their lead to four points (51-47) with four minutes left to play, before the Crusaders scored five straight points to go back in front. Kevin Hamilton made a pair of free throws, followed by a Thomas three-pointer to make the score 52-51. After a layup by Peterkin, Tim Clifford hit a layup at the 1:22-mark to give Holy Cross the lead for good, 54-53. The Crusaders hit only three of six free throw attempts in the final minute of play to keep Boston University in the game, but Tony Gaffney's desperation jumper at the final buzzer was no good, as Holy Cross held on for the victory.

HOLY CROSS LOOKS TO KEEP LEAGUE WINNING STREAK ALIVE: The Crusaders enter the Lafayette game having won their last 13 Patriot League regular season contests, a mark which ranks as the second-longest conference winning streak in league history. Holy Cross has not lost a regular season Patriot League game since Jan. 8, 2005, when it fell at Bucknell (59-43). Since that game, the Crusaders have won their last 13 contests against conference foes in the regular season. The only longer winning streak is league history is 16 games by Navy, from Jan. 29, 1997 to Feb. 8, 1998. Here is a look at the longest regular season conference winning streaks in Patriot League history:

Rank  Games  School      Dates
  1.     16  Navy        Jan. 29, 1997-Feb. 8, 1998
  2.     13  Holy Cross  Jan. 12, 2005-present
         13  Lafayette   Jan. 20, 1998-Jan. 20, 1999
  4.     12  Navy        Jan. 23, 2000-Jan. 17, 2001
  5.     11  Fordham     Jan. 8, 1991-Feb. 16, 1991
  6.     10  Holy Cross  Jan. 31, 2003-Jan. 10, 2004
         10  Navy        Feb. 1, 1995-Jan. 17, 1996

WILLARD CONTINUES IMPRESSIVE RUN AT HOLY CROSS: Ralph Willard is now in his seventh season as the Crusaders' head coach, and currently owns a mark of 121-75 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 265-199. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH LAFAYETTE: Keith Simmons totaled 16 points and 10 rebounds, to lead Holy Cross to an 81-60 victory over Lafayette at the Hart Center on Feb. 11, 2005. The Crusaders jumped out to a 13-3 lead after only five minutes of play, and led by as many as 14 points in the opening half. Holy Cross was up by 12 points at the break (38-26), before the Leopards opened the second half on a 14-6 run, cutting the Crusader advantage to just four points (44-40) with 14:55 remaining in regulation. Holy Cross was up by only five with 11 minutes left in the contest, when it went on a 15-2 run to put the game away. Tim Clifford scored the first four points of that run, then Simmons followed with three consecutive three-point field goals. The Crusaders led by as many as 22 points late in the game, before eventually winning by 21. John Hurley had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Holy Cross, while Kevin Hamilton added 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals. Kevin Hyland (15 points) and Greg Kinsey (13 points) also scored in double figures for the Crusaders, who shot 51.8 percent from the floor (29 of 56), 46.7 percent from three-point range (seven of 15) and 88.9 percent at the free throw line (16 of 18). Lafayette was led by Sean Knitter with 13 points and four rebounds, while Jamaal Hilliard added 12 points.

VANDER BAAN ENJOYING STRONG FRESHMAN YEAR: Freshman forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) had three outstanding games for the Crusaders at the San Juan Shootout, and was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week on Dec. 27. He began the tournament by tying his career high with 11 points against Tennessee-Chattanooga, in addition to pulling down five rebounds. Against Clemson in the semifinals, Vander Baan set a new career-high in scoring, as he led the team with 15 points and seven rebounds. He then improved on his career-high once again against Mississippi State in the third place game, totaling 21 points and nine rebounds. Over the three games at the San Juan Shootout, Vander Baan averaged 15.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest, while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor. Earlier in the season, he was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week (Nov. 21), following his performance at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic. Vander Baan averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in the two games, while shooting 60.0 percent from the field. His top game came against High Point in the first contest of his collegiate career, when he totaled 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Through 14 games played this season, Vander Baan has averaged 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest, while hitting 41.8 percent (33 of 79) of his field goal attempts. Vander Baan came to Holy Cross from Whitinsville Christian School, where he averaged 16.1 points and 15.6 rebounds as a senior.

STEALING THE SHOW: In the first 14 games of the 2005-2006 season, the Crusaders have totaled 128 steals, for a Patriot League-best average of 9.1 steals per game. Holy Cross has reached double figures in steals five times this year, with a high of 16 against Harvard. Junior guard Torey Thomas has led the team in steals so far this season, totaling 44 for an average of 3.1 steals per game. Last year, the Crusaders recorded 329 steals in 32 games, good for an average of 10.3 steals per contest. The Crusaders reached double figures in steals for a game 15 times last season, with highs of 20 at Harvard, 18 against Iona and 16 at Fordham. Leading the way was guard Kevin Hamilton, who totaled 92 steals last year. Hamilton set a new Holy Cross single season record for steals (breaking the mark of 78 by Gordon Hamilton in 1993-1994). As a team, the Crusaders also broke the school single season record for steals.

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross stands 3-1 at the Hart Center so far this season, and now owns an all-time record of 268-104 in the building. The Crusaders posted a 12-3 mark at home last year, including a 10-game winning streak and nine straight victories against Patriot League foes. During those games against conference opponents, Holy Cross won by an average of 18.7 points per contest, with all but one game being decided by at least 10 points. Since the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, the Crusaders now have an overall mark of 56-11 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 26 out of 30 seasons, while posting double-figure home victories 13 times.

HOLY CROSS HAS FIVE DIFFERENT 20-POINT SCORERS: In only 14 games played so far this season, Holy Cross has had five different players score 20 or more points in a single contest. Senior guard Kevin Hamilton has led the way with three 20-point games this season, against Tennessee-Chattanooga (38 points), Mississippi State (27 points) and High Point (22 points). Junior guard Keith Simmons and junior guard Torey Thomas each have a pair of 20-point games this year, as Simmons had 21 points against High Point and 20 points at Siena, while Thomas totaled 23 points against Fordham and 20 points against High Point. In addition, sophomore center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) had 21 points against Brown, and freshman forward Alex Vander Baan recorded 21 points against Mississippi State. Against High Point, the Crusaders had three 20-point scorers in a single game for the first time since Feb. 9, 1994 (against Lehigh). In addition, Holy Cross' five different 20-point scorers this year are its most since five players had 20-point games during the 1996-1997 season (Chris Rojik four times, Damion Ezell three times, John Hightower twice, Jon Kerr twice and Carlos Clark once).

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation this year. Through 14 games, the Crusaders have allowed 64.1 points per game, while holding the opposition to 43.3 percent shooting from the floor and 31.4 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross has also forced its opponents to commit an average of 16.8 turnovers per game, including 25 by Fordham and 22 by Harvard. In addition, the Crusaders are averaging 9.1 steals and 3.0 blocks per contest, while outrebounding the opposition by 2.6 boards per game. Last year, the Crusaders allowed their opponents to average just 56.8 points per game, while holding 22 of their 32 foes to under 60 points in regulation. Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Holy Cross has never allowed its opponents to average over 60 points per game for a season, while holding the opposition to only 59.0 points per contest during that span. In addition, the Crusaders have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense during each of the last four 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).

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: Two Crusaders are currently ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in steals, through games of Jan. 2. Junior guard Torey Thomas and senior guard Kevin Hamilton are both ranked among the national leaders. The rankings:

Category    Rank  Player          Avg.
Steals        10  Torey Thomas     3.1
              50  Kevin Hamilton   2.4

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is currently ranked 119th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5248 through games of Jan. 3. The Crusaders are currently the second-highest rated team in the Patriot League, behind only Bucknell (seventh, .6430). In addition, Holy Cross' schedule currently ranks as the 108th hardest in the country. The Crusaders concluded the 2004-2005 season ranked 49th in the nation in the RPI with a mark of .5657, to place ahead of four at large selections to the NCAA tournament. The Crusaders' 2004-2005 non-conference schedule ranked as the 84th-toughest in the country, including games against three teams which finished the year ranked in the top 50.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 87th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1211-784 (.607), 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 nine players on to professional basketball, 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.

SCOUTING THE LEOPARDS: Lafayette has an overall record of 6-6 on the season. The Leopards have won three of their last five games, and are coming off a 76-63 victory at Mount St. Mary's. The leading scorer for Lafayette is sophomore guard Bilal Abdullah, who has averaged 11.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Senior forward Andrei Capusan is also enjoying a fine season, averaging 9.8 points per contest, while hitting 62.8 percent (49 of 78) of his field goal attempts. The Leopards are led by head coach Fran O'Hanlon, who owns a 156-142 record in 11 seasons at Lafayette. Prior to his time with the Leopards, O'Hanlon spent six seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania.

CRUSADERS PICKED SECOND IN PRESEASON POLL: In the 2005-2006 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 (98 points). Holy Cross received two first-place votes in the poll, with the Bison accounting for the other 14 first-place votes. Following the Crusaders in the poll were Lehigh (third, 65 points), Colgate (fourth, 59 points), American (fifth, 55 points), Navy (sixth, 42 points), Lafayette (seventh, 26 points) and Army (eighth, 17 points).

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 17th 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 second year on the Holy Cross broadcast crew, and will handle either play-by-play or color commentary for selected games. Most games will be carried over the internet at "www.sportsjuice.com", including a few games which are not on WTAG. The Holy Cross student station, WCHC 88.1 FM, will also carry a number of games this year.

CRUSADERS ON TELEVISION: Holy Cross is currently scheduled to have seven games shown on live television during the 2005-2006 season, with a number of other television appearances still to be announced. Last year the Crusaders had 10 television appearances, including three games which were shown on ESPN2. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule for the 2005-2006 campaign:

Date     Opponent            Television Outlet
Dec. 1   Siena               Time Warner
Jan. 2   Boston University   NESN
Jan. 14  Bucknell            CSTV
Jan. 17  Boston College      NESN
Jan. 28  Lehigh              Fox College Sports / Service Electric
Feb. 4   Lafayette           Lafayette Sports Network
Feb. 26  Lehigh              CSTV

HOLY CROSS IN REGULAR SEASON TOURNAMENTS: The Crusaders took part in a pair of regular season tournaments this season, winning the championship of the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic, and placing fourth out of eight teams at the San Juan Shootout. Including this year's 3-2 mark, Holy Cross now has an all-time record of 71-86 in 73 regular season tournaments. When the Crusaders won the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 18-19, it marked the 12th regular season tournament title in school history. The last of Holy Cross' previous 11 regular season tournament championships came during the 1982-1983 season, when the Crusaders defeated Davidson (65-62) and Iona (66-65) to capture the crown of the Worcester County Classic, played at the Worcester Centrum. Holy Cross had gone 23 straight tournaments without a championship before winning earlier this season.

DRIBBLES: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton and junior guard Keith Simmons were both named preseason All-Patriot League this year, in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors ... Senior guard Kevin Hamilton has been selected as the Crusaders' captain for the 2005-2006 season, while senior forward Kevin Hyland will serve as Holy Cross' co-captain ... The Crusaders' 38 points against George Mason were their fewest since scoring only 36 points at Boston University on Dec. 17, 1946. In addition, the 33-point loss to the Patriots was Holy Cross' worst since falling to Indiana by 35 (79-44) on Dec. 28, 1999 ... Holy Cross' 85 points against High Point were its most in a season opener since an 85-57 victory over Quinnipiac in 2001-2002.