January 9, 2006

Men's Basketball Travels To Army For Wednesday Game

Jan. 9, 2006

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (8-7, 1-0 PL) vs. Army (4-9, 0-1 PL)
Date: January 11, 2006
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Christl Arena (5,043), West Point, N.Y.
Holy Cross Radio: Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet
Army Radio: Rich DeMarco, play-by-play; Bob Beretta, color; WBNR 1260 AM, Beacon, N.Y.; WLNA 1420 AM, Peekskill, N.Y.
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 46-14
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 76, Army 42 (March 4, 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 ARMY: This will be the 61st meeting between the Crusaders and the Black Knights on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 46-14. The Crusaders swept three games from Army last season, and have won nine straight games overall against the Black Knights. Army's last victory in the series came on Jan. 23, 2002, when it posted a 57-46 win at home. For games played at West Point, Holy Cross holds a 16-12 advantage, with three straight victories. The schools first met on Feb. 22, 1926, with Army posting a 41-27 victory at West Point.

SERIES QUICK FACTS
Overall: Holy Cross, 46-14
At West Point: Holy Cross, 16-12
At Christl Arena: Holy Cross, 11-8
Ralph Willard vs. Army: 12-3
Jim Crews vs. Holy Cross: 0-8
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, nine games

CRUSADERS IN PATRIOT LEAGUE ROAD OPENERS: Holy Cross is now in its 16th season of play in the Patriot League, and will play its first league road game of the year at Army. During their first 15 seasons in the conference, the Crusaders have posted a 9-6 mark in their opening Patriot League road game of the year. Holy Cross has a 4-2 mark in its opening conference road game under head coach Ralph Willard, but was defeated at Bucknell (59-43) last season. The Crusaders also stand 11-5 in their first overall Patriot League game of the season, following last week's 86-57 victory over Lafayette. Holy Cross has now won its opening Patriot League game six times in the last seven years.

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. In Saturday's win over Lafayette, he scored a season-high 26 points on nine of 11 shooting, in addition to recording seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Simmons also 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, 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 13.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.9 percent (28 of 61) 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 Army game with a career field goal percentage of 48.0 (283 of 589), while hitting 44.0 percent (111 of 252) of his three-point attempts.

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 11.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.1 steals per game through the first 15 games of the year. Thomas has also been shooting well as of late, making 11 of 22 attempts (50.0 percent) from three-point range over the Crusaders' last seven contests. In Saturday's victory over Lafayette, he posted his second double-double of the season with 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals. In the previous game against Boston University, Thomas totaled 14 points, six rebounds and five steals, while in the game at George Mason, he had 16 points and six rebounds. Thomas was also 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. 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). Entering the Army game, Thomas has career totals of 555 points, 269 rebounds, 225 assists and 143 steals.

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. In Saturday's victory over Lafayette, he had 18 points and six rebounds, while setting a career high with nine assists and tying the school single-game record with seven steals. He previously 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 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, then added 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals against Clemson, and totaled 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, following game against High Point (22 points) and William & Mary (18 points, nine rebounds). Hamilton has now scored in double figures in 13 of the 14 games he has played this season. On the year, he is averaging 16.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.7 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, after averaging 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.8 assists. He has now scored in double figures 66 times during his Holy Cross career, including 56 times in his last 62 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 1,175 points during his four-year career as a Crusader, to stand in 23rd-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 (184) and attempted (528). He also has a good chance to become Holy Cross' all-time leader in steals, as he currently has 228, standing just 18 behind current record-holder Jave Meade (246 steals, 2000-2004). In addition, Hamilton has tied the school single game records for steals (seven against both Harvard and Lafayette) and three-point field goals (seven against Tennessee-Chattanooga) this season.

LAFAYETTE RECAP: Keith Simmons scored a season-high 26 points on nine of 11 shooting from the field, to lead Holy Cross to an 86-57 victory over Lafayette at the Hart Center on Jan. 7, 2006. Simmons was also four of five from three-point range, in addition to recording seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. After Lafayette scored the opening points of the game on a three-pointer by Bilal Abdullah, Holy Cross went on a 9-0 run to take a lead it would never relinquish. After leading 14-10 at the 14:48 mark of the first half, Holy Cross used an 18-0 run to build its lead up to 22 points, and would lead by double figures the rest of the way. Simmons scored seven points during that spurt, as the Crusaders made 14 of their 17 field goal attempts in the first nine minutes of play. The Leopards would get no closer than 14 points for the remainder of the opening half, before Holy Cross took a 47-23 advantage into the locker room. Lafayette then trimmed the Crusader lead to 19 points early in the second half, before Holy Cross expanded its advantage up to 42 points (82-40) with seven minutes left. Kevin Hamilton finished the game with 18 points and six rebounds, in addition to setting a career-high with nine assists, and tying the school single game record with seven steals. Torey Thomas added 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Crusaders. Lafayette was led by Abdullah with 12 points and five rebounds.

HOLY CROSS LOOKS TO KEEP LEAGUE WINNING STREAK ALIVE: The Crusaders enter the Army game having won their last 14 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 14 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.     14  Holy Cross  Jan. 12, 2005-present
  3.     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 122-75 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 266-199. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH ARMY: Kevin Hamilton totaled 16 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals to lead Holy Cross to a 76-42 victory over Army in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament on March 4, 2005, at the Hart Center. The Crusaders opened the game on a 13-5 run, but the Black Knights kept things close throughout the first half, and Holy Cross was up by just two (29-27) at the break. After the intermission, the Crusaders gradually built their lead back up, and held a 54-40 advantage with 10 minutes left to play. Holy Cross then stepped up on the defensive end, holding Army to just two points the rest of the way, as it pulled away to finally win by 34 points. The Black Knights did not make a field goal in the final 10 minutes of play, missing on their last eight shots from the floor, in addition to going only two of seven at the foul line down the stretch. Greg Kinsey recorded 13 points and three rebounds for the Crusaders, while Torey Thomas added 12 points, six rebounds and four assists. The Black Knights were led by Matt Bell with 13 points and five rebounds. With the victory, Holy Cross improved to 4-0 all-time against Army in the Patriot League Tournament, and 9-1 in Patriot League Tournament games at the Hart Center.

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross stands 4-1 at the Hart Center so far this season, and now owns an all-time record of 269-104 in the building. The Crusaders have also won their last 12 Patriot League regular season games played at home, including a 1-0 mark so far in 2005-2006. Holy Cross has not lost a regular season game to a conference opponent at the Hart Center since Jan. 25, 2004, when it was defeated by American 62-59. The Crusaders also have a 31-4 mark in Patriot League regular season home games over the last six seasons. Last year, 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 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.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation this year. The Crusaders have been particularly impressive over their last three contests, allowing just 52.0 points per game, with the opposition shooting 36.9 percent from the floor and 24.6 percent from three-point range. Overall this season, Holy Cross is allowing 63.6 points per game, while holding its opponents to 42.7 percent shooting from the floor and 31.6 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross has also forced its opponents to commit an average of 16.9 turnovers per game, including 25 by Fordham and 22 by Harvard. In addition, the Crusaders are averaging 9.5 steals and 3.3 blocks per contest, while outrebounding the opposition by 2.9 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).

STEALING THE SHOW: In the first 15 games of the 2005-2006 season, the Crusaders have totaled 143 steals, for a Patriot League-best average of 9.5 steals per game. Holy Cross has reached double figures in steals six times this year, with highs of 16 against Harvard and 15 against Lafayette. Junior guard Torey Thomas has led the team in steals so far this season, totaling 47 for an average of 3.1 steals per game. Senior guard Kevin Hamilton is also enjoying a fine year defensively with 38 steals (2.7 average). Last year, the Crusaders recorded 329 steals in 32 games, good for an average of 10.3 steals per contest. Hamilton led the team with 92 steals during the 2004-2005 campaign, to 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 last season.

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 15 games played this season, Vander Baan has averaged 6.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest, while hitting 42.9 percent (36 of 84) 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.

HOLY CROSS HAS FIVE DIFFERENT 20-POINT SCORERS: In only 15 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 and junior guard Keith Simmons have led the way with three 20-point games this season. Hamilton broke the 20-point barrier against Tennessee-Chattanooga (38 points), Mississippi State (27 points) and High Point (22 points), while Simmons scored 20 points against Lafayette (26 points), High Point (21 points) and Siena (20 points). Junior guard Torey Thomas also has a pair of 20-point games this year, totaling 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).

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 112th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5325 through games of Jan. 8. The Crusaders are currently the second-highest rated team in the Patriot League, behind only Bucknell (18th, .6258). In addition, Holy Cross' non-conference schedule ranks as the 89th 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 1212-784 (.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 BLACK KNIGHTS: Army has an overall record of 4-9 on the season, with an 0-1 mark in the Patriot League. The Black Knights have lost their last four games, since a 53-36 victory over New York Maritime on Dec. 17. The Black Knights' leading scorer is sophomore guard Jarrell Brown, who has averaged 14.4 points per game while hitting 39.6 percent (21 of 53) of his three-point attempts. Junior guard Matt Bell has added 14.3 points and 3.3 assists per contest. Army is led by head coach Jim Crews, who owns a 18-76 record during his four seasons with the Black Knights. Crews' career record stands at 312-285, including 17 years as the head coach at Evansville, where he led the Purple Aces to four NCAA Tournament appearances.

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 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.

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 nine games shown on live television during the 2005-2006 season. 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           College Sports Television
Jan. 17  Boston College     NESN
Jan. 25  Colgate            WCTR-TV3
Jan. 28  Lehigh             Fox College Sports / Service Electric
Feb. 4   Lafayette          Lafayette Sports Network
Feb. 8   Army               WCTR-TV3
Feb. 26  Lehigh             College Sports Television

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.