Holy Cross To Face Bucknell For First Place In League

Jan. 12, 2006

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The Teams: Holy Cross (9-7, 2-0 PL) vs. Bucknell (11-3, 2-0 PL)
Date: January 14, 2006
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Place: Sojka Pavilion (4,000), Lewisburg, Pa.
Television: Bob Socci, play-by-play; John Feinstein, color; College Sports Television, national; WLVI-TV 56, Boston
Holy Cross Radio: Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet
Bucknell Radio: Doug Birdsong, play-by-play; Doug Byerly, color; WEGH 107.3 FM, Sunbury, Pa.
Series Record: Bucknell leads, 21-18
Last Meeting: Bucknell 61, Holy Cross 57 (March 11, 2005; Worcester, Mass.)

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 BUCKNELL: This will be the 40th meeting between the Crusaders and the Bison on the hardwood, with Bucknell leading the all-time series 21-18. The teams have split the regular season series during both of the last two seasons, with each team winning twice on its home court, but the Bison downed the Crusaders in the Patriot League Tournament in both 2004 and 2005. For games played in Lewisburg, Bucknell holds a 9-7 advantage, with a 2-1 lead for games played at Sojka Pavilion. The schools first met on January 12, 1991, with Holy Cross posting an 80-78 victory in Lewisburg.

Overall: Bucknell, 21-18
In Lewisburg: Bucknell, 9-7
At Sojka Pavilion: Bucknell, 2-1
Ralph Willard vs. Bucknell: 9-7
Pat Flannery vs. Holy Cross: 17-11
Current Win Streak: Bucknell, one game

CRUSADERS HEAT UP ON OFFENSE: Holy Cross has turned in a pair of outstanding shooting performances over the last two games. Against Army on Wednesday, the Crusaders made 27 of 47 field goals (57.4 percent), including 15 of 22 three-point tries (68.2 percent). In the previous game against Lafayette, they hit 34 of 61 shots from the floor (55.7 percent) and nine of 20 three-pointers (45.0 percent). Overall this season, Holy Cross has won all four games in which it has hit at least half of its shots. Last year, the Crusaders had a perfect 12-0 record when shooting at least 50 percent from the floor. In fact, Holy Cross has now won its last 30 games when it hits at least half its shots from the field, since a 75-73 loss to Bucknell on Feb. 20, 2002.

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 Wednesday's victory at Army, Simmons totaled 26 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals, while hitting nine of 11 field goals and six of seven three-pointers. In the previous game against Lafayette, he scored 26 points on nine of 11 shooting, in addition to recording seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. 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 two games against High Point (21 points, 10 rebounds) and William & Mary (16 points). Some of his other top performances this season have come against Siena (20 points, seven rebounds), Vermont (18 points, five rebounds), Northeastern (15 points, five rebounds), Harvard (15 points, four rebounds) and Brown (14 points, five assists). On the season, he is averaging 13.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 50.0 percent (34 of 68) 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 Bucknell game with a career field goal percentage of 48.7 (292 of 600), while hitting 45.2 percent (117 of 259) 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 11.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.1 steals per contest through the first 16 games of the year. Thomas has also been shooting well as of late, making 13 of 26 attempts (50.0 percent) from three-point range over the Crusaders' last eight contests. In Wednesday's victory at Army, Thomas totaled 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. In the previous game against Lafayette, he posted his second double-double of the season with 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Earlier this season, Thomas was 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. Some of Thomas' other top performances this season came against Fordham (career-high 23 points, five assists, five steals, four rebounds), High Point (20 points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals), George Mason (16 points, six rebounds), William & Mary (15 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, four steals) and Boston University (14 points, six rebounds, five steals). Entering the Bucknell game, Thomas has career totals of 571 points, 274 rebounds, 232 assists and 145 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 Wednesday's victory at Army, Hamilton totaled 21 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals. In the previous game against 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. Earlier in the season, 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 had a career-high 38 points against Tennessee-Chattanooga, recorded 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals against Clemson, and totaled 27 points, six assists and three steals against Mississippi State. Hamilton was also named Patriot League Player of the Week and Most Valuable Player at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic, following games against High Point (22 points) and William & Mary (18 points, nine rebounds). Some of his other top games this season came against Vermont (14 points, three rebounds), Northeastern (13 points, eight rebounds, five assists) and Cincinnati (13 points, six rebounds). Hamilton has now scored in double figures in 14 of the 15 games he has played this season. On the year, he is averaging 16.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.1 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 67 times during his Holy Cross career, including 57 times in his last 63 games.

HOLY CROSS BREAKS THREE-POINT SHOOTING MARK: In Wednesday's 84-46 victory at Army, the Crusaders set a school single game record by making 15 three-point field goals on only 22 attempts. Junior guard Keith Simmons led the way by hitting six of seven attempts from behind the arc, while senior guard Kevin Hamilton made four of six shots from three-point range. The previous school record for most team three-pointers made in a single game was 13 (on Feb. 23, 1990, against Niagara, and on Feb. 7, 2004, against Army). Holy Cross also came up just short of the Patriot League single game record of 18 three-pointers made, which is held by Lafayette (on Dec. 11, 2000, against Fordham, and on Dec. 30, 2001, against Howard).

ARMY RECAP: Keith Simmons scored 26 points on nine of 11 shooting to lead the Holy Cross men's basketball team to an 84-46 victory over Army at Chrisl Arena on Jan. 11, 2006. Simmons made six of seven shots from three-point range, in addition to totaling five rebounds, three assists and two steals. The Crusaders hit their first four shots of the game and jumped out to an early 10-5 lead after three minutes of play, but Army kept the game close for most of the first half. Holy Cross was up just 21-19 after 10 minutes of play, before using a 7-0 run to build its lead up to nine points. A few minutes later the Crusaders used another 7-0 spurt to make the score 35-21, before taking a 43-28 advantage into the locker room. Early in the second half, Holy Cross used a 13-1 run to build its lead up to 28 points (59-31). Later in the half, the Crusaders went on a 16-0 spurt to extend their lead up to 43 points (81-38) with just under five minutes remaining, before finally winning by 38. Kevin Hamilton recorded 21 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals for Holy Cross, while Torey Thomas added 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. Army was led by Matt Bell with 13 points, while Cory Sinning added 10 points and Erik Engstrom pulled down seven rebounds.

HOLY CROSS LOOKS TO KEEP LEAGUE WINNING STREAK ALIVE: The Crusaders enter the Bucknell game having won their last 15 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 15 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.     15  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 123-75 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 267-199. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH BUCKNELL: Kevin Hamilton totaled 21 points, five steals and three rebounds, but it was not enough as Holy Cross was defeated by Bucknell 61-57 in the championship game of the Patriot League Tournament at the Hart Center on March 11, 2005. The Bison opened the game on fire, jumping out to a 10-2 lead after only three minutes of play. After a three-pointer by Hamilton, Bucknell scored the next nine points to increase its lead to 14 points (19-5). The Bison increased their lead to as much as 20 points late in the first half, before finally taking an 18-point advantage (38-20) into the locker room. Holy Cross made a small dent in the lead early in the second half, but Bucknell still led by 15 points (58-43) with five and a half minutes left to play. The Crusaders then went on a furious 14-1 run to close within two points, with Hamilton posting seven points and three steals during that span. Holy Cross was down 59-57 and had the ball with 30 seconds remaining, but Hamilton's baseline jumper came up short, and Bucknell's Kevin Bettencourt hit a pair of free throws to seal the victory for the Bison. John Hurley totaled 11 points and a team-best six rebounds for the Crusaders. Bucknell was led by Chris McNaughton with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Charles Lee added 10 points and five boards.

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 1,196 points during his four-year career as a Crusader, to stand in 21st-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 (188) and attempted (534). He also has a good chance to become Holy Cross' all-time leader in steals, as he currently has 231, standing just 15 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.

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 four contests, allowing just 50.5 points per game, with the opposition shooting 36.2 percent from the floor and 24.7 percent from three-point range. Overall this season, Holy Cross is allowing 62.5 points per game, while holding its opponents to 42.2 percent shooting from the floor and 31.2 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 3.4 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 58.9 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).

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.

STEALING THE SHOW: In the first 16 games of the 2005-2006 season, the Crusaders have totaled 152 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 49 for an average of 3.1 steals per game. Senior guard Kevin Hamilton is also enjoying a fine year defensively with 41 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.

HOLY CROSS HAS FIVE DIFFERENT 20-POINT SCORERS: In only 16 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 four 20-point games this season. Hamilton broke the 20-point barrier against Tennessee-Chattanooga (38 points), Mississippi State (27 points), High Point (22 points) and Army (21 points); while Simmons scored 20 points against Army (26 points), 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 (Uxbridge, Mass.) 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). Also, the 12 total 20-point games by Crusaders this season are the most since Holy Cross had 14 20-point performances in 1996-1997.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 87th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1213-784 (.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.

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders are currently ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in steals, through games of Jan. 9. Junior guard Torey Thomas and senior guard Kevin Hamilton are also ranked among the national steal leaders. The rankings:

Category    Rank  Player / Team      Avg.
Steals        10  Torey Thomas        3.1
              17  Kevin Hamilton      2.7
              36  Holy Cross          9.5

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is currently ranked 118th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5318 through games of Jan. 11. The Crusaders are currently the second-highest rated team in the Patriot League, behind only Bucknell (26th, .6141). In addition, Holy Cross' non-conference schedule ranks as the 90th 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.

VANDER BAAN ENJOYING STRONG FRESHMAN YEAR: Freshman forward Alex Vander Baan 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 16 games played this season, Vander Baan has averaged 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest, while hitting 43.5 percent (37 of 85) 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 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 / WLVI-TV56
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

SCOUTING THE BISON: Bucknell has an overall record of 11-3 on the season, with a 2-0 mark in the Patriot League. Some of the top wins for the Bison so far this season have come against Syracuse (74-69), De Paul (57-52) and St. Joseph's (63-51). Bucknell's leading scorer is junior center Chris McNaughton, who has averaged 15.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while hitting 64.4 percent (85 of 132) of his field goal attempts. Senior guard Kevin Bettencourt has added 12.6 points and 3.2 assists per contest, while senior guard Charles Lee is chipping in with 11.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Bucknell is led by head coach Pat Flannery, who owns a 183-149 record during his 12 seasons with the Bison. Flannery's career record stands at 278-192, including five years as the head coach at Lebanon Valley College.

DRIBBLES: 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 ... With the victories over Lafayette and Army, Holy Cross now stands 11-5 all-time in Patriot League openers, 11-5 in conference home openers, and 10-6 in league road openers ... Holy Cross was picked to finish second in this year's Patriot League preseason poll, behind Bucknell ... 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 ... 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 ... Holy Cross' 85 points against High Point were its most in a season opener since an 85-57 victory over Quinnipiac in 2001-2002.