Men's Basketball Returns To Hart Center To Face American

Jan. 19, 2006

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (9-9, 2-1 PL) vs. American (6-11, 2-2 PL)
Date: January 21, 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
American Radio: Aaron Goldstein, play-by-play; Mike Levin, color; aueagles.com, internet
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 8-3
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 76, American 67 (OT; February 6, 2005; Washington, D.C.)

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 AMERICAN: This will be the 12th meeting between the Crusaders and the Eagles on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 8-3. The Crusaders won both games played between the schools last year, but in 2003-2004 American swept the season series. Prior to that, Holy Cross had won two straight and six of the first seven meetings. The schools have met in the Patriot League championship game twice in the last four years, since American joined the conference prior to the 2001-2002 season. The Crusaders won both those games, 72-64 at the Hart Center on March 14, 2003, and 58-54 at Bender Arena on March 8, 2002. The schools first met on Dec. 21, 1967, with Holy Cross posting an 81-57 victory on the road.

SERIES QUICK FACTS
Overall: Holy Cross, 8-3
In Worcester: Holy Cross, 4-1
At the Hart Center: Holy Cross, 4-1
Ralph Willard vs. American: 7-3
Jeff Jones vs. Holy Cross: 3-7
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, two games

CRUSADERS SET TO PLAY 2,000TH GAME: When Holy Cross takes the court against American on Jan. 21, it will mark the 2,000th game in the history of the Crusader men's basketball program. Holy Cross, which has an all-time record of 1213-786 (.607 winning percentage), played its first basketball game on Jan. 11, 1901, when it lost a 21-13 decision on the road to the Millbury Intermediates. Since that time, the Crusaders have gone on to win an NCAA Championship (1946-1947) and an NIT Championship (1953-1954), in addition to posting 20 or more victories in a season 21 times.

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 Tuesday's game against Boston College, he led the team with 17 points, seven rebounds, six steals and four assists. That marked the fourth straight contest in which Hamilton scored at least 17 points, as he also had big games a Bucknell (18 points, nine rebounds, three steals), at Army (21 points, four assists, three rebounds, three steals) and against Lafayette (18 points, six rebounds, nine assists, 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). Hamilton has now scored in double figures in 15 of the 16 games he has played this season. On the year, he is averaging 16.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.9 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 69 times during his Holy Cross career, including 59 times in his last 65 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. He is closing in on the Holy Cross record for career steals, as he currently has 240, standing just six behind current record-holder Jave Meade (246 steals, 2000-2004). 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 1,231 points during his four-year career as a Crusader, to stand in 19th-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 (193) and attempted (553). Hamilton has also 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.

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 11.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.8 steals per contest through the first 18 games of the year. Thomas has also been shooting well as of late, making 18 of 35 attempts (51.4 percent) from three-point range over the Crusaders' last 10 contests. Against Boston College on Tuesday, he totaled 16 points and three assists, while hitting three of four three-point attempts. Previously 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), Army (16 points, seven assists, five rebounds) and William & Mary (15 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, four steals). Entering the American game, Thomas has career totals of 597 points, 283 rebounds, 239 assists and 146 steals.

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 six contests, allowing just 53.5 points per game, with the opposition shooting 37.9 percent from the floor and 24.0 percent from three-point range. Overall this season, Holy Cross is allowing 62.2 points per game, while holding its opponents to 42.2 percent shooting from the floor and 30.5 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross has also forced its opponents to commit an average of 16.6 turnovers per game, including 25 by Fordham and 22 by Harvard. In addition, the Crusaders are averaging 9.4 steals and 3.4 blocks per contest, while outrebounding the opposition by 2.0 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).

BOSTON COLLEGE RECAP: Kevin Hamilton totaled 17 points, seven rebounds, six steals and four assists, but it was not enough as the Holy Cross men's basketball team suffered a 63-53 loss to 21st-ranked Boston College at the DCU Center on Jan. 17, 2006. Torey Thomas added 16 points and three assists for the Crusaders, while hitting three of four three-point attempts. The game was close throughout a first half which featured five ties and two lead changes. The Eagles held a 13-8 lead after nine minutes of play, before Holy Cross went on a 7-0 run to take its first lead of the night. Tim Clifford ended the run with a slam dunk to put the Crusaders up 15-13. Holy Cross eventually led by as many as three points, but Boston College closed the half on a 16-9 run to take a four-point lead (31-27) into the locker room. The Crusaders stayed close early in the second half, and a three-pointer by Thomas at the 12:37-mark tied the score at 39-39. But the Eagles then went on a 7-0 run to take the lead for good, and Holy Cross would get no closer than five points the rest of the way. Clifford finished the game with 11 points, to give the Crusaders three players in double figures. Boston College was led by Craig Smith with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Smith tied the DCU Center single-game record with his 17 rebounds, while Hamilton's six steals also tied the DCU Center record.

SIMMONS SHINES AS A STARTER: Junior 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 the 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 13.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 49.3 percent (37 of 75) 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 American game with a career field goal percentage of 48.4 (297 of 614), while hitting 45.1 percent (120 of 266) of his three-point attempts.

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 123-77 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 267-201. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH AMERICAN: Torey Thomas scored 10 of his 15 points in overtime, to lead Holy Cross to a 76-67 victory over American at Bender Arena on Feb. 6, 2005. The Eagles shot 53.6 percent from the floor in the first half and led by as many as eight points before the break, taking a seven-point advantage (36-29) into the locker room. After trailing by as many as nine points early in the second half, the Crusaders came back to tie the score at 48-48 with five minutes remaining. With Holy Cross trailing 54-53 and only 2:01 left in regulation, John Hurley hit a pair of free throws to put the Crusaders in the lead, then made a lay up on the next possession to give Holy Cross a 57-54 advantage. But American trimmed the lead to one point, and with 4.8 seconds remaining, Kevin Hamilton was called for a foul on Andre Ingram, as Ingram was falling out of bounds. Unfortunately for American, Ingram could hit only one of two free throws, sending the game into overtime. After both teams scored on their first two possessions of overtime, Thomas and Tim Clifford both hit jumpers to put the Crusaders up by four (65-61) with two minutes left to play. Holy Cross then made 11 of 14 shots at the foul line down the stretch to clinch the victory. Clifford finished the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Hurley had 15 points and six boards. Ingram led the Eagles with 22 points and eight rebounds.

HOLY CROSS BREAKS THREE-POINT SHOOTING MARK: In the Jan. 11 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 set on Dec. 2, 1994, when the Crusaders made 14 of 32 shots from behind the arc against Boston College. 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).

STEALING THE SHOW: In the first 18 games of the 2005-2006 season, the Crusaders have totaled 170 steals, for a Patriot League-best average of 9.4 steals per game. Holy Cross has reached double figures in steals seven times this year, with highs of 16 against Harvard and 15 against Lafayette. Senior guard Kevin Hamilton and junior guard Torey Thomas are currently tied for the team lead with 50 steals each on the season. 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 18 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 six 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.

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.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 87th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1213-786 (.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.

CRUSADERS HEAT UP ON OFFENSE: Holy Cross has turned some outstanding shooting performances over the last few weeks. Against Army last Wednesday, the Crusaders made 27 of 47 field goals (57.4 percent), including 15 of 22 three-point tries (68.2 percent). In the Lafayette game on Jan. 7, 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.

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders are currently ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders two statistical categories, through games of Jan. 16. 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           12  Torey Thomas      2.9
                 18  Kevin Hamilton    2.8
                 32  Holy Cross        9.6
Scoring Defense  49  Holy Cross       62.1

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is currently ranked 119th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5237 through games of Jan. 17. The Crusaders are currently the second-highest rated team in the Patriot League, behind only Bucknell (27th, .6088). In addition, Holy Cross' non-conference schedule ranks as the 79th 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, as he led the team with 15 points and seven rebounds. He then improved on his career-high once again against Mississippi State, 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, 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, when he totaled 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Through 18 games played this season, Vander Baan has averaged 6.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest, while hitting 43.0 percent (40 of 93) 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   New England Sports Network
Jan. 14  Bucknell            College Sports Television / WLVI-TV56
Jan. 17  Boston College      New England Sports Network
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 EAGLES: American has an overall record of 6-11 on the season, including a 2-2 mark in the Patriot League. The Eagles are coming off a 65-63 double overtime victory over Army, and now stand 6-5 over their last 11 games. The leading scorer for American is junior guard Andre Ingram, who has averaged 11.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Junior guard Arvydas Eitutavicius is also enjoying a fine season, averaging 11.2 points and 2.0 assists per contest, while junior forward Brayden Billbe has added 8.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. The Eagles are led by head coach Jeff Jones, who owns a 81-82 record in six seasons at American. Jones' career record stands at 237-186, including eight years as the head coach at the University of Virginia.

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 ... From Jan. 12, 2005-Jan. 11, 2006, the Crusaders had a 15-game winning streak in Patriot League regular season contests, the second longest streak in conference history ... 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.