Men's Basketball Prepares For Road Trip To American

Jan. 24, 2008

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (9-8, 0-4 PL) vs. American (11-8, 3-1 PL)
Date: January 26, 2008
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Place: Bender Arena (4,500), Washington, D.C.
Live Video Streaming: Crusader All-Access
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
American Radio: WWRC 1260 AM, Washington, D.C.; Mike Vaillancourt, play-by-play; Jeremy Huber, color
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 13-3
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 55, American 53 (March 4, 2007; Patriot League Semifinals; Worcester, Mass.)


PROBABLE HOLY CROSS STARTERS:
Pos.  No.  Name                Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      21  Alex Vander Baan    6-9   205   Jr.
F      33  Colin Cunningham    6-6   210   Jr.
C      00  Tim Clifford       6-11   260   Sr.
G       2  Kyle Cruze          6-2   175   Sr.
G      20  Pat Doherty        5-11   170   Jr.

THE SERIES WITH AMERICAN: This will be the 17th meeting between the Crusaders and the Eagles on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 13-3. The Crusaders have won the last seven games played between the schools, 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 six years, with the Crusaders winning both of those games (72-64 at the Hart Center on March 14, 2003; 58-54 at Bender Arena on March 8, 2002). Holy Cross and American first met on Dec. 21, 1967, with the Crusaders posting an 81-57 victory on the road.

SERIES QUICK FACTS:
Overall: Holy Cross leads, 13-3
In Washington: Holy Cross leads, 6-2
At Bender Arena: Holy Cross leads, 5-2
Ralph Willard vs. American: 12-3
Jeff Jones vs. Holy Cross: 3-12
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, seven games
In Overtime: Holy Cross leads, 2-0

CRUSADERS RETURN TO THE ROAD THIS WEEK: After playing its last three games at the Hart Center, Holy Cross hits the road once again this week for two games in the span of five days. The Crusaders begin the road trip when they travel to American for a 2:00 p.m. game on Saturday, January 26. Holy Cross then heads to Colgate for a contest on Wednesday, January 30. The Crusaders stand 4-4 in road games so far this season, but have lost their last two on the opposing team's home court. The next home game for Holy Cross comes on Saturday, Feb. 2, against Lehigh at 12:00 p.m.

CLIFFORD SCORES 1,000TH CAREER POINT: Senior center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) became the 44th 1,000-point scorer in the history of Holy Cross men's basketball during the Jan. 23 game against Navy. He hit a layup while being fouled at the 3:43-mark of the first half to record the 1,000th point of his collegiate career. Clifford has now scored 1,007 points in 112 games as a Crusader, good for an average of 9.0 points per contest. Last season, Torey Thomas became the 43rd 1,000-point scorer at Holy Cross, netting his 1,000th point against Lehigh on Jan. 26, 2007, when he made a layup at the 11:51-mark of the first half.

CLIFFORD PLAYS BIG ROLE IN THE MIDDLE: Senior center Tim Clifford is once again among the top big men in the conference this season, after earning second team All-Patriot League honors in 2006-2007. In the first 17 games of the season, he has averaged 16.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest, while hitting 55.1 percent (113 of 205) of his field goal attempts. During the Navy game, Clifford led the team with 20 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. In the previous contest against Bucknell, he scored 16 points on six of 11 shooting. Clifford also played well against Army, recording 13 points and eight rebounds. Some of Clifford's other top games this season have been against Siena (26 points on 11 of 16 shooting), Sacred Heart (24 points, seven rebounds and two blocks), Yale (23 points, eight rebounds, six blocked shots and four assists), Harvard (22 points and four rebounds), Hampton (22 points and six rebounds), Dayton (20 points), San Francisco (17 points, five rebounds, two blocks and two assists), St. Joseph's (16 points and seven rebounds), Boston University (16 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots), Maryland (15 points, eight rebounds and three assists), Lafayette (11 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots) and Ohio (11 points on five of six shooting). In 34 games played last year, Clifford averaged 11.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest. He was even more impressive in Patriot League regular season games, averaging 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per contest. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Clifford has now totaled 1,007 points, 451 rebounds and 178 blocked shots.

CLIFFORD BREAKS BLOCKED SHOT RECORD: Senior center Tim Clifford broke the Holy Cross record for career blocked shots during the victory over Yale on Nov. 28, 2007. Clifford's record-breaking block came at the 5:15-mark of the second half, when he swatted away an attempted jump shot by the Bulldogs' Porter Braswell. That block moved him past Nate Lufkin (2001-2005), who had 153 blocked shots during his Holy Cross career. Clifford, who currently has 178 blocked shots during his career as a Crusader, also owns two of the top six spots on the school single season list for blocks (64 in 2006-2007; 48 in 2005-2006).

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2007-2008. In 17 games played so far this season, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 62.1 points per contest and 41.8 percent shooting from the field. Holy Cross is also outrebounding the opposition by 6.3 boards per game, while forcing 14.5 turnovers per contest. Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Holy Cross has held its opposition to only 58.9 points per contest. In addition, the Crusaders have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense in five of the last six seasons (sixth in 2001-2002 at 59.6; third in 2002-2003 at 58.7; seventh in 2003-2004 at 58.6; fifth in 2004-2005 at 56.8; and eighth in 2006-2007 at 57.5). Here is a look at Holy Cross' defensive statistics under Ralph Willard.

Season       PPG    FG%   3FG%    SPG   BPG
1999-2000   63.3   39.6   31.3    6.5   3.8
2000-2001   62.3   38.2   35.2    6.3   5.2
2001-2002   59.6   42.0   38.5    7.8   3.1
2002-2003   58.7   40.6   33.2    7.9   4.5
2003-2004   58.6   40.3   32.9   10.7   4.5
2004-2005   56.8   38.9   36.3   10.3   5.0
2005-2006   60.5   40.2   30.3    9.1   3.5
2006-2007   57.5   41.4   37.8    9.5   3.6

NAVY RECAP: Tim Clifford totaled 20 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots, but it was not enough as Holy Cross was defeated by Navy 85-74 at the Hart Center on Jan. 23, 2008. Clifford scored the 1,000th point of his collegiate career at the 3:43-mark of the first half, when he knocked down a lay up while being fouled. The score was close throughout a first half which featured three ties and 13 lead changes. Holy Cross led by four points four times in the half, the last coming when it was up 18-14 with 10:24 left before the break. Navy came back to lead by as many as three points, before the score was eventually tied 37-37 heading into the locker room. To start the second half, Holy Cross jumped out to a quick 41-37 lead on a pair of baskets by Clifford, but Navy came right back with a 9-0 run of its own to go in front by five. The Midshipmen were still up 59-54 with 11:21 remaining in the game, when Kyle Cruze hit back-to-back three-pointers to put the Crusaders back in front, 60-59. But Holy Cross once again went cold from the field, and Navy used a 10-1 run to claim the lead for good. The Crusaders could get no closer than four points down the stretch, before the Midshipmen finally pulled away to win by 11. Cruze finished the game with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Colin Cunningham added 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Navy was led by Chris Harris with 29 points and four assists, while Greg Sprink totaled 28 points, four rebounds and four assists.

CRUZE PLAYS KEY MINUTES IN THE BACKCOURT: Senior guard Kyle Cruze (Knoxville, Tenn.) has developed into a strong player in the Holy Cross backcourt. Through the first 17 games of the season, he has averaged 4.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per contest. During the Navy game, Cruze totaled a season-high 14 points, five rebounds and three assists. In the previous contest against Bucknell, he recorded 10 points, three assists and two rebounds. Earlier in the season at St. Joseph's, Cruze posted 13 points and a season-high six assists, while hitting four of five field goal attempts (including three of four three-pointers). Some of Cruze's other top games this season have come against Hofstra (10 points, two rebounds and two steals), Fairfield (nine points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Ohio (game-winning shot with 2.6 seconds remaining, while totaling seven points, four assists and three rebounds). During the 2006-2007 season, Cruze started 25 games for the Crusaders, averaging 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per contest.

WILLARD CONTINUES IMPRESSIVE RUN AT HOLY CROSS: Ralph Willard is now in his ninth season as the Crusaders' head coach, and currently owns a mark of 168-97 during his time in Worcester. He now stands in second place on the all-time school list for career victories, behind only George Blaney (357-276 / 1972-1994). Last season, Willard was selected as the Patriot League Coach of the Year for the third time in his career. He was previously named the conference's Coach of the Year during the 2000-2001 and 2004-2005 seasons, and in 2004-2005 he was also one of 10 finalists for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award. Willard has led the Crusaders to four Patriot League tournament titles and four trips to the NCAA Tournament, during the 2000-2001, 2001-2002, 2002-2003 and 2006-2007 seasons. He has also guided Holy Cross to four Patriot League regular season championships in 2000-2001, 2002-2003, 2004-2005 and 2006-2007, 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. 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 312-221. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH AMERICAN: Keith Simmons drove the lane to score the winning basket with 4.8 seconds left in regulation, giving the Holy Cross men's basketball team a 55-53 victory over American in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament at the Hart Center on March 4, 2007. Simmons finished the game with 11 points, three assists and two rebounds. The game went back and forth during the first half, before the Eagles took a 26-21 lead into the locker room. After American extended its lead to 31-23 after the first two minutes of play of the second half, the Crusaders outscored the Eagles, 17-4, over the next 9:03 to move out to a 40-35 lead. But the Eagles then came back with a 5-0 run to tie the game at 40-40 with 8:31 remaining. The Crusaders responded with a 9-0 spurt to pull out to a 49-40 advantage with 5:08 left, but American then answered back with a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 49-47 with 2:49 on the clock. After a layup by Tim Clifford to increase the Crusader lead to 51-47, American's Arvydas Eitutavicius hit a three-pointer to make it a 51-50 game with 1:22 remaining. Clifford then hit two free throws to give Holy Cross a 53-50 lead, but the Eagles tied the game with only 39 seconds to go with a three-pointer by Andre Ingram. After Simmons' basket, American's Brayden Billbe heaved a shot from his own three-point line that fell short as the game ended. Clifford led Holy Cross with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Torey Thomas totaled 16 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals. American was led by Ingram's 20 points and four rebounds.

DOHERTY TAKES OVER AT THE POINT: Junior guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) has taken over as the starting point guard for the Crusaders this year, after serving as the first guard off the bench in 2006-2007. In 15 games played this season, Doherty has averaged 8.9 points, 4.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest. During the San Francisco game, Doherty recorded 16 points and four rebounds, while hitting six of 10 shots from the field. In the previous contest against Boston University, he led the team with a career-high 20 points, in addition to posting three assists and three steals. Doherty also had a big day against Siena, totaling 15 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. Some of Doherty's other top performances this season have come against Hofstra (18 points, four assists and three rebounds), Ohio (12 points, six assists and three steals) and Fairfield (11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals). In 28 games played last season, Doherty averaged 5.3 points, 2.2 assists, 1.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest. Doherty returned to the Holy Cross lineup last season, after missing the majority of the 2005-2006 campaign due to injury, and receiving a medical redshirt. As a freshman in 2004-2005, Doherty was honored as the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, he has now totaled 437 points, 206 assists, 142 rebounds and 92 steals.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 89th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1258-807 (.609), while making 24 postseason tournament appearances -- 12 trips to the NCAA Tournament and 12 to the National Invitation Tournament. In the history of collegiate basketball, Holy Cross is one of only 16 schools to have won the NCAA Tournament (1946-1947) as well as the National Invitational Tournament (1953-1954). Throughout its history, Holy Cross has had six first team All-America selections, sent 10 players to the National Basketball Association, had four players inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, had 23 players drafted by professional teams, had three players go on to coach professionally, and had 15 players who have coached in college, including current Crusader coach Ralph Willard.

CUNNINGHAM STARTS SEASON STRONG: Junior forward Colin Cunningham (Memphis, Tenn.) has taken over as the starting small forward for Holy Cross this year, and has been one of the Crusaders' top players. In the Navy game, he recorded 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Previously against Lafayette, Cunningham totaled 12 points, a team-high seven rebounds and two steals. Earlier in the season against Boston University, he posted 16 points, four rebounds and three steals, while hitting four of five attempts from three-point range. Some of Cunningham's other top performances this season have come against Fairfield (career-high 17 points, 10 of 10 on the free throw line), Siena (15 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals), Yale (13 points and a career-high 10 rebounds, first career double-double), Harvard (13 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals), Ohio (12 points and three rebounds), Hampton (10 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Sacred Heart (10 points and four rebounds). Overall this season, Cunningham is now averaging 8.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, while hitting 38.8 percent (19 of 49) of his three-point attempts.

VANDER BAAN PLAYS KEY ROLE ON FRONT LINE: Junior forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) is once again a key member of the Holy Cross lineup this year. In 14 games played so far this season, he has averaged 8.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest. During the Bucknell game, Vander Baan recorded 11 points, five rebounds and three assists. Previously at Siena, he posted 13 points, six rebounds and two steals. Vander Baan also had a big night at St. Joseph's, totaling 16 points and seven rebounds, while making all four of his free throws in the final minute of play. Some of Vander Baan's other top performances this season have come against Harvard (18 points and eight rebounds), Hofstra (15 rebounds, 10 points, three assists and three blocks), Dayton (11 points and seven rebounds) and Fairfield (11 points and four rebounds). In 34 games played last year, Vander Baan averaged 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest, while making 36.2 percent of his three-point field goal attempts (17 of 47). His top performance of the 2006-2007 season came at Lehigh on Feb. 25, when he recorded 14 points and eight rebounds. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Vander Baan has now totaled 539 points, 427 rebounds, 118 assists, 60 steals and 26 blocked shots.

HOLY CROSS HAS GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders have once again shown themselves to be an outstanding rebounding team this year. Holy Cross has been outrebounded only once in 17 games this season, while averaging 34.0 rebounds per game and outrebounding the opposition by 6.3 boards per contest. The Crusaders have been even more impressive in Patriot League play, outrebounding conference foes by 9.3 boards per game. The rebounding load has been well balanced, with five different players averaging at least 3.4 rebounds per game. Junior forward Alex Vander Baan leads the team with an average of 6.4 rebounds per game, followed by senior center Tim Clifford with 5.6 boards per contest. Sophomore forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) has totaled 4.6 rebounds per game, while junior forward Colin Cunningham has added 4.5 boards per contest, and junior guard Pat Doherty has contributed 3.4 rebounds per game. Last season, the Crusaders averaged 32.1 rebounds per game, and outrebounded their opponents by an average of 4.3 boards per game. Holy Cross really stepped things up in Patriot League regular season play last year, outrebounding the opposition by 8.0 boards per game, while allowing opponents to average just 25.2 rebounds per contest. Five different players averaged at least 3.6 boards per contest for Holy Cross in 2006-2007.

CLIFFORD NAMED PATRIOT LEAGUE PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Senior center Tim Clifford was named the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year, in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. Clifford was also one of five players selected to the preseason all-conference team. Along with Clifford, other selections to the squad were Army senior guard Jarell Brown, Bucknell senior guard John Griffin, Lehigh sophomore guard Marquis Hall and Navy senior guard Greg Sprink. Clifford, Brown and Sprink all earned second team all-conference honors at the conclusion of the 2006-2007 season, while Hall was last year's Patriot League Rookie of the Year.

CRUSADERS PICKED FIRST IN PRESEASON POLL: In the 2007-2008 Patriot League preseason poll, Holy Cross was picked to finish in first place in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. The Crusaders received 91 total points in the poll, and 10 out of 16 first place votes. Following Holy Cross in the poll were Bucknell (second, 85 points, five first place votes), Colgate (third, 62 points, one first place vote), Lehigh (fourth, 56 points), American (fifth, 49 points), Army (sixth, 42 points), Navy (seventh, 34 points) and Lafayette (eighth, 29 points).

MAY PLAYS KEY MINUTES OFF THE BENCH: Sophomore forward Adam May (Mentor, Ohio) has been the first Holy Cross player off the bench this season at the wing positions. In 17 games played, he has averaged 6.3 points and 2.5 rebounds, while hitting 70.6 percent (36 of 51) of his free throw attempts. In the Maryland game, May totaled 14 points, six rebounds and two steals. During the previous contest at San Francisco, he scored 12 points on four of five shooting, including the Crusaders' final nine points in overtime. May also had an outstanding game earlier in the season against Harvard, with a career-high 16 points and six rebounds. In addition, he had nine points and two rebounds at Fairfield, while scoring eight points against Ohio. Last season, May played in 18 games for the Crusaders, totaling 29 points and eight rebounds.

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross stands 5-3 at the Hart Center so far this season, and now owns an all-time record of 296-107 in the building. The Crusaders recently had a 23-game winning streak at the Hart Center, which was the longest streak in the history of the building and the sixth-longest home court winning streak in the nation at the time. Last season Holy Cross posted a perfect 14-0 mark at the Hart Center, setting a school record for the most home victories since it moved into the building. During the Hart Center's history, Holy Cross has posted a winning record at home in 28 out of 32 seasons, while recording double-figure home victories 15 times. The Crusaders stand 83-15 at home since the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, including a 52-8 record against Patriot League foes.

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders are currently ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in two statistical categories, through games of January 20. In addition, senior center Tim Clifford is ranked among the national leaders in field goal percentage and blocked shots. The rankings:

Category          Rank  Player / Team   Avg.
Scoring Defense     30  Holy Cross      60.7
Rebound Margin      36  Holy Cross      +5.8
Blocked Shots       44  Tim Clifford     2.1
Field Goal Percent  49  Tim Clifford    55.6

SCOUTING THE EAGLES: American has an overall record of 11-8 on the season, including a 3-1 mark in the Patriot League. The Eagles have won four of their last five games, and own a 4-2 record so far this year at Bender Arena. The leading scorer for American is junior guard Garrison Carr, who has averaged 17.1 points while hitting 76 of 167 (45.5 percent) shots from three-point range. Junior guard Derrick Mercer is also enjoying a fine season, averaging 14.5 points and 4.1 assists per contest, while junior forward Brian Gilmore has added 7.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. The Eagles are led by head coach Jeff Jones, who owns a 115-109 record in eight seasons at American. Jones' career record stands at 261-213, including eight years as the head coach at the University of Virginia.

HOLY CROSS ON THE RADIO: Once again this season, a number of the Crusaders' basketball contests will be carried by WTAG 580 AM in Worcester. For the 19th 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 fourth year on the Holy Cross broadcast crew, and will handle either play-by-play or color commentary for selected games. WTAG is currently scheduled to air 17 of the Crusaders' 28 regular season games. All 28 regular season games will also be carried live over the internet at "www.sportsjuice.com". In addition, the Holy Cross student station, WCHC 88.1 FM, will carry a number of games this year.

CRUSADERS ON TELEVISION: Holy Cross is currently scheduled to have eight games shown on live television during the 2007-2008 season. The Crusaders had 13 television appearances last year, and 10 television games during both the 2005-2006 and 2004-2005 campaigns. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule for the 2007-2008 season:

Date     Opponent           Television Outlet
Jan. 2   Boston University  WCTR-TV3
Jan. 8   Maryland           Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic
Jan. 12  Lafayette          Lafayette Sports Network
Jan. 18  Bucknell           ESPNU
Feb. 2   Lehigh             ESPNU
Feb. 16  Bucknell           ESPN2
Feb. 27  Colgate            WCTR-TV3
Feb. 29  Lehigh             ESPNU

CRUSADER ALL-ACCESS: Live video streaming of a number of Holy Cross basketball games will be available over the internet through Crusader All-Access. The package, done in association with College Sports Television Online, is available for a $9.95 monthly subscription. For details on how to sign up for Crusader All-Access, click here.

DRIBBLES: Holy Cross has not had a six-game losing streak since the 1998-1999 season, when it lost six straight games from Dec. 4-30 against San Francisco, Rice, Brown, Boston College, Arizona and Penn State ... The Crusaders have not started Patriot League play 0-4 since the 1998-1999 season, when they opened conference action at 0-5 ... Holy Cross has not lost four straight games at the Hart Center since it dropped the 1996-1997 regular season finale to Navy, then lost its first three home games of 1997-1998 ... The Crusaders' 39 points against Army on Jan. 16 were the team's fewest ever for a game played at the Hart Center. The previous low came in a 46-42 loss to Colgate on Jan. 16, 2002 ... With the victory at San Francisco, Holy Cross improved to 1-1 on the season in overtime games. The Crusaders now stand 11-3 in overtime contests under Ralph Willard ... Senior center Tim Clifford and senior guard Kyle Cruze are serving as the Crusaders' captains for the 2007-2008 season, while junior guard Pat Doherty and junior forward Alex Vander Baan are co-captains ... With the victory over Hofstra on Nov. 10, the Crusaders improved to 64-25 all-time in their opening game of the season, including a 7-2 mark under Ralph Willard, Holy Cross also upped its record to 26-7 in home openers since moving into the Hart Center.