Crusaders Travel To Lehigh For Key Patriot League Game

Jan. 26, 2006

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (11-9, 4-1 PL) vs. Lehigh (12-9, 5-1 PL)
Date: January 28, 2006
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Stabler Arena (5,600), Bethlehem, Pa.
Television: Service Electric Cable, Bethlehem, Pa.; Mike Zambelli, play-by-play; Nathan Jameson, color
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
Lehigh Radio: WEEX 1230 AM, Easton, Pa.; WTKZ 1320 AM, Allentown, Pa.; Matt Kerr, play-by-play; Greg Falkenbach, color
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 26-9
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 57, Lehigh 53 (OT, March 6, 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      00  Tim Clifford      6-10   255   So.
G       1  Torey Thomas      5-11   170   Jr.
G      14  Kevin Hamilton     6-4   190   Sr.

THE SERIES WITH LEHIGH: This will be the 36th meeting between the Crusaders and the Mountain Hawks on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 26-9. The Crusaders have won four straight and 12 of the last 13 meetings between the schools, with Lehigh's only victory during that time coming on Jan. 20, 2004, in Bethlehem (63-53). For all games played in Bethlehem, Holy Cross holds a 9-6 advantage, including wins in four of the last five years. The schools first met on Jan. 16, 1976, with Holy Cross posting an 84-60 victory at the Hart Center.

SERIES QUICK FACTS
Overall: Holy Cross, 26-9
In Bethlehem: Holy Cross, 9-6
At Stabler Arena: Holy Cross, 9-6
Ralph Willard vs. Lehigh: 12-2
Billy Taylor vs. Holy Cross: 1-6
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, four games

CRUSADERS SET TO RETURN TO THE ROAD: After playing its last three games in Worcester, Holy Cross returns to the road for its next three contests. The Crusaders play at Lehigh (Jan. 28), Navy (Feb. 1) and Lafayette (Feb. 4) over the next 10 days. Holy Cross stands 5-8 in games played away from the Hart Center so far this season, including a 3-5 mark in contests on the opponent's home court. But the Crusaders do own an 8-2 mark in their last 10 Patriot League road games, with the only two losses during that span coming at Bucknell. Last year, Holy Cross posted an impressive 13-4 record in road games, including an eight-game winning streak. The Crusaders finished the 2004-2005 season ranked fourth in the nation in road wins.

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 over Colgate, he totaled 24 points, seven steals and four rebounds. That marked the sixth straight contest in which Hamilton scored at least 17 points, as he also had big games against American (17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals), Boston College (17 points, seven rebounds, six steals, four assists), Bucknell (18 points, nine rebounds, three steals), Army (21 points, four assists, three rebounds, three steals) and 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 18 of the 19 games he has played this season. On the year, he is averaging 17.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.3 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 71 times during his Holy Cross career, including 61 times in his last 68 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. During the Colgate game, Hamilton recorded the 247th steal of his collegiate career to set all-time Holy Cross and Patriot League records. He now has 252 steals, after breaking the marks of 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 1,272 points during his four-year career as a Crusader, to stand in 17th-place on the school's all-time scoring list. In addition, Hamilton is the Crusaders' all-time leader in career three-point field goals made (197) and attempted (567). Hamilton has also tied the school single game records for steals (seven against Harvard, Lafayette and Colgate) and three-point field goals (seven against Tennessee-Chattanooga) this season.

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. Previously, in the win over 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), American (15 points, six 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 4.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 49.4 percent (40 of 81) 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 Lehigh game with a career field goal percentage of 48.6 (305 of 627), while hitting 45.2 percent (123 of 272) of his three-point attempts.

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 eight contests, allowing just 53.2 points per game, with the opposition shooting 38.4 percent from the floor and 26.4 percent from three-point range. Overall this season, Holy Cross is allowing 61.2 points per game, while holding its opponents to 42.0 percent shooting from the floor and 30.8 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross has also forced its opponents to commit an average of 17.0 turnovers per game, including 25 by Fordham, 23 by Colgate and 22 by Harvard. In addition, the Crusaders are averaging 9.6 steals and 3.6 blocks per contest, while outrebounding the opposition by 1.4 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 58.8 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).

COLGATE RECAP: Kevin Hamilton totaled 24 points, seven steals, four rebounds and two assists, to lead the Holy Cross men's basketball team to a 60-42 victory over Colgate at the Hart Center on Jan. 25, 2006. Hamilton tied the school single game record for steals, and also became the all-time Holy Cross and Patriot League career leader in steals during the contest. Both teams struggled to score early in the game, although Holy Cross did move out to an 11-7 lead after seven and a half minutes of play. But the Crusaders would not score again for nearly six minutes, as Colgate used an 11-0 run to build a seven-point lead. Holy Cross came back with an 11-1 spurt of its own to regain the lead, and held a 26-23 advantage at halftime. The Crusaders then opened the second half on a 10-0 run, taking a 36-23 lead with 16 minutes left to play. The Raiders were able to trim the lead down to 10 points (40-30), but Holy Cross then held Colgate without a point for over seven minutes. The Crusaders used a 12-0 spurt during that time to build their lead up to 22 points, before eventually winning by 18. Keith Simmons totaled 11 points and seven rebounds for the Crusaders, while Torey Thomas added eight points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals. Colgate was led by Simon Knight with nine points and four rebounds.

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 11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.7 steals per contest through the first 20 games of the year. Thomas has also been shooting well as of late, making 18 of 39 attempts (46.2 percent) from three-point range over the Crusaders' last 12 contests. Against Boston College, 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 Lehigh game, Thomas has career totals of 610 points, 287 rebounds, 251 assists and 150 steals.

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 125-77 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 269-201. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH LEHIGH: Kevin Hamilton totaled 16 points and five rebounds, to lead Holy Cross to a 57-53 overtime victory over Lehigh in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament at the Hart Center, on March 6, 2005. Hamilton was eight of nine at the free throw line in the game, including a perfect six of six performance in overtime. As a team, the Crusaders scored all eight of their overtime points on free throws, making eight of nine attempts. The Mountain Hawks were four of four at the line in the extra session, to account for all four of their overtime points. The first half featured six ties and eight lead changes, before Lehigh took a two-point lead (29-27) into the locker room. The Mountain Hawks extended their lead to as many as seven points after the break, but Holy Cross refused to go away. After a deflected pass went into the basket to put Lehigh up 49-44 with 3:45 remaining, the Crusaders did not allow the Mountain Hawks to score again in regulation. Hamilton then hit a three-pointer, and Keith Simmons made a pair of free throws with 42 seconds left to send the game into overtime. Holy Cross held Lehigh to zero for six shooting in the extra session, while Hamilton made six straight free throws to turn a 53-51 deficit into a 57-53 lead. John Hurley finished the game with 11 points and nine rebounds, while Simmons added 11 points and three boards. Joe Knight led Lehigh with 11 points on three of 14 shooting.

CLIFFORD PLAYING BIG IN THE POST: Sophomore center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) was moved into the starting lineup for the American game last Saturday, and responded with his top game as a Crusader. Clifford totaled 27 points, four rebounds and four blocks against the Eagles, while hitting nine of 15 shots from the floor and eight of nine attempts from the foul line. He also played well against Boston College, totaling 11 points and two rebounds. Earlier in the season against Brown, Clifford recorded 21 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, while hitting nine of 12 field goal attempts. Through 20 games played this year, Clifford has averaged 6.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. In 28 games played last season, he averaged 2.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest. Clifford also finished the 2004-2005 season ranked fifth in the Patriot League with his 31 blocked shots.

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross stands 6-1 at the Hart Center so far this season, and now owns an all-time record of 271-104 in the building. The Crusaders have also won their last 14 Patriot League regular season games played at home, including a 3-0 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 33-4 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 58-11 at the Hart Center. The building opened on Dec. 1, 1975, and since that time Holy Cross has posted a winning record at home in 26 out of 30 seasons, while posting double-figure home victories 13 times.

HOLY CROSS HAS FIVE DIFFERENT 20-POINT SCORERS: In only 20 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 leads the way with five 20-point games this season, while junior guard Keith Simmons has four 20-point efforts. Hamilton broke the 20-point barrier against Tennessee-Chattanooga (38 points), Mississippi State (27 points), Colgate (24 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 and sophomore center Tim Clifford also have a pair of 20-point games each this year. Thomas totaled 23 points against Fordham and 20 points against High Point, while Clifford had 27 points against American and 21 points against Brown. In addition, 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 14 total 20-point games by Crusaders this season are the most since Holy Cross had 14 20-point performances in 1996-1997.

STEALING THE SHOW: In the first 20 games of the 2005-2006 season, the Crusaders have totaled 191 steals, for a Patriot League-best average of 9.6 steals per game. Holy Cross has reached double figures in steals eight times this year, with highs of 16 against Harvard and 15 against Lafayette. Senior guard Kevin Hamilton currently leads the team with 62 steals on the year, while junior guard Torey Thomas has added 54 steals this 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 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).

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 87th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1215-786 (.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.

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is currently ranked 128th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5217 through games of Jan. 25. The Crusaders are currently the second-highest rated team in the Patriot League, behind only Bucknell (31st, .5997). In addition, Holy Cross' non-conference schedule ranks as the 80th 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.

CRUSADERS HEAT UP ON OFFENSE: Holy Cross has turned some outstanding shooting performances over the last few weeks. Against Army on Jan. 11, 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 in two statistical categories, through games of Jan. 23. 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  Kevin Hamilton    3.1
                  20  Torey Thomas      2.7
                  32  Holy Cross        9.4
Scoring Defense   48  Holy Cross       62.2

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 20 games played this season, Vander Baan has averaged 6.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest, while hitting 43.1 percent (44 of 102) 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              Service Electric
Feb. 4   Lafayette           Lafayette Sports Network
Feb. 8   Army                WCTR-TV3
Feb. 26  Lehigh              College Sports Television / WLVI-TV56

SCOUTING THE MOUNTAIN HAWKS: Lehigh has an overall record of 12-9 on the season, including a 5-1 mark in the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks had won seven games in a row, before falling to Bucknell (59-54) on Wednesday. The leading scorer for Lehigh is junior guard Jose Olivero, who has averaged 17.4 points and 3.3 assists per game. Senior guard Joe Knight is also enjoying a fine season, averaging 16.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest. The Mountain Hawks are led by head coach Billy Taylor, who owns a 62-47 record in four seasons at Lehigh. A 1995 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Taylor was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2004.

DRIBBLES: Holy Cross played the 2,000th game in the history of its men's basketball program against American on Jan. 21 ... Senior guard Kevin Hamilton has been selected as the Crusaders' captain for the 2005-2006 season, while senior forward Kevin Hyland (White Plains, N.Y.) 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.