January 31, 2008

Holy Cross Comes Home To Face Lehigh On ESPNU

Jan. 31, 2008

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (10-9, 1-5 PL) vs. Lehigh (11-9, 4-2 PL)
Date: February 2, 2008
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
ESPNU Television: Bob Socci, play-by-play; John Feinstein, color
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; Jeremy Lechan, color
Holy Cross Student Radio: WCHC 88.1 FM, Worcester
Lehigh Radio: WEEX 1230 AM, Easton, Pa.; WTKZ 1320 AM, Allentown, Pa.; Matt Kerr, play-by-play; Jeff Tourial, color
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 30-10
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 62, Lehigh 50 (February 25, 2007; Bethlehem, Pa.)

PROBABLE HOLY CROSS STARTERS:
Pos.  No.  Name                Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      33  Colin Cunningham    6-6   210   Jr.
F      45  Greg McCarthy      6-11   230   Jr.
C      00  Tim Clifford       6-11   260   Sr.
G       2  Kyle Cruze          6-2   175   Sr.
G      22  Andrew Beinert      6-2   175   Fr.

THE SERIES WITH LEHIGH: This will be the 41st meeting between the Crusaders and the Mountain Hawks on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 30-10. The Crusaders have won their last four contests against Lehigh, and have now taken 16 out of the last 18 meetings between the schools. For all games played in Worcester, Holy Cross holds a 19-3 advantage, including 11 straight wins. 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 leads, 30-10
In Worcester: Holy Cross leads, 19-3
At the Hart Center: Holy Cross leads, 19-3
Ralph Willard vs. Lehigh: 16-3
Brett Reed vs. Holy Cross: 0-0
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, four games
In Overtime: Holy Cross leads, 4-0

CRUSADERS SET TO OPEN UP THREE-GAME HOMESTAND: Holy Cross returns to the Hart Center this week, when it plays host to Lehigh on Saturday, February 2, at 12:00 p.m. The Lehigh contest marks the beginning of a three-game homestand, which continues when the Crusaders face American on Wednesday, February 6, at 7:00 p.m. Holy Cross will then take on Lafayette at the Hart Center next Saturday, February 9, at 3:30 p.m. Following the homestand, the Crusaders will play three straight games on the road, beginning at Army on February 13.

CLIFFORD PLAYS BIG ROLE IN THE MIDDLE: Senior center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) 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 19 games of the season, he has averaged 16.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest, while hitting 55.0 percent (126 of 229) of his field goal attempts. In the victory at American, Clifford led the team with 24 points on nine of 11 shooting from the field. During the previous game against Navy, he totaled 20 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Clifford also played well against Bucknell, scoring 16 points on six of 11 shooting. 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), Army (13 points and eight rebounds) and Lafayette (11 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots). 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 1,042 points, 461 rebounds and 182 blocked shots, while making 409 of 815 (50.2 percent) field goal attempts.

CLIFFORD SCORES 1,000TH CAREER POINT: Senior center Tim Clifford 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 1,042 points in 113 games as a Crusader, good for an average of 9.1 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.

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 19 games of the season, he has averaged 5.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals per contest. In the victory at American, Cruze recorded 10 points, a career-high eight rebounds and three steals. During the previous game against Navy, he totaled a season-high 14 points, five rebounds and three assists. Cruze also played well against Bucknell, posting 10 points, three assists and two rebounds. Some of Cruze's other top games this season have come against St. Joseph's (13 points and a season-high six assists), 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.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2007-2008. In 19 games played so far this season, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 62.0 points per contest and 42.3 percent shooting from the field. Holy Cross is also outrebounding the opposition by 5.8 boards per game, while forcing 14.1 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

COLGATE RECAP: Tim Clifford totaled 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots, but it was not enough as Holy Cross was defeated by Colgate 58-46 at Cotterell Court on Jan. 30, 2008. The Crusaders scored the first four points of the game, and jumped out to a 10-3 lead after the first eight minutes of play. The Raiders responded with an 11-2 spurt of their own over the next four minutes, to claim a 14-12 lead. The scored stayed close for the remainder of the first half, before Colgate took a 23-22 advantage into the locker room. After the Raiders increased their lead to 26-22 early in the second half, Holy Cross scored nine straight points to go back in front, 31-26. But Colgate came back once again with its own 9-0 run, to reclaim the lead for good. Holy Cross could get no closer then five points in the final five minutes of play, and the Raiders made six of eight free throws in the final minute to secure the victory. Greg McCarthy and Andrew Beinert both finished with eight points and six rebounds for the Crusaders. Kyle Roemer led Colgate with 15 points and three rebounds, while Alex Woodhouse and Mike Venezia both scored 10 points.

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 169-98 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 313-222. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

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 8.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, while hitting 37.7 percent (20 of 53) of his three-point attempts.

THE LAST MEETING WITH LEHIGH: Torey Thomas totaled 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, to lead Holy Cross to a 62-50 victory over Lehigh at Stabler Arena on Feb. 25, 2007. The win gave Holy Cross a share of the Patriot League regular season title, as it finished the conference season with a 13-1 mark. The Crusaders held a 9-8 lead after nine minutes of play, when Lehigh went on a 9-2 run to go in front by six points (17-11). Holy Cross would eventually claw its way back to tie up the score at 28-28 on a three-pointer by Thomas with 1:23 left in the half, before the Mountain Hawks took a 32-30 lead into the locker room. After Lehigh scored the first four points after the break to build its lead back to six points, the Crusaders went on an 18-0 run to take the lead for good, while holding the Mountain Hawks scoreless for a span of 12:49 (forcing 13 missed shots and six turnovers in that time). Keith Simmons scored eight points during that stretch, including six straight at one point. The Mountain Hawks would get no closer than eight points the rest of the way, as Holy Cross eventually won by 12 points (62-50). Simmons finished the day with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, while Alex Vander Baan added 14 points and eight rebounds. Lehigh was led by Jose Olivero with 13 points and three assists.

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 twice in 19 games this season, while averaging 33.8 rebounds per game and outrebounding the opposition by 5.8 boards per contest. The Crusaders have been even more impressive in Patriot League play, outrebounding conference foes by 6.7 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 (Uxbridge, Mass.) leads the team with an average of 6.4 rebounds per game, followed by senior center Tim Clifford with 5.5 boards per contest. Sophomore forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) has totaled 4.6 rebounds per game, while junior forward Colin Cunningham has added 4.2 boards per contest, and junior guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) 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.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 89th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1259-808 (.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.

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 182 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).

DOHERTY TAKES OVER AT THE POINT: Junior guard Pat Doherty 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.

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).

VANDER BAAN PLAYS KEY ROLE ON FRONT LINE: Junior forward Alex Vander Baan 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.

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 19 games played, he has averaged 6.0 points and 2.3 rebounds. 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 three statistical categories, through games of January 27. 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.
Rebound Margin      31  Holy Cross      +6.2
Field Goal Percent  37  Tim Clifford    56.5
Blocked Shots       41  Tim Clifford     2.1
Scoring Defense     49  Holy Cross      62.2
Free Throw Percent  55  Holy Cross      72.8

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is currently ranked 148th in the nation in the Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5115 through games of Jan. 30. The Crusaders are the second-highest ranked team in the Patriot League, with the highest ranking belonging to Lafayette (128th, .5248). In addition, Holy Cross' non-conference schedule ranks as the 135th-best in the country, and the hardest in the Patriot League. The Crusaders concluded the 2006-2007 season ranked 59th in the country in the RPI with a rating of .5730. Holy Cross was also ranked 111th in the RPI in 2005-2006 (.5304) and 49th in 2004-2005 (.5657).

SCOUTING THE MOUNTAIN HAWKS: Lehigh has an overall record of 11-9 on the season, including a 4-2 mark in the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks have won their last four games, but stand just 3-7 on the season in games played away from Stabler Arena. The leading scorer for Lehigh is sophomore forward Zahir Carrington, who has averaged 13.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Marquis Hall has added 12.2 points and 4.7 assists per contest, while senior forward Bryan White is chipping in with 10.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The Mountain Hawks are led by head coach Brett Reed, who stands 11-9 in his first season at Lehigh. Reed previously served as an assistant coach for the Mountain Hawks from 2002-2007.

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 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' 0-4 start in Patriot League play was their worst since 1998-1999, when they opened conference action at 0-5 ... Holy Cross' five-game losing streak from Jan. 8-23 was its longest since the 1998-1999 season, when it had losing streaks of five games and six games ... 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.