February 4, 2008

Men's Basketball Set For League Showdown With American

Feb. 4, 2008

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (11-9, 2-5 PL) vs. American (12-10, 4-3 PL)
Date: February 6, 2008
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
Live Video Streaming: Crusader All-Access
Holy Cross Radio: www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
Holy Cross Student Radio: WCHC 88.1 FM, Worcester
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 14-3
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 66, American 64 (January 26, 2008; Washington, D.C.)

PROBABLE HOLY CROSS STARTERS:
Pos.  No.  Name                Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      33  Colin Cunningham    6-6   210   Jr.
F      34  Andrew Keister      6-9   235   Fr.
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 AMERICAN: This will be the 18th meeting between the Crusaders and the Eagles on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 14-3. The Crusaders have won the last eight 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 contests (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, 14-3
In Worcester: Holy Cross leads, 7-1
At the Hart Center: Holy Cross leads, 7-1
Ralph Willard vs. American: 13-3
Jeff Jones vs. Holy Cross: 3-13
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, eight games
In Overtime: Holy Cross leads, 2-0

CRUSADERS CONTINUE THREE-GAME HOMESTAND: Holy Cross will play the second of three straight games at the Hart Center this week, when it takes on American on Wednesday, February 6, at 7:00 p.m. The homestand began with the Crusaders' 60-42 victory over Lehigh last Saturday, and will conclude when Holy Cross plays host to Lafayette at the Hart Center on 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 20 games of the season, he has averaged 16.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per contest, while hitting 55.3 percent (131 of 237) of his field goal attempts. In Saturday's victory over Lehigh, Clifford led the team with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and a school record-tying seven blocked shots. Previously at American, he totaled 24 points on nine of 11 shooting from the field. Clifford also played well against Navy, recording 20 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. 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), Bucknell (16 points on six of 11 shooting), 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 1,058 points, 467 rebounds and 189 blocked shots, while making 414 of 823 (50.3 percent) field goal attempts.

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 189 blocked shots during his career as a Crusader, also tied the school single game record for blocks when he swatted away seven shots in the victory over Lehigh on Feb. 2, 2008. He tied the mark of Josh Sankes, who had seven blocks against Colgate on Feb. 5, 2000. In addition to those marks, Clifford owns three of the top seven spots on the school single season list for blocks (64 in 2006-2007; 48 in 2005-2006; 46 in 2007-2008).

MEISTER RETURNS TO ACTION: Sophomore forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.), who missed 11 games due to injury from Dec. 22-Jan. 30, made his return to the court against Lehigh on Feb. 2. He had an outstanding game against the Mountain Hawks, totaling 10 points, a team-high nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Earlier in the season against Yale, Meister recorded eight points and nine rebounds, while making his first career start. He previously posted eight points and six rebounds against Ohio, while totaling seven points and nine boards in the season opener against Hofstra. In nines games played overall this year, Meister is averaging 5.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest, while hitting 52.4 percent (22 of 42) of his field goal attempts. Last season, he was selected to the Patriot League All-Rookie team, after averaging 3.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game as the first big man off the bench for the Crusaders. Meister's top game last season came against Southern Illinois in the NCAA Tournament, when he scored a career-high 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2007-2008. In 20 games played so far this season, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 61.0 points per contest and 41.3 percent shooting from the field. Holy Cross is also outrebounding the opposition by 6.2 boards per game, while forcing 14.3 turnovers per contest. Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Holy Cross has held its opposition to only 58.8 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

LEHIGH RECAP: Tim Clifford totaled 16 points, a school record-tying seven blocked shots, six rebounds and four assists, to lead Holy Cross to a 60-42 victory over Lehigh at the Hart Center on Feb. 2, 2008. Holy Cross held a 7-5 lead after the first five and a half minutes of play, before using a 12-0 run over the next seven minutes to expand its lead to 14 points (19-5). The Mountain Hawks were able to trim the lead down to eight points late in the half, before the Crusaders eventually took a 28-17 advantage into the locker room. Lehigh opened the second half with a 6-2 spurt to cut the lead to seven points, but that would be as close as the Mountain Hawks would get the rest of the day. Holy Cross responded with a 13-4 spurt of its own, increasing its lead to 16 points with 11 minutes left to play. The Crusaders would eventually go up by as many as 21 points in the closing minutes of the game, before eventually winning by 18. Holy Cross turned in one of its top defensive performances of the season, holding Lehigh to just 24.0 percent shooting from the field (12 of 50) and 20.0 percent shooting from three-point range (two of 10). The Crusaders also forced 18 turnovers, while outrebounding the Mountain Hawks 40-27. Eric Meister, who had missed Holy Cross' previous 11 games due to injury, returned to the court and totaled 10 points and a team-best nine rebounds. Kyle Cruze also had a big day for the Crusaders, recording 13 points and eight rebounds. Lehigh was led by Marquis Hall with 15 points 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 20 games played this season, Cruze has averaged 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals per contest. He has been particularly effective over the last five games, averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds during that time. In the victory over Lehigh, Cruze totaled 13 points and eight rebounds. Previously at American, he recorded 10 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Cruze also played well against Navy, posting a season-high 14 points, five rebounds and three assists. Some of Cruze's other top games this season have come against St. Joseph's (13 points and a season-high six assists), Bucknell (10 points, three assists and two rebounds), 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 170-98 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 314-222. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH AMERICAN: Tim Clifford totaled 24 points, three rebounds and two blocked shots, to lead Holy Cross to a 66-64 victory over American at Bender Arena on Jan. 26, 2008. Holy Cross started the game hot, jumping out to a 7-0 lead after three minutes of play. The Crusaders would eventually expand their lead to eight points (11-3), before American began to get back into the game. At one point the Eagles would go on an 11-0 run to take the lead, and they eventually took a one-point advantage (30-29) into the locker room. American held onto the lead early in the second half, going up by six points (41-35) with 13:27 left to play. But Holy Cross scored the next five points, and went on to tie the game back up at 43-43 with 10:47 remaining on a three-pointer by Kyle Cruze. The Crusaders then claimed their first lead of the second half (52-50) at the 6:14-mark on a layup by Greg McCarthy. The final six minutes of the game went on to feature five ties and 12 lead changes, with both teams converting a number of clutch shots. American was up 62-61 with just over a minute to play, when Cruze hit a jumper to put Holy Cross back in front. After the Eagles regained a 64-63 lead on a pair of free throws from Jordan Nichols, Andrew Beinert made a 19-foot jumper off an offensive rebound with 18.5 seconds left to put the Crusaders on top for good. Colin Cunningham added a free throw with just 0.6 seconds on the clock to conclude the scoring. Cruze finished the game with 10 points, eight rebounds and three steals, while McCarthy added 10 points and two rebounds. American was led by Garrison Carr with 17 points and four rebounds, with Bryce Simon adding 14 points and six assists.

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.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 89th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1260-808 (.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.

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 20 games this season, while averaging 34.1 rebounds per game and outrebounding the opposition by 6.2 boards per contest. The Crusaders have been even more impressive in Patriot League play, outrebounding conference foes by 7.6 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 5.6 boards per contest. Sophomore forward Eric Meister has totaled 5.1 rebounds per game, while junior forward Colin Cunningham has added 4.2 boards per contest, and senior guard Kyle Cruze 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.

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. He has averaged 8.6 points, 4.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 16 games played this season, despite missing a good deal of time over the last month due to injury. During the San Francisco game, Doherty recorded 16 points and four rebounds, while hitting six of 10 shots from the field. Previously 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 442 points, 209 assists, 142 rebounds and 94 steals.

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 1,058 points in 114 games as a Crusader, good for an average of 9.3 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 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).

CRUSADERS LOOK TO DEFEND REGULAR SEASON TITLE: Last year, Holy Cross won a share of the fifth Patriot League regular season championship in school history. The Crusaders tied for first place in the conference with Bucknell, as both teams posted 13-1 records in league play. Prior to last season, Holy Cross won outright Patriot League regular season titles in 2001, 2003 and 2005, while sharing the regular season championship in 1994. The Crusaders are the only team in league history to win more than two outright titles, while their five total championships are tied for the most in conference history with Navy (one outright, four shared) and Bucknell (two outright, three shared).

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross stands 6-3 at the Hart Center so far this season, and now owns an all-time record of 297-107 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 84-15 at home since the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, including a 53-8 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 31. 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      32  Holy Cross      +5.8
Blocked Shots       42  Tim Clifford     2.1
Scoring Defense     42  Holy Cross      62.0
Field Goal Percent  46  Tim Clifford    55.0
Free Throw Percent  81  Holy Cross      71.7

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is currently ranked 142nd in the nation in the Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5168 through games of Feb. 3. The Crusaders are the second-highest ranked team in the Patriot League, with the highest ranking belonging to Lafayette (141st, .5172). In addition, Holy Cross' non-conference schedule ranks as the 127th-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 EAGLES: American has an overall record of 12-10 on the season, including a 4-3 mark in the Patriot League. The Eagles had lost two straight games, before posting an 87-76 victory at Lafayette on Saturday. The leading scorer for American is junior guard Garrison Carr, who has averaged 17.5 points while hitting 89 of 197 (45.2 percent) shots from three-point range. Junior guard Derrick Mercer is also enjoying a fine season, averaging 13.6 points and 4.0 assists per contest, while junior forward Brian Gilmore has added 7.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. The Eagles are led by head coach Jeff Jones, who owns a 116-111 record in eight seasons at American. Jones' career record stands at 262-215, 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: 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.