February 26, 2007

Holy Cross To Face Lafayette In Patriot League Quarterfinals

Feb. 26, 2007

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
Event: Patriot League Quarterfinals
The Teams: Holy Cross (22-8, 13-1 PL) vs. Lafayette (9-20, 3-11 PL)
Date: February 28, 2007
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
Holy Cross Radio: WCUW 91.3 FM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play, Jeremy Lechan, color
Holy Cross Student Radio: WCHC 88.1 FM, Worcester
Lafayette Radio: WEST 1400 AM, Easton, Pa.; Dick Hammer, play-by-play; Phil LaBella, color
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 26-13
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 74, Lafayette 52 (February 3, 2007; Worcester, Mass.)


PROBABLE HOLY CROSS STARTERS:
Pos.  No.  Name                Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      10  Keith Simmons       6-5   205   Sr.
F      21  Alex Vander Baan    6-8   205   So.
C      00  Tim Clifford       6-10   270   Jr.
G       1  Torey Thomas       5-11   185   Sr.
G       2  Kyle Cruze          6-2   175   Jr.

THE SERIES WITH LAFAYETTE: This will be the 40th meeting between the Crusaders and the Leopards on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 26-13. The Crusaders have won the last six meetings between the schools, but in 2003-2004 Lafayette swept the season series. Prior to that, Holy Cross had won three straight and four out of five meetings. For games played in Worcester, the Crusaders hold a 14-4 advantage, including wins in six of the last seven games. The schools first met on Feb. 4, 1947, with Holy Cross posting a 50-40 victory at the Boston Garden.

SERIES QUICK FACTS:
Overall: Holy Cross leads, 26-13
In Worcester: Holy Cross leads, 14-4
At the Hart Center: Holy Cross leads, 14-4
Ralph Willard vs. Lafayette: 11-6
Fran O'Hanlon vs. Holy Cross: 12-13
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, six games
In Overtime: Tied, 1-1

CRUSADERS SET FOR PATRIOT LEAGUE TOURNAMENT: Holy Cross opens up play in the 2007 Patriot League Tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 28, when it plays host to Lafayette at 7:00 p.m. The Crusaders are the top seed in the tournament, while the Leopards are seeded eighth. Other quarterfinal games on Wednesday night feature No. 7 Navy at No. 2 Bucknell, No. 6 Army at No. 3 Lehigh, and No. 5 Colgate at No. 4 American. The semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament will be held on Sunday, March 4, with the championship game set for Friday, March 9. All games in this year's tournament will be played on the campus of the school which is seeded higher.

THE SEEDINGS: Holy Cross is the No. 1 overall seed in the 2007 Patriot League Championship. This marks the fourth time the Crusaders have been the top seed in the tournament, with the previous occasions coming in 2001, 2003 and 2005. During two of those three years, Holy Cross went on to win the Patriot League title... Throughout its history in the Patriot League, Holy Cross has a 7-1 record as the top seed in the conference tournament. The Crusaders have also been seeded No. 2 three times (8-1 record), No. 3 three times (5-3), No. 4 three times (1-3), No. 5 twice (0-2) and No. 6 twice (0-2)... Holy Cross stands 15-3 all-time in Patriot League Tournament games when it has been seeded higher than its opponent. The Crusaders had won nine straight contests as the higher seed, before falling to Bucknell 61-57 in the 2005 championship game.

HISTORY IS ON OUR SIDE: Based on results from past years, the Crusaders have an excellent chance to advance to this year's Patriot League championship game. During the first 16 years of the conference tournament, the highest seed has gone on to win the championship 11 times, including three of the last four seasons. In addition, the No. 1 seed has advanced to the championship game during each of the 16 years the Patriot League Tournament has been played... While the top seed has won the league tournament 11 times, the No. 2 has claimed the title during the other five years. No team seeded lower than second has ever won a Patriot League championship. In fact, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds have both advanced to the championship game 11 times over the last 16 seasons. During the other five years, the No. 1 seed and the No. 3 seed met for the title. No team seeded lower than third has ever advanced to the Patriot League title game.

TOURNAMENT TIP-INS: The Crusaders, who will face Lafayette in the quarterfinal round, stand 1-1 all-time against the Leopards in Patriot League Tournament play. The schools last met in the postseason during the 1997 quarterfinals, when Lafayette won 70-65. The only other Patriot League Tournament meeting between the teams came in the 1992 quarterfinals, when Holy Cross won 87-71... For this year's Patriot League Tournament, all games will be played on the campus sites of the higher seed... Holy Cross stands 12-2 all-time in Patriot League Tournament games which have been played at the Hart Center. That includes a 5-0 mark in quarterfinal games (defeating Army in 1993 and 2005, Colgate in 1991, Lehigh in 1996 and Navy in 2006), a 5-0 record in semifinal games (downing Lehigh in 1991, 2005 and 2006, Fordham in 1993 and Army in 1996) and a 2-2 mark in championship games (defeating American in 2003 and Navy in 2001, while falling to Fordham in 1991 and Bucknell in 2005). In the conference's history, teams playing on their home court have an overall record of 39-8 during the Patriot League Tournament... Four teams have won Patriot League championships in the past while playing at home for the entire tournament: Navy in 1994 and 1998, Lafayette in 2000 and Bucknell in 2006. As the top seed in the 2007 Patriot League championship, Holy Cross would play at home as long as it advances in the tournament.

CRUSADERS CAPTURE REGULAR SEASON TITLE: With Sunday's victory at Lehigh, Holy Cross wrapped up 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 team's posted 13-1 records in league play. Prior to this 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).

SIMMONS NAMED PATRIOT LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Senior guard Keith Simmons (Kingston, N.Y.) has been selected as the 2006-2007 Patriot League Player of the Year, in addition to being a first team all-conference selection. This marks the third straight season Simmons has been named first team All-Patriot League, becoming just the eighth player in conference history to earn first team all-league honors three times. During the 2006-2007 campaign, Simmons has averaged 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals in 30 games played. He has scored in double figures in 41 straight games dating back to last year, and has led the team in scoring 16 times this season. During Sunday's victory at Lehigh, Simmons posted his third double-double of the year with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. In the previous game against Colgate, he totaled 18 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. Simmons also had a big game at Hofstra, recording 22 points, four rebounds and three assists. Some of Simmons' other top performances this season have come against Lafayette (26 points, six rebounds), Army (26 points, six rebounds), Niagara (23 points, three rebounds), Syracuse (game-high 22 points), Navy (22 points, seven rebounds), Bucknell (22 points, four rebounds), Boston University (21 points, 11 rebounds), Harvard (20 points, six rebounds), Providence (20 points, four rebounds), Hampton (19 points, six rebounds), Siena (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Army (18 points, seven rebounds, four steals). Prior to the start of the year, Simmons was selected as a 2006-2007 preseason mid-major All-American by CollegeInsider.com (one of just 25 players from across the nation to be chosen to the squad). In 32 games played last season, Simmons averaged 14.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, while shooting 52.5 percent (158 of 301) from the field and 47.6 percent (60 of 126) from three-point range. Entering the Lafayette game, Simmons has scored 1,604 career points as a Crusader, while making 49.8 percent of his field goal attempts (545 of 1095) and 42.1 percent from three-point range (191 of 454).

THOMAS EARNS DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR HONORS: Senior point guard Torey Thomas (White Plains, N.Y.) has been named the 2006-2007 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and first team All-Patriot League, after being a second team all-conference selection in 2005-2006. In 30 games played this year, he is averaging 13.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 steals per contest. In Sunday's victory at Lehigh, Thomas totaled 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. During the previous game against Colgate, he recorded 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Earlier this year, Thomas had 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals against Siena, while posting 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals against Fairfield, including a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining in overtime to win the game. Some of his other top performances this season have come against Lafayette (19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals), Lehigh (18 points, eight assists, seven steals, six rebounds), Lafayette (18 points, six assists, five rebounds), Hofstra (16 points, six steals, four rebounds, four assists), American (16 points, four rebounds, four assists), Army (16 points, three assists, two steals), Boston University (16 points, three assists), Niagara (15 points, seven assists, six rebounds), Army (14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, five steals), La Salle (14 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals) and Providence (13 points, four rebounds, four steals). A year ago he averaged 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals per game. Thomas finished the 2005-2006 season as the Patriot League's leader in assists, while ranking second in steals, fourth in rebounding and 14th in scoring. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Thomas has now totaled 1,129 points, 494 rebounds, 451 assists and 257 steals.

CRUSADERS REACH DOUBLE-FIGURES IN LEAGUE WINS: Holy Cross finished the regular season with a record of 13-1 in Patriot League play. The Crusaders have tied the school record for most conference wins in a single season, matching the 13-1 marks previously posted by the 2002-2003 and 2004-2005 teams. Overall this marks the seventh time Holy Cross has reached double-figures in conference victories, since the Patriot League began play in the 1990-1991 season. In addition, the 1992-1993 team went 12-2, the 2005-2006 squad went 11-3, the 2000-2001 team was 10-2, and the 1991-1992 team had a 10-4 record. Holy Cross' seven seasons with double-figure victories are the most in Patriot League history, as no other school has accomplished the feat more than six times.

THE LAST MEETING WITH LAFAYETTE: Torey Thomas recorded 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals, to lead Holy Cross to a 74-52 victory over Lafayette at the Hart Center on Feb. 3, 2007. Following the contest, Thomas received the Martin J. O'Malley Award as the most valuable player of Holy Cross' Winter Homecoming game. The score was close early on, with the Crusaders holding just a four-point lead (21-17) with eight minutes left in the first half. Greg McCarthy then hit a three-point field goal and a layup on Holy Cross' next two possessions, igniting a 14-0 run which put the Crusaders in control of the game for good. At halftime, Holy Cross held a 39-24 lead. The Crusaders continued to dominate play coming out of the locker room, and at one point went on another 14-0 run to extend their lead to 30 points, 60-30 with 10 minutes left to play. Lafayette was able to get no closer than 18 points in the closing minutes, before Holy Cross finally won by 22. McCarthy finished the game with a career-high 11 points, two rebounds and two blocked shots. Keith Simmons added 17 points and nine rebounds, while Tim Clifford chipped in with 11 points, five assists and three rebounds. The Leopards were led by Bilal Abdullah with 13 points and four assists. Holy Cross turned in another outstanding effort on the defensive end, holding Lafayette to just 52 points on 39.0 percent shooting from the field (16 of 41). The Crusaders also dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Leopards 32-17.

WILLARD EARNS COACH OF THE YEAR HONORS: Ralph Willard has been selected as the 2006-2007 Patriot League Coach of the Year, marking the third time he has won the honor. 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 is now in his eighth season as the Crusaders' head coach, and currently owns a mark of 156-88 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). 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 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 300-212. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2006-2007. Through 30 games this year, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 57.4 points per game and 41.7 percent shooting from the floor. Holy Cross has also averaged 9.8 steals and 3.6 blocks per contest, while forcing the opposition to commit 17.1 turnovers per game and outrebounding its opponents by 4.4 boards per contest. In addition, the Crusaders have held 21 of their 30 opponents to under 60 points during regulation. Holy Cross has been particularly strong over the last 14 contests, holding its opponents to 52.1 points per game on 39.6 percent shooting during that span. Last season, the Crusaders allowed just 60.5 points per game, while holding their opponents to 40.2 percent shooting from the floor and 30.3 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross also forced its opponents to commit 16.0 turnovers per game, while averaging 9.1 steals and 3.5 blocks per contest, and outrebounding the opposition by 3.9 boards per game. Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Holy Cross has held the opposition to only 58.6 points per contest. In addition, the Crusaders ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense in four of the last five 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).

LEHIGH RECAP: 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.

CLIFFORD EARNS ALL-LEAGUE HONORS: Junior center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) has established himself as one of the top big men in the conference this season, and was named second team All-Patriot League. During the Feb. 15 victory at Navy, he scored a career-high 33 points to go along with four rebounds and four blocked shots. Clifford made 12 of 19 field goal attempts against the Midshipmen, in addition to hitting all eight of his free throws. He also played well in the home victory over Colgate, totaling 14 points, four steals and three rebounds. Previously in the contest at Hofstra, Clifford posted 11 points and five rebounds. Some of Clifford's other top performances this season have come against Harvard (22 points on nine of 11 shooting from the field), Providence (21 points, seven rebounds), American (19 points, nine rebounds), Colgate (18 points, four rebounds), Boston University (16 points, three blocks, three assists), Bucknell (13 points, eight rebounds), William & Mary (13 points, six rebounds), Lehigh (12 points, nine rebounds), George Mason (12 points, four rebounds), Army (11 points, eight rebounds, six blocked shots) and Lafayette (11 points, five assists, three rebounds). Through 30 games played this year, he is averaging 11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest. Clifford has been even more impressive against Patriot League opponents, averaging 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per contest. Last year, he averaged 7.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots per game, while making 96 of 194 (49.5 percent) field goal attempts. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Clifford has now totaled 667 points, 334 rebounds and 133 blocked shots.

CRUSADERS TIE HART CENTER WINNING STREAK: Holy Cross stands 11-0 at the Hart Center so far this season, and has won 15 consecutive games in the building. With a victory over Lafayette, the Crusaders can set a new record for the longest winning streak in Hart Center history. Their current streak of 15 games matches the mark which was originally set from Jan. 9, 1993-Jan. 12, 1994. Since the building opened on Dec. 1, 1975, 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 287-105 all-time at the Hart Center, including a 75-12 mark since the beginning of the 2000-2001 season. Here is a look at the longest winning streaks in Hart Center history.

Rank     Streak   Dates
  1.   15 games   Feb. 15, 2006-present
       15 games   Jan. 9, 1993-Jan. 12, 1994
  3.   14 games   Nov. 23, 2002-Nov. 25, 2003
       14 games   Dec. 22, 1980-Jan. 9, 1982
  5.   11 games   Dec. 28, 2000-Nov. 20, 2001
  6.   10 games   Jan. 5, 2005-March 6, 2005
       10 games   Dec. 1, 1975-Jan. 22, 1976

CRUSADERS IN THE RECORD BOOKS: A number of Holy Cross players have placed their names in the school's all-time record book this season. Senior guard Keith Simmons ranks first on the school career list for games played (122), second for three-point field goals made (191), second in three-point field goal attempts (454), fifth in three-point field goal percentage (42.1 percent), fifth in steals (188) and sixth in minutes played (3,397). He also ranks among the Patriot League's all-time leaders in three-point field goal percentage (42.1 percent, 2nd), field goal percentage (49.8 percent, 7th), points scored (1,604, 10th) and steals (188, 10th). In addition, Simmons currently ranks sixth on the school single season list for average minutes played (35.6), seventh for steals (74), eighth for minutes played (1,067) and eighth for three-point field goal attempts (137). Senior guard Torey Thomas currently stands second all-time at Holy Cross in steals (257), fourth in minutes played (3,482), fifth in assists (451), fifth in games played (121) and eighth in three-point field goal attempts (308). On the school single season lists, he stands first for average minutes played (37.8), second for minutes played (1,133) and third for steals (84). Thomas also ranks second all-time in the Patriot League in career steals and seventh in career assists. In addition, Simmons tied the Holy Cross single game record for steals with seven against William & Mary on Nov. 25, 2006, while Thomas matched that record with seven steals against Lehigh on Jan. 26, 2007. Junior center Tim Clifford has also placed his name in the record books, standing third all-time at Holy Cross and 10th all-time in the Patriot League in blocked shots (133). He also stands third on the school single season list with his 54 blocked shots this year.

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is presently ranked 67th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5700 through games of February 25. The Crusaders are currently the highest ranked team in the Patriot League, with the second-highest ranking belonging to Bucknell (85th, .5507). In addition, Holy Cross' non-conference schedule ranks as the 105th best in the country, and the hardest in the Patriot League. The Crusaders concluded the 2005-2006 season ranked 111th in the country in the RPI with a rating of .5304. Holy Cross also ranked 49th in the nation in the RPI at the end of the 2004-2005 season with a mark of .5657, to place ahead of four at large selections to the NCAA tournament.

THOMAS LOOKS TO BREAK OWN RECORDS FOR MINUTES PLAYED: Senior guard Torey Thomas currently leads the team and the Patriot League in playing time this season, having played 1,133 minutes on the year. He is currently on pace to break his own school record, which he set last season with 1,166 minutes played. Thomas has also averaged 37.8 minutes per contest this season, and is on pace to break his Holy Cross single season record for average minutes played. He also set that record last season with an average of 36.4 minutes per contest.

VANDER BAAN BUILDS ON ALL-ROOKIE SEASON: Sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) is once again a key member of the Holy Cross lineup this season, after being selected to the 2005-2006 Patriot League All-Rookie Team. In Sunday's victory at Lehigh, Vander Baan recorded 14 points and eight rebounds. During the previous game against Colgate, he totaled 11 points, five rebounds and five assists. Some of Vander Baan's other top performances this season have come against Navy (13 points, six rebounds, three assists), Siena (11 points, 10 rebounds, first career double-double), Yale (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists), American (10 points, seven rebounds), Hampton (nine points, six rebounds), Lafayette (nine points, four rebounds), Lehigh (nine points, two rebounds) and Syracuse (eight points, career-high 11 rebounds, four assists). In 30 games played this season, Vander Baan is averaging 6.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest, while making 45.2 percent of his field goal attempts (66 of 146). In 32 games played last year, Vander Baan averaged 6.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest, to rank ninth in the conference in rebounding. He also led all Patriot League freshmen by earning league Rookie of the Week honors four times last season.

STEALING THE SHOW: Through 30 games played in the 2006-2007 season, Holy Cross has recorded 293 steals for an average of 9.8 steals per game. The Crusaders have reached double-figures in steals 14 times this year, including highs of 16 steals against Fairfield, and 15 steals against American, Lafayette and Navy. Senior guard Torey Thomas leads the team with 84 steals on the season, while senior guard Keith Simmons has totaled 74 steals. Both Thomas and Simmons have also tied the school single-game record with seven steals (Simmons vs. William & Mary, Thomas against Lehigh). Sophomore guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) has chipped in with 30 steals on the year, while junior guard Kyle Cruze (Knoxville, Tenn.) and junior center Tim Clifford have both added 23 steals. In 32 games played last season, the Crusaders totaled 290 steals, for a Patriot League-best average of 9.1 steals per game. The school single season record for steals was set during the 2004-2005 campaign, when Holy Cross totaled 329 steals in 32 games.

THOMAS SCORES 1,000TH CAREER POINT: Senior guard Torey Thomas became the 43rd 1,000-point scorer in the history of Holy Cross men's basketball during the Jan. 26 victory over Lehigh. He hit a layup at the 11:51-mark of the first half to record the 1,000th point of his collegiate career. Thomas now ranks 30th on the all-time Crusader scoring list with 1,129 points in 121 games, good for an average of 9.3 points per contest. Last season, senior guard Keith Simmons became the 42nd 1,000-point scorer at Holy Cross, netting his 1,000th point at Colgate on Feb. 22, 2006, when he threw down a slam dunk at the 17:46-mark of the second half. Simmons now stands in 11th place all-time at Holy Cross with 1,604 points, needing just seven more points to move into the top 10 in school history.

DOHERTY PROVIDES DEPTH IN BACKCOURT: Sophomore guard Pat Doherty has been the first guard off the bench for the Crusaders this season. In the Jan. 31 victory over American, Doherty scored 10 points on three of three shooting from the field. Earlier in the season at Yale, he led the team with a career-high 18 points, four assists and three steals, while making five of six shots from the floor, all four of his attempts from three-point range, and all four of his free throws. Doherty also scored 10 points in the game at Lafayette, while totaling nine points and three assists at Dayton. In 24 games played this season, he is now averaging 5.4 points, 2.0 assists, 1.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest. Doherty returned to the Holy Cross lineup this year, 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.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 88th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1246-797 (.610), 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 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 HAVING GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders have averaged 32.3 rebounds per game during the 2006-2007 season, and are currently outrebounding their opponents by an average of 4.4 boards per game. Holy Cross has really stepped things up in Patriot League play, outrebounding the opposition by 8.0 boards per game, while allowing opponents to average just 25.2 rebounds per contest. The Crusaders' top rebounding game so far this year came against Siena, when they held a 43-21 advantage on the glass. The rebounding load has been well balanced, with five different players currently averaging at least 3.4 boards per contest. Senior guard Keith Simmons leads the team with 6.0 rebounds per game, while sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan has averaged 5.2 boards per contest. Senior guard Torey Thomas (4.7 rebounds per game) and junior center Tim Clifford (4.5 rebounds per game) are also enjoying fine seasons on the glass, while freshman forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) is chipping in with 3.4 boards per game.

CRUSADERS GET OFF TO FAST START IN LEAGUE PLAY: Holy Cross opened Patriot League play with 10 victories in its first 10 conference games. That was good for the best league start ever for the Crusaders, with the previous mark held by the 1992-1993 squad which won its first seven conference games. Prior to this season, the Crusaders' best conference start under Ralph Willard came during both the 2000-2001 and 2002-2003 campaigns, when Holy Cross started league play at 4-0. In Patriot League history, only one other team has ever started the conference season with at least 10 straight victories. That came in 2005-2006, when Bucknell won all 14 of its league games. The next best start prior to this season belongs to Navy, which posted nine straight conference wins to open up the 1997-1998 campaign.

SCOUTING THE LEOPARDS: Lafayette enters the game with an overall record of 9-20 on the year, including a 3-11 mark in the Patriot League. The Leopards have lost 10 of their last 12 games, with their only victory in the last month coming over Lehigh on Feb. 18 (75-71 in double overtime). Junior forward Matt Betley currently leads the team in scoring with an average of 10.9 points per game, in addition to pulling down a team-best 4.9 rebounds per contest. Junior guard Bilal Abdullah is averaging 9.7 points per contest, while sophomore guard Andrew Brown is chipping in with 9.8 points and 3.2 assists per game. As a team, the Leopards have hit 35.7 percent from three-point range, while taking nearly half their shots from behind the arc. Lafayette is led by head coach Fran O'Hanlon, who owns an overall record of 171-172 in 13 seasons with the Leopards.

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders are currently ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in three statistical categories, through games of Feb. 22. Senior guard Keith Simmons and senior guard Torey Thomas are also listed among the national leaders in steals. The rankings:

Category           Rank  Player / Team   Avg.
Steals                7  Torey Thomas     2.9
                      9  Holy Cross       9.9
                     22  Keith Simmons    2.4
Scoring Defense      11  Holy Cross      57.6
Winning Percentage   41  Holy Cross      72.4

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 18th 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 third 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 22 of the Crusaders' 30 regular season games. In addition, WCUW 91.3 FM in Worcester will air seven Holy Cross contests which are not included as part of the WTAG package. All 30 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, is scheduled carry a number of games this year.

CRUSADERS ON TELEVISION: Holy Cross is currently scheduled to have 11 games shown on live television during the 2006-2007 season, with other television appearances possible during the postseason. During each of the last two years, the Crusaders had 10 television appearances, including four games on ESPN2. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule for the 2006-2007 campaign:

Date     Opponent            Television Outlet
Nov. 27  Syracuse            ESPNU
Dec. 6   Duke                ESPN2
Jan. 3   Boston University   CN8
Jan. 6   Lafayette           CSTV / Lafayette Sports Network
Jan. 9   Army                WCTR-TV3
Jan. 12  Bucknell            ESPNU
Jan. 26  Lehigh              ESPNU
Jan. 31  American            WCTR-TV3
Feb. 9   Bucknell            ESPNU
Feb. 17  Hofstra             ESPNU
Feb. 25  Lehigh              Service Electric

DRIBBLES: Freshman forward Eric Meister has been named to the 2006-2007 Patriot League All-Rookie team, after averaging 3.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest. He pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds at Harvard, and had nine rebounds at Boston University ... The Crusaders stand 4-0 in overtime games this season, and have now won their last seven overtime contests ... Holy Cross won 14 straight Patriot League regular season contests from Feb. 15, 2006-Feb. 6, 2007, good for the fourth-longest conference winning streak in league history ... From Dec. 30-Feb. 6, Holy Cross won 12 consecutive games, tying for the sixth-longest winning streak in school history ... Senior guard Keith Simmons and senior guard Torey Thomas are the Crusaders' captains for the 2006-2007 season ... The Crusaders were a perfect 13 of 13 at the free throw line against Niagara on Dec. 29, marking the first time in school history Holy Cross has made all of its free throw attempts ... The crowd of 19,235 at the Holy Cross-Syracuse game on Nov. 27 was the largest to ever witness a Crusader game during the regular season (attendance records are not available prior to the 1982-1983 season). It is also the third largest overall crowd to ever see Holy Cross play, behind the Kansas game in the 2002 NCAA Tournament (26,612) and the Marquette game in the 2003 NCAA Tournament (20,960) ... Junior guard Kyle Cruze scored a career-high 15 points in the victory at La Salle, then had career-highs of six assists and six rebounds against Niagara ... Sophomore forward Colin Cunningham (Memphis, Tenn.) had eight points and two assists in the overtime victory at Boston University, including a pair of key three-pointers late in regulation. Earlier in the year, he scored a season-high 11 points at Syracuse ... Sophomore center Greg McCarthy (Mansfield, Mass.) scored a career-high 11 points on four of five shooting from the field in the Feb. 3 victory over Lafayette ... Holy Cross was picked to finish second in this year's Patriot League preseason poll, behind Bucknell.