March 12, 2007
GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
Event: NCAA Tournament First Round
The Teams: Holy Cross (25-8, 13-1 PL) vs. Southern Illinois (27-6, 15-3 MVC)
Date: March 16, 2007
Time: 9:40 p.m.
Place: Nationwide Arena (19,700), Columbus, Ohio
CBS Television: Tim Brando, play-by-play; Mike Gminski, color
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
Holy Cross Student Radio: WCHC 88.1 FM, Worcester
Southern Illinois Radio: Mike Reis, play-by-play; Greg Starrick, color; WUEZ 95.1 FM, Carterville, Ill.
Series Record: First Meeting
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.
HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: Holy Cross is making its 12th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and its first since 2003. The Crusaders are in the NCAAs for the fourth time during Ralph Willard's eight-year tenure as head coach, including three straight appearances in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Holy Cross' all-time record in NCAA action stands at 7-11, with eight consecutive losses. The Crusaders have not won an NCAA Tournament game since March 13, 1953, when they defeated Wake Forest 79-71 in Raleigh, N.C., in the East Regional semifinal. From 1947-1953, Holy Cross went 7-4 in the NCAAs, while winning the 1947 NCAA championship. During that season, the Crusaders defeated Navy (55-47), City College of New York (60-45) and Oklahoma (58-47).
HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE FIELD: During the 2006-2007 season, the Crusaders posted an 0-2 record against teams which were selected to compete in the NCAA Tournament. The Crusaders were defeated by Duke (57-45) on the road, while dropping a 67-61 decision to Niagara on a neutral court.
CRUSADERS COME CLOSE TO UPSETS: In each of its last three NCAA appearances, Holy Cross has come close to upsetting a heavily favored opponent. In 2001, the 15th-seeded Crusaders dropped a close 72-68 decision to second-seeded Kentucky. The score was tied at 58-58 with 6:28 remaining, before the Wildcats were able to escape with the narrow victory. A year later in 2002, 16th-seeded Holy Cross was knocked off by No. 1 seed Kansas 70-59. The Crusaders led 49-48 with less than nine minutes to play, before the Wildcats pulled away to win late in the game. Yet another close call came in 2003, when No. 14 seed Holy Cross fell to No. 3 seed Marquette 72-68. The Crusaders were up 58-57 with less than five minutes to play and were within two points in the final minute, but were once again denied the upset bid.
THE SERIES WITH SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: This will be the first meeting between the Crusaders and the Salukis on the hardwood. Holy Cross does stand 5-1 all-time against current members of the Missouri Valley Conference, including marks of 2-0 against Creighton, 1-1 vs. Drake, 1-0 against Bradley and 1-0 vs. Illinois State. The last time the Crusaders faced a Missouri Valley opponent, they defeated Drake 90-82 in overtime on Dec. 30, 1997. Holy Cross head coach Ralph Willard stands 0-2 all-time against Southern Illinois, dropping a pair of games when he was the head coach at Western Kentucky in 1990 and 1991. In fact, Willard's first game as a collegiate head coach was a 98-80 loss to the Salukis on Nov. 24, 1990.
HOLY CROSS IN OHIO: The Crusaders will be playing in the state of Ohio for just the 12th time in school history. Holy Cross has a 5-6 record in its previous appearances in the Buckeye State, and has lost three straight since a 66-60 victory at Xavier on Dec. 5, 1981. The Crusaders stand 4-4 in road games in Ohio (2-0 at Xavier, 0-2 at Dayton, 1-1 at Cincinnati, 1-0 at Toledo and 0-1 at Ohio State), with a 1-2 mark in neutral site games (1-1 vs. Bowling Green in Cleveland, 0-1 vs. Wyoming in Cleveland).
CRUSADERS EARN FIFTH PATRIOT LEAGUE TOURNAMENT CROWN: Holy Cross won the fifth Patriot League Tournament title in school history with its 74-66 victory over Bucknell on March 9. The Crusaders' previous tournament titles came in 2003 (72-64 over American), 2002 (58-54 at American), 2001 (68-64 over Navy in overtime) and 1993 (98-73 at Bucknell). Holy Cross' five conference tournament championships are the most in Patriot League history, with Navy having the second most (three in 1994, 1997 and 1998). Holy Cross also appeared in the championship game for the third straight season and the sixth time in the last seven years. Overall, the Crusaders made their conference-record ninth appearance in the Patriot League championship game.
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 and NABC first team All-District I 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 17.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 33 games played. He has scored in double figures in 44 straight games dating back to last year, and has led the team in scoring 16 times this season. During the victory over Bucknell in the Patriot League championship game, Simmons posted 23 points, three rebounds and two assists. In the previous contest against American in the semifinals, he scored the game-winning basket with 4.8 seconds remaining, while totaling 11 points and three assists. Simmons also had a solid game against Lafayette in the quarterfinals, recording 12 points, five assists and four rebounds. 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), Hofstra (22 points, four rebounds), Boston University (21 points, 11 rebounds), Harvard (20 points, six rebounds) and Providence (20 points, four rebounds). 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 NCAA Tournament, Simmons has scored 1,650 career points as a Crusader, while making 50.0 percent of his field goal attempts (561 of 1121) and 42.3 percent from three-point range (194 of 459).
CRUSADERS CAPTURE REGULAR SEASON TITLE: With the Feb. 25 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).
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 33 games played this year, he is averaging 13.6 points, 4.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 steals per contest. In the Patriot League championship game against Bucknell, Thomas scored a career-high 28 points to go along with six rebounds, four assists and three steals. He previously had 16 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals against American in the semifinals, after recording 13 points, four assists and two rebounds against Lafayette in the quarterfinals. Thomas also scored 20 points in a game three times during the regular season, at Lehigh on Feb. 25 (21 points, six rebounds, five assists), against Siena on Nov. 18 (20 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals) and against Fairfield (20 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals). Some of his other top performances this year 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), 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 1,186 points, 511 rebounds, 465 assists and 265 steals.
CRUSADERS DOMINATE ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Holy Cross placed three players on the 2007 Patriot League All-Tournament team, earning half the spots on the six-man squad. Senior guard Keith Simmons led the way as the tournament's Most Valuable Player, after averaging 15.3 points per game and hitting the game-winning shot in the 55-53 victory over American in the semifinals. Simmons was joined on the All-Tournament team by senior guard Torey Thomas (19.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game) and junior center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) (16.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots per game).
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 159-88 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 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 303-212. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.
STEALING THE SHOW: Through 33 games played in the 2006-2007 season, Holy Cross has recorded 315 steals for an average of 9.5 steals per game. The Crusaders have reached double-figures in steals 15 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 92 steals on the season, while senior guard Keith Simmons has totaled 75 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 35 steals on the year, while junior center Tim Clifford has added 27 steals and junior guard Kyle Cruze (Knoxville, Tenn.) has 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.
CLIFFORD EARNS ALL-LEAGUE HONORS: Junior center Tim Clifford has established himself as one of the top big men in the conference this season, and was named second team All-Patriot League. He has turned in some of his best performances late in the year, and was Holy Cross' top scorer during two of the team's three games in the Patriot League Tournament. In the semifinal victory over American Clifford totaled 19 points and eight rebounds, after recording 22 points, eight rebounds and three blocks against Lafayette in the quarterfinals He also played well against Bucknell in the championship game, posting eight points, six blocks and four rebounds. Clifford's biggest game of the season came on Feb. 15 at Navy, when he scored a career-high 33 points to go along with four rebounds and four blocked shots (hitting 12 of 19 field goals and all eight of his free throws). 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), Colgate (14 points, four steals, three rebounds), 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 33 games played this year, he is averaging 11.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest. Clifford was even more impressive in Patriot League regular season games, 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 716 points, 354 rebounds and 143 blocked shots.
PATRIOT LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - HOLY CROSS 74, BUCKNELL 66:Torey Thomas scored a career-high 28 points to go along with six rebounds, four assists and three steals, while leading Holy Cross to a 74-66 victory over Bucknell in the championship game of the Patriot League Tournament at the Hart Center on March 9, 2007. The Bison opened the game with a 9-2 run over the first four minutes of play, but the Crusaders immediately responded with a 7-0 spurt of their own to tie the score at 9-9. Holy Cross would use runs of 12-2 and 9-0 later in the half to build a 35-22 advantage heading into the locker room. The Crusaders then opened the second half with an 11-5 spurt, taking what appeared to be an insurmountable 46-27 lead with 16 minutes left to play. But Bucknell came right back with a 13-0 run of its own to get back into the game, and would eventually tie up the score at 53-53 with just under six minutes remaining. However, Keith Simmons would put Holy Cross back in front with four free throws over two consecutive possessions, then Thomas nailed a three-pointer to put the Crusaders up by seven, 60-53. The Bison would get no closer than four points the rest of the way, as Holy Cross made all 16 of its free throw attempts in the final five minutes. Simmons finished the day with 23 points, three rebounds and two assists, while Tim Clifford added eight points, six blocks and four rebounds. Bucknell was led by John Griffin with 15 points and three boards. As a team, the Crusaders shot 53.7 percent (22 of 41) from the field, 50.0 percent (seven of 14) from three-point range, and 88.5 percent (23 of 26) on the foul line.
PATRIOT LEAGUE SEMIFINALS - HOLY CROSS 55, AMERICAN 53: Keith Simmons drove the lane to score the winning basket with 4.8 seconds left in regulation, giving the Holy Cross men's basketball team a 55-53 victory over American in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament at the Hart Center on March 4, 2007. Simmons finished the game with 11 points, three assists and two rebounds. The game went back and forth during the first half, before the Eagles took a 26-21 lead into the locker room. After American extended its lead to 31-23 after the first two minutes of play of the second half, the Crusaders outscored the Eagles, 17-4, over the next 9:03 to move out to a 40-35 lead. But the Eagles then came back with a 5-0 run to tie the game at 40-40 with 8:31 remaining. The Crusaders responded with a 9-0 spurt to pull out to a 49-40 advantage with 5:08 left, but American then answered back with a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 49-47 with 2:49 on the clock. After a layup by Tim Clifford to increase the Crusader lead to 51-47, American's Arvydas Eitutavicius hit a three-pointer to make it a 51-50 game with 1:22 remaining. Clifford then hit two free throws to give Holy Cross a 53-50 lead, but the Eagles tied the game with only 39 seconds to go with a three-pointer by Andre Ingram. After Simmons' basket, American's Brayden Billbe heaved a shot from his own three-point line that fell short as the game ended. Clifford led Holy Cross with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Torey Thomas totaled 16 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals. American was led by Ingram's 20 points and four rebounds.
PATRIOT LEAGUE QUARTERFINALS - HOLY CROSS 83, LAFAYETTE 53: Tim Clifford totaled 22 points and eight rebounds, to lead Holy Cross to an 83-53 victory over Lafayette in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament at the Hart Center on Feb. 27, 2007. Lafayette held an 11-10 lead after five minutes of play, when the Crusaders went on a 9-0 run to go in front by eight points (19-11). After a basket by the Leopards to make it a 19-13 game, Holy Cross went on a 15-0 run to increase its lead to 34-13, while holding Lafayette scoreless for a span of 8:19. The Crusaders outscored the Leopards by an 8-2 margin in the final 3:11 to take a 42-18 lead into the locker room. The Leopards opened the second half with a 7-2 run to make it a 44-25 game. That is as close as Lafayette would come to Holy Cross as the Crusaders then went on a 14-0 run to extend their lead to 58-25 with 12:36 left in the second half. The Holy Cross lead would grow to 37 points (69-32) with 8:50 remaining, as the Crusaders would eventually win by 30 points (83-53). Torey Thomas finished the day with 13 points and four assists, while Keith Simmons chipped in with 12 points, four rebounds and five assists. Eric Meister was strong on the boards with a game-high nine rebounds, while Pat Doherty had five assists and five steals. Lafayette was led by Andrew Brown with 26 points.
THOMAS BREAKS OWN RECORD FOR MINUTES PLAYED: Senior guard Torey Thomas currently leads the team and the Patriot League in playing time this season, having played 1,239 minutes on the year. During the March 4 victory over American, he broke his own school record for playing time, which he set last season with 1,166 minutes played. Thomas has also averaged 37.5 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. Senior guard Keith Simmons has also racked up the playing time this season, as his 1,173 minutes played on the year now rank second on the school single season list.
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 (125), second for three-point field goals made (194), second in three-point field goal attempts (459), fifth in three-point field goal percentage (42.3 percent), fifth in steals (189), fifth in minutes played (3,503) and ninth in points scored (1,650). He also ranks among the Patriot League's all-time leaders in three-point field goal percentage (42.3 percent, second), field goal percentage (50.0 percent, seventh), points scored (1,650, ninth) and steals (189, 10th). In addition, Simmons currently ranks third on the school single season list for minutes played (1,173), seventh for average minutes played (35.5), seventh for steals (75) and eighth for three-point field goal attempts (142). Senior guard Torey Thomas currently stands second all-time at Holy Cross in steals (265), second in games played (124), fourth in minutes played (3,588), fifth in assists (465), eighth in three-point field goal attempts (317), ninth in average minutes played (28.9) and 10th in three-point field goals made (108). On the school single season lists, he stands first for average minutes played (37.5), first for minutes played (1,239), second for steals (92) and 10th for assists (157). Thomas also ranks second all-time in the Patriot League in career steals and sixth 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 second all-time at Holy Cross and ninth all-time in the Patriot League in blocked shots (143). He also stands third on the school single season list with his 64 blocked shots this year.
HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is presently ranked 59th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5730 through games of March 10. The Crusaders are the highest ranked team in the Patriot League, with the second-highest ranking belonging to Bucknell (77th, .5555). 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.
CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2006-2007. Through 33 games this year, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 57.4 points per game and 41.3 percent shooting from the floor. Holy Cross has also averaged 9.5 steals and 3.7 blocks per contest, while forcing the opposition to commit 16.9 turnovers per game and outrebounding its opponents by 4.4 boards per contest. In addition, the Crusaders have held 23 of their 33 opponents to under 60 points during regulation. Holy Cross has been particularly strong over the last 17 contests, holding its opponents to 53.0 points per game on 39.2 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).
CRUSADERS BREAK HART CENTER WINNING STREAK: Holy Cross posted a perfect 14-0 record at the Hart Center this season, and has won 18 consecutive games in the building. With the Feb. 28 victory over Lafayette, the Crusaders set a new record for the longest winning streak in Hart Center history. The previous record of 15 consecutive wins was set from Jan. 9, 1993-Jan. 12, 1994. In addition, the 14 home victories are the most by Holy Cross since moving into the Hart Center, surpassing the 13-1 mark of the 1975-1976 squad. 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 290-105 all-time at the Hart Center, including a 78-12 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. 18 games Feb. 15, 2006-present 2. 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
TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 88th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1249-797 (.610), 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.
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 the regular season finale 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 33 games played this season, Vander Baan is averaging 6.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest, while making 44.5 percent of his field goal attempts (73 of 164). 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.
DOHERTY PROVIDES DEPTH IN BACKCOURT: Sophomore guard Pat Doherty has been the first guard off the bench for the Crusaders this season. He had a solid day against Bucknell in the Patriot League championship game, totaling eight points and five assists. Previously 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 27 games played this season, he is now averaging 5.3 points, 2.1 assists, 1.7 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.
HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders are currently ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in five statistical categories, through games of March 8. 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 6 Torey Thomas 2.8 11 Holy Cross 9.7 22 Keith Simmons 2.3 Scoring Defense 6 Holy Cross 57.1 Winning Percentage 28 Holy Cross 75.0 Rebound Margin 42 Holy Cross +4.6 Free Throw Percentage 47 Holy Cross 72.9
HOLY CROSS HAVING GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders have averaged 32.2 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 really stepped things up in Patriot League regular season 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 games this year have come against Siena (43-21 edge on the glass) and against Lafayette in the Patriot League Tournament (40-19 rebounding advantage). 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 5.8 rebounds per game, while sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan has averaged 5.1 boards per contest. Senior guard Torey Thomas (4.8 rebounds per game) and junior center Tim Clifford (4.7 rebounds per game) are also enjoying fine seasons on the glass, while freshman forward Eric Meister is chipping in with 3.4 boards per game.
MEISTER EARNS ALL-ROOKIE HONORS: Freshman forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) has been selected to the 2006-2007 Patriot League All-Rookie team. Meister has averaged 3.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game this season, as the first big man off the bench for the Crusaders. In the Patriot League quarterfinal victory over Lafayette, he just missed a double-double with nine points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Meister also played well in this year's first game with American, totaling nine points, five rebounds and two blocks. Earlier this season, he pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds at Harvard, and had nine rebounds at Boston University. With Meister's selection, Holy Cross has now placed a player on the Patriot League All-Rookie team in five straight seasons, and nine times in the last 10 years.
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 23rd on the all-time Crusader scoring list with 1,186 points in 124 games, good for an average of 9.6 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 ninth place all-time at Holy Cross with 1,650 points, standing 71 points away from eighth place.
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 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.
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 SALUKIS: Southern Illinois has an overall record of 27-6 on the season, and won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title with a 15-3 mark in league games. The Salukis had won 13 straight games, before dropping a 67-61 decision to Creighton in the MVC championship game. Southern Illinois' leading scorer is senior guard Jamaal Tatum, who has averaged 15.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. Junior forward Randal Falker has added 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest, while junior forward Matt Shaw is chipping in with 11.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Southern Illinois is led by head coach Chris Lowery, who owns a 76-25 record during his three seasons with the Salukis. Lowery previously spent time as an assistant coach at Illinois, Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri State, Missouri Southern State and Rend Lake Community College.
HOLY CROSS ON THE RADIO: Once again this season, the majority of the Crusaders' basketball contests have been 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, has carried a number of games this year.
CRUSADERS ON TELEVISION: The NCAA first round contest against Southern Illinois will be the 13th Holy Cross game shown on live television during the 2006-2007 season. 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 Mar. 9 Bucknell ESPN2 Mar. 16 Southern Illinois CBS
TOURNAMENT TIP-INS: Southern Illinois will be 17th different opponent for Holy Cross in 19 NCAA Tournament games. The only teams the Crusaders have faced more than once in NCAA action are Kentucky (1948 and 2001) and Navy (1947 and 1953) ... This marks the first time Holy Cross has been placed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament. The Crusaders have previously been in the East Region eight times, the Midwest Region twice, and the Mideast Region once ... Holy Cross head coach Ralph Willard owns a 2-5 record in five previous appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Both of his victories came in 1993 when he led Western Kentucky to the Sweet 16 with wins over Memphis (55-52) and Seton Hall (72-68).
DRIBBLES: In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Tim Clifford, Keith Simmons, Torey Thomas and Alex Vander Baan can break the all-time Holy Cross single season records for games played and games started. All four players are currently tied for the records with 33 appearances and starts this season. Eric Meister can also break the record for games played, as he has appeared in all 33 contests this season ... The Crusaders stand 4-0 in overtime games this season, and have now won their last seven overtime contests ... Senior guard Keith Simmons and senior guard Torey Thomas are the Crusaders' captains for the 2006-2007 season ... 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 ... 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.