November 9, 2006

Men's Basketball To Open Season With Fairfield On Sunday

Nov. 9, 2006

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (0-0, 0-0 PL) vs. Fairfield (0-0, 0-0 MAAC)
Date: November 12, 2006
Time: 4:00 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
Holy Cross Student Radio: WCHC 88.1 FM, Worcester
Fairfield Radio: Bob Heussler, play-by-play; John Cummings, color; WVOF 88.5 FM, Fairfield, Conn.; WGCH 1490 AM, Greenwich, Conn.
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 19-15
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 80, Fairfield 68 (January 9, 1990; 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      20  Pat Doherty        5-11   170   So.

THE SERIES WITH FAIRFIELD: This will be the 45th meeting between the Crusaders and the Stags on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 19-15. The Crusaders have won the last five games between the schools, although the teams have not played since Jan. 9, 1990. For games played in Worcester, Holy Cross holds a 12-6 advantage, with three straight victories and a 6-4 mark at the Hart Center. The schools first met on March 18, 1950, with Holy Cross posting an 89-41 victory at the Worcester Auditorium.

SERIES QUICK FACTS
Overall: Holy Cross leads, 19-15
In Worcester: Holy Cross leads, 12-6
At the Hart Center: Holy Cross leads, 6-4
Ralph Willard vs. Fairfield: 0-0
Ed Cooley vs. Holy Cross: 0-0
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, five games

FOR OPENERS: Holy Cross owns an all-time record of 62-25 in its opening game of the season. This year will mark the 43rd time the Crusaders have opened the season at home, with Holy Cross posting a 36-6 mark in the previous 42 contests. Since Ralph Willard took over as head coach, the Crusaders stand 5-2 in season openers. Over the last six years, Holy Cross has defeated Providence (54-43 in 1999-2000), Quinnipiac (85-57 in 2001-2002), Boston University (59-57 in 2003-2004; 58-48 in 2004-2005) and High Point (85-73 in 2005-2006) on opening day, while falling to Providence (63-57 in 2000-2001) and Kansas (81-57 in 2002-2003). The longest season-opening win streak for the Crusaders came from 1945-1946 through 1957-1958, when Holy Cross won 13 straight season-opening contests.

HOLY CROSS IN HOME OPENERS: The Crusaders have an all-time record of 70-14 in their opening home contest of the season. Since moving into the Hart Center, Holy Cross has posted a 24-7 mark in its home opener. The Crusaders have also been extremely successful in home openers during the Ralph Willard era, posting a 5-2 record. Holy Cross had won five consecutive times in its opening home game of the season, before falling to Harvard (70-55) in 2005-2006.

SIMMONS AND THOMAS NAMED CAPTAINS: Senior guard Keith Simmons (Kingston, N.Y.) and senior guard Torey Thomas (White Plains, N.Y.) have been selected as the Crusaders' captains for the 2006-2007 season. Both players are three-year letterwinners for the Crusaders, and will take over the leadership role from Kevin Hamilton and Kevin Hyland, who served as the Crusaders' captains as seniors during the 2005-2006 season.

CRUSADERS PICKED SECOND IN PRESEASON POLL: In the 2006-2007 Patriot League preseason poll, Holy Cross was picked to finish in second place in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. The Crusaders received 86 total points in the poll, to trail only first-place Bucknell (96 points). Holy Cross received three first-place votes in the poll, with the Bison earning 12 first-place votes and American one. Following the Crusaders in the poll were American (third, 70 points), Lehigh (fourth, 64 points), Colgate (fifth, 48 points), Lafayette (sixth, 35 points), Navy (seventh, 31 points) and Army (eighth, 18 points).

CRUSADERS LOOK TO REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross should once again be among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2006-2007. Last season, Holy Cross allowed just 60.5 points per game, while holding its opponents to 40.2 percent shooting from the floor and 30.3 percent shooting from three-point range. The Crusaders were particularly impressive over the last 20 contests in 2005-2006, allowing just 56.8 points per game, with the opposition shooting 37.7 percent from the floor and 28.4 percent from three-point range. Holy Cross also forced its opponents to commit an average of 16.0 turnovers per game, including 25 by Fordham, 23 by Colgate and 22 by Harvard. In addition, the Crusaders averaged 9.1 steals and 3.5 blocks per contest, while 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 58.9 points per contest. In addition, the Crusaders have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense during 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).

SIMMONS AND THOMAS NAMED PRESEASON ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE: Senior guard Keith Simmons and senior guard Torey Thomas were both named preseason All-Patriot League, in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. Holy Cross was the only team in the league to place more than one player on the preseason all-conference team. Along with Simmons and Thomas, other selections to the squad were Bucknell senior center Chris McNaughton, American senior guard Andre Ingram and Lehigh senior guard Jose Olivero. All five players on the preseason All-Patriot League squad were named either first or second team all-conference at the conclussion of the 2005-2006 season.

STEALING THE SHOW: In 32 games played last season, the Crusaders totaled 290 steals, for a Patriot League-best average of 9.1 steals per game. Holy Cross reached double figures in steals 11 times last year, with highs of 16 against Harvard and 15 against Lafayette. Kevin Hamilton led the team with 102 steals on the year, while Torey Thomas added 77 steals last season. With his 102 total steals, Hamilton set new Holy Cross and Patriot League single season records. Hamilton had already held the school single season record, with his 92 steals during the 2004-2005 campaign. The old Patriot League single season record for steals had been held by Mike Bright of Bucknell with 94 steals in 1992-1993. Hamilton's average of 3.3 steals per game last year also set a new Patriot League single season record.

SIMMONS NAMED PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN: Senior guard Keith Simmons has been selected as a 2006-2007 preseason mid-major All-American by CollegeInsider.com. Simmons was one of just 25 players from across the nation to be chosen to the squad. He has also been named preseason All-Patriot League, after earning first team all-conference honors in both his sophomore and junior years. 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. He was even more effective in Patriot League regular season games, averaging 16.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists against conference foes, with a league-best 59.8 field goal percent (76 of 127) and a 51.8 mark (29 of 56) from beyond the arc. Simmons scored 20 or more points in a game eight times during the 2005-2006 season, while leading the team in scoring on 12 occasions. Entering his senior season, Simmons has scored 1,078 career points as a Crusader, while making 49.9 percent of his field goal attempts (371 of 744) and 45.1 percent from three-point range (143 of 317). He is currently the all-time Patriot League leader in career three-point field goal percentage, and while ranking third all-time at Holy Cross in three-point field goals made and 35th in points scored.

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross went 11-2 at the Hart Center last season, and now owns an all-time record of 276-105 in the building. The Crusaders also had an 8-1 home mark against Patriot League opponents in 2005-2006, and stand 36-5 in Patriot League regular season home games over the last six seasons. In 2004-2005, Holy Cross posted an overall record of 12-3 at home, including a 10-game winning streak. Since the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, the Crusaders now have an overall mark of 63-12 at the Hart Center. The building opened on Dec. 1, 1975, and since that time Holy Cross has posted a winning record at home in 27 out of 31 seasons, while posting double-figure home victories 14 times.

THOMAS LOOKS TO SHINE IN SENIOR SEASON: Senior point guard Torey Thomas looks to once again be among the top players in the Patriot League this season, and has been named to the preseason all-conference team. A year ago he averaged 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals per contest this year, while making 34 of 96 attempts (35.4 percent) from three-point range. 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. He also scored 20 or more points in a game three times last season, and led the team in scoring on five occasions. In addition to his scoring, Thomas also reached double figures in rebounds twice last year, as well as hitting double digits in assists twice. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Thomas has now totaled 736 points, 353 rebounds, 308 assists and 173 steals. He currently ranks fourth all-time at Holy Cross in career steals, and ninth in career assists.

CLIFFORD PLAYS BIG IN THE POST: Junior center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) looks to be one of the top big men in the Patriot League this season, after moving into the Crusaders' starting lineup for the final 13 games last season. Overall last year, Clifford 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. He was even more impressive against Patriot League opponents, averaging 9.7 points per contest and hitting 54.2 percent (52 of 96) of his shots from the floor. Clifford's top game of 2005-2006 came against American, when he totaled 27 points, four rebounds and four blocks, while hitting nine of 15 shots from the floor and eight of nine attempts from the foul line. He also had a huge night in the victory over Brown, recording 21 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, while making nine of 12 field goal attempts. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Clifford has now totaled 328 points, 198 rebounds and 79 blocked shots. He currently ranks 10th all-time at Holy Cross in career blocks.

THE LAST MEETING WITH FAIRFIELD: Dwight Pernell totaled 21 points and five assists, to lead Holy Cross to an 80-68 victory over Fairfield at the Hart Center on Jan. 9, 1990, in the last meeting between the Crusaders and the Stags. Fairfield jumped out to a quick 4-2 advantage, before Holy Cross used a 7-0 run to take the lead for good. The Crusaders were still up just 21-18 with six minutes left in the first half, before using a 15-9 run to take a 36-27 advantage into the locker room. The Stags were able to keep the Holy Cross lead to single digits early in the second half, but a 6-0 run by the Crusaders made the score 57-45 with 11:56 remaining. Holy Cross would eventually go up by as many as 15 points (70-55 with 5:30 left to play), before finally winning by 12. Leon Dickerson recorded nint points and a game-high 13 rebounds for the Crusaders, while Frank Powell and Scott Martzloff both scored eight points off the bench. Marvin Walters scored a game-high 23 points to lead Fairfield, while Harold Brantley added 21 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.

VANDER BAAN LOOKS TO BUILD ON ALL-ROOKIE SEASON: Sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) should once again be a key member of the Holy Cross lineup this season, after being selected to the 2005-2006 Patriot League All-Rookie Team. In 32 games played last year, Vander Baan has 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 (Nov. 21, Dec. 27, Feb. 6, Feb. 20). Vander Baan's top week of the year came at the San Juan Shootout, where he averaged 15.7 points and 7.0 rebounds over three games, while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor. He had a career-high 21 points and nine rebounds against Mississippi State, while totaling 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists against Clemson, and scoring 11 points against Tennessee-Chattanooga.

WILLARD CONTINUES IMPRESSIVE RUN AT HOLY CROSS: Ralph Willard is now in his eighth season as the Crusaders' head coach, and currently owns a mark of 134-80 during his time in Worcester. He stands in third place on the all-time school list for career victories, behind only George Blaney (357-276 / 1972-1994) and Lester "Buster" Sheary (155-36 / 1948-1955). Willard has led the Crusaders to three Patriot League tournament titles and three trips to the NCAA Tournament, during the 2000-2001, 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 seasons. He has also guided Holy Cross to Patriot League regular season championships in 2000-2001, 2002-2003 and 2004-2005, with the 2002-2003 squad posting an overall record of 26-5 to come up just one win shy of the school single season record for victories. During the 2000-2001 and 2004-2005 seasons, Willard was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year, and in 2004-2005 he was also one of 10 finalists for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award. Prior to his time at Holy Cross, Willard spent five seasons as the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, and four years as head coach at Western Kentucky University. He led Western Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament during each of his final two seasons (advancing to the Sweet 16 in 1992-1993), and his overall career record stands at 278-204. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

SALEM STATE RECAP: Sophomore guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) totaled 15 points and five assists, while senior guard Keith Simmons added 11 points, nine rebounds and two steals, to lead Holy Cross to an 68-39 victory over Salem State in an exhibition game at the Hart Center on Nov. 7, 2006. The game stayed close in the opening minutes, before Holy Cross went on a 15-0 run to go up 24-8, and take the lead for good. The Crusaders led 28-12 at halftime, then used a quick 10-2 run after the break to build their lead up to 22 points (36-14). Holy Cross continued to dominate play for the remainder of the night, and would extend its lead to as many as 30 points. Sophomore center Greg McCarthy (Mansfield, Mass.) finished the game with seven points and five blocked shots, whil senior guard Torey Thomas totaled six points, three assists and four steals. Salem State was lead by forward Eric Downie who totaled 10 points, two blocks and two steals. Dylan Holmes also scored 10 points and added four steals for Salem State.

ST. FRANCIS XAVIER RECAP: Junior center Tim Clifford totaled 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots, to lead Holy Cross to an 84-45 victory over St. Francis Xavier in an exhibition game at the Hart Center on Nov. 4, 2006. Senior guard Keith Simmons also had a big night for the Crusaders, finishing the game with 17 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Clifford opened the game on fire, hitting shots on each of Holy Cross' first three possessions to give the Crusaders an early 7-0 lead. Holy Cross was then up 9-5 after five minutes of play, before going on a 13-0 run to build a 17-point advantage. Later, the Crusaders ended the half with a 10-0 run, to take a 25-point advantage into the locker room. In the second half, Holy Cross' lead would grow as large as 41 points in the closing minutes of play. Freshman forward Andrew Keister (Galloway, N.J.) finished the night with 13 points and five rebounds, while freshman forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) totaled 10 points and nine rebounds. Senior guard Torey Thomas also played well for the Crusaders, totaling 11 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Terrence Taylor scored a team-high eight points for St. Francis Xavier.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year will mark the 88th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1224-789 (.608), 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 to coach professionally, and had 15 players who have coached in college, including current Crusader coach Ralph Willard.

SCOUTING THE STAGS: Fairfield is coming off a 2005-2006 season in which it posted an overall record of 9-19, while placing seventh in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with a 7-11 mark in league games. The Stags will open the 2006-2007 campaign with a home game against American on Nov. 10. Fairfield's top returning scorer is senior guard Michael Van Schaick, who averaged 8.8 points per game while hitting 43.0 percent (46 of 107) of his three-point attempts last season. Sophomore guard Herbie Allen should also be one of the Stags' top players, after scoring 6.5 points per game and hitting 43.6 percent (34 of 78) from three-point range a year ago. Fairfield is led by Ed Cooley, who is in his first season as a collegiate head coach. Prior to this year, Cooley spent the previous nine seasons as an assistant coach at Boston College.

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 nine games shown on live television during the 2006-2007 season, with other television appearances still to be announced. 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. 6   Lafayette   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. 25  Lehigh      Service Electric