Crusaders Open Season On Saturday Night Against Hofstra

Nov. 9, 2007

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (0-0, 0-0 PL) vs. Hofstra (0-0, 0-0 CAA)
Date: November 10, 2007
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
Holy Cross Radio: Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; www.sportsjuice.com, internet
Holy Cross Student Radio: WCHC 88.1 FM, Worcester
Hofstra Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, Hempstead, N.Y.
Sirius Satellite Radio: Frank Santore, play-by-play; Channel 158
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 4-1
Last Meeting: Hofstra 65, Holy Cross 64 (February 17, 2007; Hempstead, N.Y.)

PROBABLE HOLY CROSS STARTERS:
Pos.  No.  Name                Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      21  Alex Vander Baan    6-9   205   Jr.
F      33  Colin Cunningham    6-6   210   Jr.
C      00  Tim Clifford       6-11   260   Sr.
G       2  Kyle Cruze          6-2   175   Sr.
G      20  Pat Doherty        5-11   170   Jr.

THE SERIES WITH HOFSTRA: This will be just the sixth meeting between the Crusaders and the Pride on the hardwood. Holy Cross won the first four contests between the schools, before Hofstra recorded a 65-64 victory last year in Hempstead. The Crusaders posted a pair of victories over Hofstra at the Hart Center (100-88 on Feb. 4, 1978; 97-84 on Dec. 29, 1979), while winning once at Nassau Coliseum (64-62 on Jan. 22, 1979) and once at the Hofstra Physical Fitness Center (73-63 on Feb. 25, 1981). Against current members of the Colonial Athletic Association, Holy Cross has an all-time record of 22-7 (0-2 vs. George Mason, 1-0 against Georgia State, 4-1 vs. Hofstra, 12-4 against Northeastern and 5-0 vs. William & Mary).

SERIES QUICK FACTS:
Overall: Holy Cross leads, 4-1
In Worcester: Holy Cross leads, 2-0
At the Hart Center: Holy Cross leads, 2-0
Ralph Willard vs. Hofstra: 0-1
Tom Pecora vs. Holy Cross: 1-0
Current Win Streak: Hofstra, one game
In Overtime: n/a

FOR OPENERS: Holy Cross owns an all-time record of 63-25 in its opening game of the season. This year will mark the 44th time the Crusaders have opened the season at home, with Holy Cross posting a 37-6 mark in the previous 43 contests. Since Ralph Willard took over as head coach, the Crusaders stand 6-2 in season openers. Over the last seven 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), High Point (85-73 in 2005-2006) and Fairfield (67-65 in overtime in 2006-2007) 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 71-14 in their opening home contest of the season. Since moving into the Hart Center, Holy Cross has posted a 25-7 mark in its home opener. The Crusaders have also been extremely successful in home openers during the Ralph Willard era, posting a 6-2 record. Last year, Holy Cross posted a 67-65 overtime victory against Fairfield in its opening home game of the season. The Crusaders also won five consecutive times in their home opener, from 2000-2001 through 2004-2005.

CRUSADERS LOOK TO EXTEND HART CENTER WINNING STREAK: Holy Cross enters the 2007-2008 season with an 18-game winning streak at the Hart Center, after posting a perfect 14-0 record at home last season. With the victory over Lafayette on Feb. 28, 2007, 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 by Holy Cross last season are its most 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 291-104 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

HOLY CROSS NAMES CAPTAINS: Senior center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) and senior guard Kyle Cruze (Knoxville, Tenn.) have been selected as the Crusaders' captains for the 2007-2008 season, while junior guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) and junior forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) will serve as co-captains. These four players will take over the leadership role from Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas, who served as the Crusaders' captains as seniors during the 2006-2007 season.

CRUSADERS PICKED FIRST IN PRESEASON POLL: In the 2007-2008 Patriot League preseason poll, Holy Cross was picked to finish in first place in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. The Crusaders received 91 total points in the poll, and 10 out of 16 first place votes. Following Holy Cross in the poll were Bucknell (second, 85 points, five first place votes), Colgate (third, 62 points, one first place vote), Lehigh (fourth, 56 points), American (fifth, 49 points), Army (sixth, 42 points), Navy (seventh, 34 points) and Lafayette (eighth, 29 points).

CLIFFORD NAMED PATRIOT LEAGUE PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Senior center Tim Clifford was named the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year, in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. Clifford was also one of five players selected to the preseason all-conference team. Along with Clifford, other selections to the squad were Army senior guard Jarell Brown, Bucknell senior guard John Griffin, Lehigh sophomore guard Marquis Hall and Navy senior guard Greg Sprink. Clifford, Brown and Sprink all earned second team all-conference honors at the conclusion of the 2006-2007 season, while Hall was last year's Patriot League Rookie of the Year.

STEALING THE SHOW: In 34 games played during the 2006-2007 season, Holy Cross recorded 324 steals for an average of 9.5 steals per game. The Crusaders reached double-figures in steals 15 times last year, including highs of 16 steals against Fairfield, and 15 steals against American, Lafayette and Navy. Guard Torey Thomas led the team with 95 steals on the season, while guard Keith Simmons totaled 77 steals. Both Thomas and Simmons also tied the school single-game record with seven steals (Simmons vs. William & Mary, Thomas against Lehigh). Junior guard Pat Doherty chipped in with 35 steals on the year, while senior center Tim Clifford added 28 steals, and senior guard Kyle Cruze and junior forward Alex Vander Baan both had 23 steals. In 32 games played during the 2005-2006 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.

WILLARD CONTINUES IMPRESSIVE RUN AT HOLY CROSS: Last season, Ralph Willard was selected as the 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 ninth season as the Crusaders' head coach, and currently owns a mark of 159-89 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 303-213. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

CRUSADERS LOOK TO REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross should once again be among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2007-2008. Last season, the Crusaders held their opponents to 57.5 points per game and 41.4 percent shooting from the floor. Holy Cross also averaged 9.5 steals and 3.6 blocks per contest, while forcing the opposition to commit 16.9 turnovers per game and outrebounding its opponents by 4.3 boards per contest. In addition, the Crusaders held 23 of their 34 opponents to under 60 points during regulation. Holy Cross was particularly strong over the last 18 contests of the year, holding its opponents to 53.4 points per game on 39.4 percent shooting during that span. During the 2005-2006 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 have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense in five of the last six seasons (sixth in 2001-2002 at 59.6; third in 2002-2003 at 58.7; seventh in 2003-2004 at 58.6; fifth in 2004-2005 at 56.8; and eighth in 2006-2007 at 57.5).

VANDER BAAN RETURNS TO STARTING LINEUP: Junior forward Alex Vander Baan will once again be a key member of the Holy Cross lineup this season. In 34 games played last year, Vander Baan averaged 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest, while making 36.2 percent of his three-point field goal attempts (17 of 47). His top performance of the 2006-2007 season came at Lehigh on Feb. 25, when he totaled 14 points and eight rebounds. Vander Baan also totaled 13 points and six rebounds in the home game against Navy, while posting a double-double against Siena with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Vander Baan has now totaled 414 points, 338 rebounds, 97 assists, 48 steals and 21 blocked shots.

DOHERTY TAKES OVER AT THE POINT: Junior guard Pat Doherty looks to become the starting point guard for the Crusaders this year, after serving as the first guard off the bench in 2006-2007. In 28 games played last season, he averaged 5.3 points, 2.2 assists, 1.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest. Doherty's top game of the year came at Yale when he totaled 18 points, four assists and three steals, while hitting five of six shots from the field and all four of his three-point attempts. Doherty returned to the Holy Cross lineup last 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.

THE LAST MEETING WITH HOFSTRA: Keith Simmons totaled 22 points, four rebounds and three assists, but it was not enough as Holy Cross was defeated by Hofstra 65-64 at the Mack Sports Center in the O'Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters on Feb. 17, 2007. The score was close throughout the early part of the game, and the Crusaders held a 22-18 advantage after 11 minutes of play. But Hofstra then went on a 15-2 run to go in front by nine (33-24) with four minutes left before the break. Holy Cross responded with an 8-1 run of its own to get back into the game, before the Pride's Antoine Agudio hit a three-pointer just before the buzzer to make the score 37-32 at halftime. Hofstra was able to extend its lead to eight points (56-48) with just under nine minutes remaining in the second half, before the Crusaders went on an 11-3 run to tie up the score at 59-59 with 3:39 left on an old-fashioned three-point play by Torey Thomas. Hofstra was back in front by one point with under two minutes to play, when Eric Meister tipped the ball in the basket on an offensive rebound to put Holy Cross up 64-63. The score remained the same until the final seconds, when Thomas was called for foul when the Pride's Carlos Rivera threw up an off-balanced jump shot with 1.7 seconds left to play. Rivera then hit both free throws to give Hofstra the victory. Thomas finished the game with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and six steals, while Tim Clifford added 11 points and five rebounds. Rivera had 19 points and four rebounds for Hofstra, while Agudio added 19 points.

CLIFFORD PLAYS BIG ROLE IN THE MIDDLE: Senior center Tim Clifford will once again be among the top big men in the conference this season, after earning second team All-Patriot League honors in 2006-2007. In 34 games played last year, he averaged 11.7 points, 4.6 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. His biggest game last season came on Feb. 15, 2007, 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). He also had a pair of big games in the Patriot League Tournament, against American (totaling 19 points and eight rebounds) and Lafayette (recording 22 points, eight rebounds and three blocks). Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Clifford has now totaled 725 points, 356 rebounds and 143 blocked shots. He currently stands just 10 blocks away from Nate Lufkin's school record of 153 career blocked shots, while needing 275 points to become Holy Cross' 44th 1,000-point scorer.

HOLY CROSS PLAYS IN FRONT OF BIG CROWDS: Last year, Holy Cross played before two of the largest crowds in school history. During the 2007 NCAA Tournament against Southern Illinois, the attendance of 19,916 was the third largest ever at a Holy Cross game. In addition, 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. Those two contests rank behind only the Kansas game in the 2002 NCAA Tournament (26,612) and the Marquette game in the 2003 NCAA Tournament (20,960) as the largest crowds at a Holy Cross basketball game. Here is a look at the largest attendance figures in school history (Note: Attendance records are incomplete prior to the 1982-1983 season):

Rank  Attendance  Game                              Date
  1.      26,612  Holy Cross vs. Kansas             3/14/2002
  2.      20,960  Holy Cross vs. Marquette          3/20/2003
  3.      19,916  Holy Cross vs. Southern Illinois  3/16/2007
  4.      19,235  Holy Cross at Syracuse            11/27/2006
  5.      19,232  Holy Cross at Louisville          12/7/2003

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders finished the 2006-2007 season ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in eight statistical categories. In addition, guard Keith Simmons and guard Torey Thomas were both ranked among the national leaders in two categories. The rankings:

Category                     Rank  Player / Team    Avg.
Steals                          6  Torey Thomas      2.8
                               11  Holy Cross        9.5
                               26  Keith Simmons     2.3
Scoring Defense                 8  Holy Cross       57.5
Winning Percentage             28  Holy Cross       73.5
Free Throw Percentage          39  Holy Cross       73.4
Rebound Margin                 47  Holy Cross       +4.3
Scoring Margin                 56  Holy Cross       +6.4
Blocked Shots                  56  Tim Clifford      1.9
                               88  Holy Cross        3.6
Field Goal Percentage Defense  63  Holy Cross       41.4
Assists                        75  Torey Thomas      4.7
Scoring                       100  Keith Simmons    16.9

MEISTER LOOKS TO BUILD ON ALL-ROOKIE YEAR: Sophomore forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) is coming off a 2006-2007 season in which he was selected to the Patriot League All-Rookie team. Meister averaged 3.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last year, as the first big man off the bench for the Crusaders. His top game of the season came against Southern Illinois in the NCAA Tournament, when he scored a career-high 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Meister also had a big night in the Patriot League quarterfinal victory over Lafayette, when he just missed a double-double with nine points, nine rebounds and two blocked In addition, he pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds in Holy Cross' victory at Harvard.

HOLY CROSS HAS GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders averaged 32.1 rebounds per game during the 2006-2007 season, and outrebounded their opponents by an average of 4.3 boards per game. Holy Cross really stepped things up in Patriot League regular season play last year, outrebounding the opposition by 8.0 boards per game, while allowing opponents to average just 25.2 rebounds per contest. The Crusaders' top rebounding games last season came against Siena (43-21 edge on the glass) and against Lafayette in the Patriot League Tournament (40-19 rebounding advantage). The rebounding load was well balanced, with five different players averaging at least 3.6 boards per contest. Keith Simmons led the team with 5.8 rebounds per game, while junior forward Alex Vander Baan averaged 5.3 boards per contest. Torey Thomas (4.7 rebounds per game) and senior center Tim Clifford (4.6 rebounds per game) also enjoyed fine seasons on the glass, while sophomore forward Eric Meister chipped in with 3.6 boards per game.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year will mark the 89th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1249-799 (.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.

CRUSADERS CAPTURE REGULAR SEASON TITLE: With the victory at Lehigh on Feb. 25, 2007, 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 teams posted 13-1 records in league play. Prior to last season, Holy Cross won outright Patriot League regular season titles in 2001, 2003 and 2005, while sharing the regular season championship in 1994. The Crusaders are the only team in league history to win more than two outright titles, while their five total championships are tied for the most in conference history with Navy (one outright, four shared) and Bucknell (two outright, three shared).

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross finished the 2006-2007 season ranked 59th in the nation in the Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5730. The Crusaders were 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 ranked as the 103rd 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 EARN FIFTH PATRIOT LEAGUE TOURNAMENT CROWN: Last year, Holy Cross won the fifth Patriot League Tournament title in school history with its 74-66 victory over Bucknell on March 9, 2007. 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.

SCOUTING THE PRIDE: Hofstra is coming off a 2006-2007 season in which it posted an overall record of 22-10, while placing third in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 14-4 mark in league games. Hofstra's top returning scorer is senior guard Antoine Agudio, who averaged 20.2 points per game while hitting 43.3 percent (100 of 231) of his three-point attempts last season. Junior forward Zygis Sestokas should also be one of the Pride's top players, after scoring 6.8 points per game and hitting 44.4 percent (60 of 135) from three-point range a year ago. Hofstra is led by Tom Pecora, who is entering his seventh season as the Pride's head coach. Pecora has led Hofstra to an overall record of 103-82 during his first six seasons, with three trips to the National Invitation Tournament.

EXHIBITION RECAP: Holy Cross played two exhibition games in preparation for the 2007-2008 season, defeating UMass-Lowell 74-57 and falling to Rhode Island College 61-60. In the UMass-Lowell game, senior center Tim Clifford totaled 16 points, five rebounds and six blocked shots, while sophomore forward Adam May (Mentor, Ohio) added 11 points, four rebounds and two assists, and senior guard Kyle Cruze (Knoxville, Tenn.) chipped in with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Against Rhode Island College, junior forward Alex Vander Baan led the team with 15 points and five rebounds, while May recorded 14 points and four rebounds off the bench.

HOLY CROSS ON THE RADIO: Once again this season, a number of the Crusaders' basketball contests have been carried by WTAG 580 AM in Worcester. For the 19th straight season, Bob Fouracre will call the play-by-play for most of the games. In addition, Jeremy Lechan and Dick Lutsk are in their fourth year on the Holy Cross broadcast crew, and will handle either play-by-play or color commentary for selected games. WTAG is currently scheduled to air 17 of the Crusaders' 28 regular season games. All 28 regular season games will also be carried live over the internet at "www.sportsjuice.com". In addition, the Holy Cross student station, WCHC 88.1 FM, has carried a number of games this year.

CRUSADERS ON TELEVISION: Holy Cross is currently scheduled to have eight games shown on live television during the 2007-2008 season. The Crusaders had 13 television appearances last year, and 10 television games during both the 2005-2006 and 2004-2005 campaigns. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule for the 2007-2008 season:

Date     Opponent           Television Outlet
Jan. 2   Boston University  WCTR-TV3
Jan. 8   Maryland           Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic
Jan. 12  Lafayette          Lafayette Sports Network
Jan. 18  Bucknell           ESPNU
Feb. 2   Lehigh             ESPNU
Feb. 16  Bucknell           ESPN2
Feb. 27  Colgate            WCTR-TV3
Feb. 29  Lehigh             ESPNU

CRUSADER ALL-ACCESS: Live video streaming of a number of Holy Cross basketball games will be available over the internet through Crusader All-Access. The package, done in association with College Sports Television Online, is available for a $9.95 monthly subscription. For details on how to sign up for Crusader All-Access, click here.

DRIBBLES: The Crusaders went 4-0 in overtime games last season, and have now won their last seven overtime contests ... Last season, Tim Clifford and Alex Vander Baan both broke the all-time Holy Cross single season records for games played and games started. They both had 34 appearances and starts last year. Eric Meister also broke the record for games played, as he has appeared in all 34 contests last 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, 2006-Feb. 6, 2007, 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, 2006, marking the first time in school history Holy Cross made all of its free throw attempts ... The Crusaders are ranked 16th in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 Poll from CollegeInsider.com, released on October 24.