November 12, 2007

Men's Basketball Travels To Fairfield On Tuesday Night

Nov. 12, 2007

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (1-0, 0-0 PL) vs. Fairfield (0-1, 0-0 MAAC)
Date: November 13, 2007
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Arena at Harbor Yard (9,500), Bridgeport, Conn.
Holy Cross Radio: Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet
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, 20-15
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 67, Fairfield 65 (OT, November 12, 2006; Worcester, Mass.)

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 FAIRFIELD: This will be the 36th meeting between the Crusaders and the Stags on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 20-15. The Crusaders have won the last six games between the schools, including last year's 67-65 overtime victory in Worcester. For games played in Connecticut, the Stags hold a 7-6 advantage, with a 6-4 mark in Fairfield and a 1-2 record in New Haven. 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, 20-15
In Bridgeport: First Meeting
At the Arena at Harbor Yard: First Meeting
Ralph Willard vs. Fairfield: 1-0
Ed Cooley vs. Holy Cross: 0-1
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, six games

HOLY CROSS TAKES SEASON OPENER: The Crusaders began the 2007-2008 season by posting a 61-47 victory against Hofstra. With that win, Holy Cross improved its all-time record in its opening game of the season to 64-25, including a 38-6 mark at home. Since Ralph Willard took over as head coach, the Crusaders now stand 7-2 in season openers. During the Willard era, 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).

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.

DOHERTY TAKES OVER AT THE POINT: Junior guard Pat Doherty has taken over as the starting point guard for the Crusaders this year, after serving as the first guard off the bench in 2006-2007. Against Hofstra in the season opener, Doherty tied his career-high with 18 points, to go along with four assists and three rebounds. 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 last 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 season, after missing the majority of the 2005-2006 campaign due to injury, and receiving a medical redshirt. As a freshman in 2004-2005, Doherty was honored as the Patriot League Rookie of the Year.

VANDER BAAN RETURNS TO STARTING LINEUP: Junior forward Alex Vander Baan is once again be a key member of the Holy Cross lineup this season. In the season opener against Hofstra, he pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds, in addition to recording 10 points, three assists and three blocks. 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 424 points, 353 rebounds, 100 assists, 48 steals and 24 blocked shots.

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 the season opener against Hofstra, Clifford had six points, three rebounds and two blocks. 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 731 points, 359 rebounds and 145 blocked shots. He currently stands just eight blocks away from Nate Lufkin's school record of 153 career blocked shots, while needing 269 points to become Holy Cross' 44th 1,000-point scorer.

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 160-89 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 304-213. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

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. In the season opener against Hofstra, he scored seven points and pulled down nine rebounds. Last year, Meister averaged 3.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game as the first big man off the bench for the Crusaders. His top game last season came against Southern Illinois in the NCAA Tournament, when he scored a career-high 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Meister also had a big night in the 2007 Patriot League quarterfinal victory over Lafayette, when he just missed a double-double with nine points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. In addition, he pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds in last year's victory at Harvard.

CRUSADERS LOOK TO REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross should once again be among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2007-2008. In the opener against Hofstra, Holy Cross held the Pride to just 47 points on 26.5 percent shooting from the field. 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 58.5 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).

HOLY CROSS HAS GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders should once again be a strong rebounding team this year, after totaling 45 boards and outrebounding Hofstra by 11 in the 2007-2008 opener. 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.

THE LAST MEETING WITH FAIRFIELD: Torey Thomas hit a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining in overtime, to break a 65-65 tie and lead Holy Cross to a 67-65 victory over Fairfield at the Hart Center on Nov. 12, 2006. Thomas finished the game with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals, while hitting six of nine field goals, six of eight free throws and both of his three-point attempts. The Stags jumped out to a 63-59 lead half-way through the overtime period, before Keith Simmons hit a free throw and a three-pointer to tie the score at 63-63. Thomas then made a pair of free throws to give the Crusaders the lead, before Greg Nero hit a basket in the paint to tie the score at 65-65 with 34 seconds remaining. Thomas would hit the game-winning free throws on the next possession, and Fairfield could manage only a desperation shot from mid-court before time expired. Holy Cross led by an many as 14 points in the first half and nine points early in the second half, and was still up by six (52-46) with four and a half minutes left in regulation. Fairfield then scored six straight points to tie the score at 52-52, before Tim Clifford made a layup and a pair of free throws to give the Crusaders a four-point lead with one minute remaining. But Fairfield's Mike Van Schaick hit a three-pointer to trim the lead to one point, and with less than a second remaining, Holy Cross was called for a foul to give the Stags a chance to win the game. Danny Oglesby hit his first free throw to tie the score, but missed the second and the game went on to overtime. Simmons finished the afternoon with 18 points, five steals and two rebounds, while Nero led Fairfield with 23 points and six rebounds.

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.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 89th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1250-799 (.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.

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.

CRUSADERS EXTEND HART CENTER WINNING STREAK: Holy Cross currently owns a 19-game winning streak at the Hart Center, including 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 292-104 all-time at the Hart Center, including a 79-12 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.  19 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

SCOUTING THE STAGS: Fairfield is coming off a 2006-2007 season in which it posted an overall record of 13-19, while placing fifth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with a 10-8 mark in league games. The Stags opened the 2007-2008 campaign with an 85-60 loss at Wake Forest on Nov. 9. Junior forward Mike Evanovich totaled 20 points, five steals, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks against the Demon Deacons, while making all five of his three-point attempts. Sophomore forward Anthony Johnson had a team-best seven rebounds and six points against Wake Forest, while sophomore guard Devin Johnson dished out six assists. Fairfield is led by Ed Cooley, who is in his second season as a collegiate head coach with a 13-20 record. Prior to his time with the Stags, Cooley spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at Boston College.

HOLY CROSS ON THE RADIO: Once again this season, a number of the Crusaders' basketball contests will be carried by WTAG 580 AM in Worcester. For the 19th straight season, Bob Fouracre will call the play-by-play for most of the games. In addition, Jeremy Lechan and Dick Lutsk are in their fourth year on the Holy Cross broadcast crew, and will handle either play-by-play or color commentary for selected games. WTAG is currently scheduled to air 17 of the Crusaders' 28 regular season games. All 28 regular season games will also be carried live over the internet at "www.sportsjuice.com". In addition, the Holy Cross student station, WCHC 88.1 FM, 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: With Saturday's victory over Hofstra, Holy Cross improved to 26-7 in home openers at the Hart Center, with a 7-2 mark under Ralph Willard ... Senior guard Kyle Cruze scored 10 points in the victory over Hofstra, marking just the second time he has reached double-figures in his collegiate career ... Sophomore forward Adam May (Mentor, Ohio) had six points and a career-best eight rebounds in the season-opening victory over Harvard ... The Crusaders went 4-0 in overtime games last season, and have now won their last seven overtime contests ... Last year, 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.