November 16, 2005

Crusaders Set To Open Up Season Against High Point

Nov. 16, 2005

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (0-0, 0-0 PL) vs. High Point (0-0, 0-0 Big South)
Event: William & Mary Tip-Off Classic
Date: November 18, 2005
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Place: William & Mary Hall (8,600), Williamsburg, Va.
Holy Cross Radio: Dick Lutsk, play-by-play; WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet
High Point Radio: Alan York, play-by-play; Lee Owen, color; WIST 98.3 FM & WZXY 790 AM, Thomasville, N.C.
Series Record: First Meeting

PROBABLE HOLY CROSS STARTERS:
Pos.  No.  Name               Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      10  Keith Simmons      6-4   210   Jr.
F      21  Alex Vander Baan   6-8   195   Fr.
C      41  Kevin Hyland       6-8   245   Sr.
G       1  Torey Thomas      5-11   170   Jr.
G      14  Kevin Hamilton     6-4   190   Sr.

THE SERIES WITH HIGH POINT: This will be the first-ever meeting between the Crusaders and the Panthers. The contest will also mark only the third game for Holy Cross against a current member of the Big South Conference. The Crusaders have a 1-1 mark against Big South members, falling to Radford 66-49 on Dec. 28, 2001, at the State Farm Classic in Charleston, S.C., while defeating North Carolina-Asheville 84-53 at the Hart Center on Dec. 22, 2002. Holy Cross also stands 8-11 all-time against schools from the state of North Carolina (1-0 vs. Belmont Abbey, 2-2 vs. Davidson, 0-1 vs. Duke, 1-1 vs. North Carolina, 1-0 vs. North Carolina-Asheville, 0-1 vs. North Carolina-Charlotte, 2-4 vs. North Carolina State, 1-2 vs. Wake Forest).

HAMILTON AND HYLAND NAMED CAPTAINS: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton (Queens Village, N.Y.) has been selected as the Crusaders' captain for the 2005-2006 season, while senior forward Kevin Hyland (White Plains, N.Y.) will serve as Holy Cross' co-captain. Both players are three-year letterwinners for the Crusaders, and will take over the leadership role from John Hurley and Greg Kinsey, who served as the Crusaders co-captains as seniors during the 2004-2005 season.

FOR OPENERS: Holy Cross owns an all-time record of 61-25 in its opening game of the season. This year will mark the 47th time the Crusaders have opened the season on the road, with Holy Cross posting a 28-18 mark in the previous 45 contests. Since Ralph Willard took over as head coach, the Crusaders stand 4-2 in season openers. Over the last five years, Holy Cross has defeated Providence (54-43 in 1999-2000), Quinnipiac (85-57 in 2001-2002) and Boston University (59-57 in 2003-2004; 58-48 in 2004-2005) 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.

CRUSADERS PICKED SECOND IN PRESEASON POLL: In the 2005-2006 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 (98 points). Holy Cross received two first-place votes in the poll, with the Bison accounting for the other 14 first-place votes. Following the Crusaders in the poll were Lehigh (third, 65 points), Colgate (fourth, 59 points), American (fifth, 55 points), Navy (sixth, 42 points), Lafayette (seventh, 26 points) and Army (eighth, 17 points).

HAMILTON AND SIMMONS NAMED PRESEASON ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton and junior guard Keith Simmons (Kingston, N.Y.) were both named preseason All-Patriot League, in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. Holy Cross was one of only two teams in the league to place more than one player on the preseason all-conference team. Along with Hamilton and Simmons, other selections to the squad were Bucknell junior center Chris McNaughton, American junior guard Andre Ingram and Bucknell senior guard Charles Lee. All five players on the preseason All-Patriot League squad were also on last year's postseason All-Patriot League first team.

CRUSADERS LOOK TO STAY TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross should once again be among the top defensive teams in the nation this year, after having an outstanding defensive season in 2004-2005. Last year, the Crusaders allowed their opponents to average just 56.8 points per game, while holding 22 of their 32 foes to under 60 points in regulation. On Jan. 12, Holy Cross held Army to the lowest point total by an opponent (29) since the Crusaders defeated Tufts 71-29 on Jan. 11, 1947. Holy Cross also forced its opponents to commit an average of 17.1 turnovers per game, including 26 by Harvard and 25 by both Minnesota and Fordham. In addition, the Crusaders averaged 10.3 steals and 5.0 blocks per contest, while outrebounding the opposition by 4.3 boards per game and holding opponents to 38.9 percent shooting from the field. Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Holy Cross has never allowed its opponents to average over 60 points per game for a season, while holding the opposition to only 58.4 points per contest during that span. In addition, the Crusaders have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense during each of the last four 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).

HAMILTON LOOKS TO HAVE ANOTHER OUTSTANDING SEASON: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton should contend for All-America honors this year, after being named the Patriot League Player of the Year in 2004-2005. Hamilton was also a first team All-Patriot League selection last season, while being named to the All-Patriot League Tournament team and earning honorable mention All-America honors from the Associated Press. In 32 games played last year, Hamilton averaged 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.8 assists. He led the team in scoring 21 times, and has now scored in double figures 53 times during his Holy Cross career, including 43 times in his last 48 games. This season, Hamilton can become only the third two-time Patriot League Player of the Year selection in conference history, as the only previous players to accomplish the feat are Adonal Foyle (Colgate, 1996 and 1997) and Brian Ehlers (Lafayette, 1999 and 2000).

STEALING THE SHOW: In 32 games played last season, Holy Cross recorded 329 steals, good for an average of 10.3 steals per game. The Crusaders reached double figures in steals for a game 15 times last season, with highs of 20 at Harvard, 18 against Iona and 16 at Fordham. Leading the way was guard Kevin Hamilton, who totaled 92 steals last year. Hamilton set a new Holy Cross single season record for steals (breaking the mark of 78 by Gordon Hamilton in 1993-1994), and nearly broke the Patriot League single season record (94 by Mike Bright of Bucknell in 1992-1993). As a team, the Crusaders broke the school single season record for steals (old mark was 304 in 1992-1993) and came close to the Patriot League single season record of 352 (Navy, 1999-2000).

SIMMONS LOOKS TO SHINE AS A STARTER: Sophomore guard Keith Simmons will move into the starting lineup for the Crusaders this season, after serving as Holy Cross' sixth man in 2004-2005. Even though he came off the bench in every game last year, Simmons earned first team All-Patriot League honors in voting by the conference's head coaches. In 32 games played, he averaged 12.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest, while hitting 50.6 percent of his field goals (132 of 261) and 42.0 percent of his three-pointers (50 of 119). His top game during his sophomore season came at Brown, when he scored a career-high 30 points on 11 of 14 shooting from the floor, including a six of six performance from beyond the three-point line. Simmons also had a strong freshman season in which he was named to the 2003-2004 Patriot League All-Rookie team, after averaging 8.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, and leading the Patriot League in three-point field goal percentage (.458, 33 of 72). He enters the 2005-2006 season with a career field goal percentage of 48.1 (213 of 443), while hitting 43.5 percent (83 of 191) of his three-point attempts.

HOLY CROSS IN REGULAR SEASON TOURNAMENTS: The Crusaders will be taking part in a regular season tournament for the 72nd time in school history at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic. Holy Cross has an all-time record of 68-83 in regular season tournaments, including a mark of 4-15 over the last eight seasons. The Crusaders have won the title of 11 regular season tournaments, with the last coming during the 1982-1983 season, when Holy Cross defeated Davidson (65-62) and Iona (66-65) to capture the championship of the Worcester County Classic, played at the Worcester Centrum.

HAMILTON CLIMBS THE CAREER CHARTS: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton has put his name among the all-time leaders at Holy Cross in a number of statistical categories. Entering the 2005-2006 season, Hamilton is already the Crusaders' all-time leader in career three-point field goals made (159) and attempted (450). He also has a good chance to become Holy Cross' all-time leader in steals, as he currently has 190, standing just 56 behind current record-holder Jave Meade (246 steals, 2000-2004). In addition, within the next few weeks Hamilton should become the 41st player in school history to score 1,000 career points. He currently has 945 points as a Crusader, needing just 55 more to join the 1,000-point club.

THE ROAD WARRIORS: Holy Cross posted an impressive 13-4 record last year in games away from the Hart Center, including an eight-game winning streak away from home. During that eight-game span, the Crusaders recorded road wins over Notre Dame (78-73), Colgate (59-46), American (76-67 in overtime), Navy (68-66), Lehigh (58-56), Lafayette (74-57) and Army (66-29), and a neutral court victory over Iona (78-53) at the DCU Center. That marked the longest road winning streak for Holy Cross since the 1953-1954 NIT championship team won 12 straight away from home, downing Springfield (92-68), Yale (87-57), Canisius (88-76) and Dartmouth (76-60) on the road; Niagara (93-85 in overtime), Boston College (82-77), St. John's (78-58), Fordham (68-54) and Temple (85-73) at Boston Garden; and St. Francis (93-69), Western Kentucky (75-69) and Duquesne (71-62) at Madison Square Garden.

HEAD COACH RALPH WILLARD: Ralph Willard is now in his seventh season as the Crusaders' head coach, and currently owns a mark of 114-68 during his time in Worcester. Willard 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). With last year's victory over Lafayette on Feb. 11, he moved past Roy Leenig (106-48 / 1955-1961) and Jack Donohue (106-66 / 1965-1972). 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 258-192. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

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 17th 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 second year on the Holy Cross broadcast crew, and will handle either play-by-play or color commentary for selected games. Most games will be carried over the internet at "www.sportsjuice.com", including a few games which are not on WTAG. The Holy Cross student station, WCHC 88.1 FM, will also carry a number of games this year.

CRUSADERS ON TELEVISION: Holy Cross is currently scheduled to have seven games shown on live television during the 2005-2006 season, with a number of other television appearances still to be announced. Last year the Crusaders had 10 television appearances, including three games which were shown on ESPN2. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule for the 2005-2006 campaign:

Date     Opponent            Television Outlet
Dec. 1   Siena               Time Warner
Jan. 2   Boston University   NESN
Jan. 14  Bucknell            CSTV
Jan. 17  Boston College      NESN
Jan. 28  Lehigh              Fox College Sports / Service Electric
Feb. 4   Lafayette           Lafayette Sports Network
Feb. 26  Lehigh              CSTV

THOMAS RETURNS TO STARTING ROLE: Junior point guard Torey Thomas (White Plains, N.Y.) should once again be one of the Crusaders' top players this season. Last year, Thomas played in 31 games with 22 starts, averaging 7.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.8 steals per contest. He also posted a 2.04-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, a mark which was the best in the Patriot League. Thomas also led the team and ranked third in the league in assists, while placing second on the team and fifth in the conference in steals. During his first two years in a Holy Cross uniform, Thomas has now totaled 383 points, 185 rebounds, 155 assists and 96 steals.

DOHERTY COMING OFF STELLAR ROOKIE SEASON: Sophomore guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) looks to once again be a key part of the Crusaders' backcourt this season, after earning Patriot League Rookie of the Year honors in 2004-2005. In 32 games played last season, Doherty averaged 4.3 points and 2.2 assists per contest. He played particularly well in Patriot League regular season games, averaging 6.8 points and 2.8 assists, while hitting 41.9 percent of his three-point attempts (18 of 43). Doherty also finished his freshman campaign ranked 14th in the Patriot League in assists, despite playing just 15.6 minutes per contest.

HYLAND LOOKS TO BE A FORCE DOWN LOW: Senior forward Kevin Hyland was the first big man off the bench for the Crusaders a year ago, and looks to earn a starting role for Holy Cross in 2005-2006. In 32 games played last year, Hyland averaged 4.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per contest. He was also one of the most accurate shooters on the team, hitting on 59.8 percent (55 of 92) of his field goal attempts. Entering his final season with the Crusaders, Hyland has totaled 209 points, 128 rebounds and 46 blocks, while shooting 54.3 percent (89 of 164) from the floor.

CLIFFORD LOOKS TO PLAY KEY MINUTES IN THE MIDDLE: Sophomore center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) should be one of the Crusaders' top players in the low post positions this year. In 28 games played last season, Clifford averaged 2.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest. He was particularly impressive in the three games starting center Nate Lufkin missed due to injury, averaging 10.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.7 blocks in those contests. Clifford also finished the year ranked fifth in the Patriot League with his 31 blocked shots.

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: The Crusaders concluded the 2004-2005 season ranked 49th in the nation in the Ratings Percentage Index, according to Collegiate Basketball News. In the final ratings, Holy Cross had an RPI of .5657, to place ahead of NCAA tournament participants Alabama-Birmingham (54th), North Carolina State (56th), Iowa (59th) and Iowa State (70th). The Crusaders' non-conference schedule ranked as the 84th-toughest in the country, including games against three teams which finished the year ranked in the top 50 (No. 13 Boston College, No. 21 Vermont and No. 50 Northeastern). Holy Cross was the second-highest rated team out of the Patriot League, coming in behind only Bucknell (39th, .5709).

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross posted a 12-3 mark at the Hart Center last season, improving its all-time record in the building to 265-103. The Crusaders had a 10-game winning streak at the Hart Center last year, including nine straight victories against Patriot League foes. During those games against conference opponents, Holy Cross won by an average of 18.7 points per contest, with all but one game being decided by at least 10 points. Since the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, the Crusaders now have an overall mark of 53-10 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 26 out of 30 seasons, while posting double-figure home victories 13 times.

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in six different statistical categories at the conclusion of the 2004-2005 season. In addition, guard Kevin Hamilton was listed among the nation's leaders in steals. The rankings:

Category                     Rank  Player / Team    Avg. / No.
Scoring Defense                 5  Holy Cross             55.8
Steals                          6  Holy Cross             10.3
                                8  Kevin Hamilton          2.9
Field Goal Percentage Defense   7  Holy Cross             38.9
Won-Lost Percentage            20  Holy Cross             78.1
Scoring Margin                 23  Holy Cross            +10.1
Blocked Shots                  26  Holy Cross              5.0

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year will mark the 87th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1204-777 (.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 nine players on to professional basketball, 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.

SCOUTING THE PANTHERS: High Point is coming off a 2004-2005 season in which it posted an overall record of 13-18, with a 7-9 mark in the Big South Conference. The Panthers lost the top four scorers off last year's team, but do return two players who started at least 10 games in senior guard Scott Akeem (7.3 ppg) and senior forward Issa Konare (4.0 ppg). High Point also has eight freshman and a transfer on its roster this season. Head coach Bart Lundy is in his third season with the Panthers, and owns an overall record of 32-29. His career record stands at 147-68, including five years at Division II Queens (N.C.) University.