Holy Cross Heads South For Contest At Hampton

Nov. 16, 2007

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (2-0, 0-0 PL) vs. Hampton (1-2, 0-0 MEAC)
Date: November 17, 2007
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Place: Hampton Convocation Center (7,200), Hampton, Va.
Holy Cross Radio: Jeremy Lechan, play-by-play; www.sportsjuice.com, internet
Hampton Radio: Rob Dixon, play-by-play; WHOV 88.1 FM, Hampton, Va.
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 2-0
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 62, Hampton 47 (November 15, 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 HAMPTON: This will be only the third meeting between the Crusaders and the Pirates on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 2-0. Last season, the Crusaders recorded a 62-47 victory over the Pirates at the Hart Center. Previously, Holy Cross posted a 61-56 victory at the New Orleans Christmas Classic on Dec. 27, 1996. This will also be only the fourth time the Crusaders have played a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, with Holy Cross standing 3-0 all-time (including a 65-59 victory over Florida A&M on Nov. 23, 1996).

SERIES QUICK FACTS:
Overall: Holy Cross leads, 2-0
In Hampton: First Meeting
At the Hampton Convocation Center: First Meeting
Ralph Willard vs. Hampton: 1-0
Kevin Nickelberry vs. Holy Cross: 0-1
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, two games

CRUSADERS OFF TO FAST START: If Holy Cross can defeat Hampton on Nov. 17, it would start the season 3-0 for the third time in the last four seasons. The Crusaders' best start during Ralph Willard's tenure as head coach came last season, when they won their first five games of the year. During the 2006-2007 campaign, Holy Cross opened with victories over Fairfield (67-65 in overtime), Hampton (62-47), Siena (65-57), Harvard (82-69) and William & Mary (66-57). The Crusaders also opened 3-0 in 2004-2005, when they posted wins over Boston University (58-48), Harvard (60-52) and Marist (79-52). Holy Cross has not won six straight games to open a season since the 1988-1989 campaign, when they started 6-0 with wins over Mount St. Mary's (90-82), New Hampshire (89-73), Assumption (105-84), Harvard (91-74), Fordham (79-68) and Boston College (85-80).

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. Through the first two contests of the season, Doherty has averaged 14.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. In the victory at Fairfield, he totaled 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals, after tying his career-high with 18 points against Hofstra, to go along with four assists and three rebounds. In 28 games played last season, Doherty averaged 5.3 points, 2.2 assists, 1.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest. His 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. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, he has now totaled 333 points, 147 assists, 103 rebounds and 69 steals.

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. Through the first two contests of the season, he has averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. In the season opener against Hofstra, Vander Baan pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds, in addition to recording 10 points, three assists and three blocks. He then totaled 11 points and four rebounds in the victory at Fairfield. 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 recorded 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 435 points, 357 rebounds, 102 assists, 49 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 first two games of the season, Clifford had totaled 10 points, eight rebounds and three 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 735 points, 364 rebounds and 146 blocked shots. He currently stands just seven blocks away from Nate Lufkin's school record of 153 career blocked shots, while needing 265 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 for the third time in his career. 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 161-89 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 305-213. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

FAIRFIELD RECAP: Colin Cunningham scored a career-high 17 points, to lead Holy Cross to a 67-54 victory over Fairfield at the Arena at Harbor Yard on November 13, 2007. Cunningham scored 15 of his points in the second half, including a perfect 10 of 10 performance on the free throw line. After Fairfield opened the game with an early 4-2 lead, Holy Cross went on a 11-0 run to go in front by nine points (13-4). The Stags were able to get as close as five points, before a 7-0 spurt by the Crusaders built their lead up to 12 points, 27-15 with five minutes left in the first half. Holy Cross eventually led 36-27 at the break. The Crusaders increased their lead back up to 12 points (43-31) with 14:51 left to play, before Fairfield went on a 7-0 run to get back into the game. The Stags eventually trimmed the lead down to four points (48-44) with nine minutes remaining, before Holy Cross turned up its play on defense. The Crusaders would go on a 15-2 spurt over the next six minutes to put the game away, including five points by Cunningham. Holy Cross would lead by as many as 13 points, eventually winning 67-54. Pat Doherty totaled 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Crusaders, while Alex Vander Baan added 11 points and four rebounds. Fairfield was led by Yorel Hawkins with 11 points and four boards.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross should once again be among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2007-2008. In two games played so far this season, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 50.5 points per contest, 33.7 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross is also outrebounding the opposition by 12.0 boards per game, while forcing 14.0 turnovers per contest. 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. 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).

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, Meister scored seven points and pulled down nine rebounds. He then had four points and five rebounds in the victory at Fairfield. 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 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).

THE LAST MEETING WITH HAMPTON: Keith Simmons totaled 19 points, six rebounds and two assists, to lead the Crusaders to a 62-47 victory over Hampton at the Hart Center on Nov. 15, 2006. Holy Cross started the game hot, jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead after just two minutes of play, as Simmons scored five points during that stretch. Hampton fought back to tie the score at 13-13, before the Crusaders used an 11-2 run to go up by 11 (24-13) with 7:20 left in the first half. The Pirates continued to hang tough, and trailed just 30-24 at the half, following a three-pointer by Junior Pehoua with just two seconds remaining. Hampton then came out of the locker room on fire to start the second half, using an 8-0 spurt to claim its first lead of the game, 32-30 with 16:43 left to play. The score stayed close for the next several minutes, and the Crusaders were up by two (46-44) with 7:58 remaining. But Holy Cross would then go on an 8-0 to put the game away, with Alex Vander Baan scoring five points during that spurt. Holy Cross went on to hold the Pirates to just three points over the final 7:58, and eventually pulled away for the 15-point victory, despite making just five of 11 free throws in the final four minutes of play. Vander Baan finished the night with nine points and six rebounds, while Torey Thomas added 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals. Tim Clifford also had a solid game with six points, a team-high eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Hampton was led by Pehoua with 16 points and three rebounds, while Kevin Clark and Adrian Woodard both added six points.

HOLY CROSS HAS GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders should once again be an outstanding rebounding team this year. Holy Cross has outrebounded each of its first two opponents, while averaging 39.0 rebounds per game and outrebounding the opposition by 12.0 boards per contest. The rebounding load has been well balanced, with five different players averaging at least 4.0 rebounds per game. Junior forward Alex Vander Baan leads the team with an average of 9.5 rebounds per game, followed by sophomore forward Eric Meister with 7.0 boards per contest. Junior guard Pat Doherty and sophomore forward Adam May (Mentor, Ohio) are both adding 5.0 rebounds per game, while senior center Tim Clifford is chipping in 4.0 boards per contest. Last season, the Crusaders averaged 32.1 rebounds per game, 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. Five different players averaged at least 3.6 boards per contest for Holy Cross in 2006-2007.

HOLY CROSS SHOWS BALANCE ON OFFENSE: The Crusaders graduated the top two scorers off of their 2006-2007 team in Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas, but a number of players have stepped up on the offensive end to make up for those losses. All five of Holy Cross' starters and two players off the bench are averaging at least five points per game so far this season. Junior guard Pat Doherty leads the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game, followed by junior forward Alex Vander Baan and junior forward Colin Cunningham (Memphis, Tenn.) at 10.5 points per contest. Senior guard Kyle Cruze has added 9.5 points per game, with sophomore forward Adam May chipping in 7.5 points per contest. Sophomore forward Eric Meister (5.5 points per game) and senior center Tim Clifford (5.0 points per game) have also given positive contributions on the offensive end of the court this season.

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 1251-799 (.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 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 PIRATES: Hampton enters the game with an overall record of 1-2 on the year. The Pirates opened the season with a 72-55 victory over Tulsa, before falling to both Maryland (70-64) and Kent State (77-71) on the road. Senior guard Rashad West has averaged 21.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, while hitting 47.8 percent (11 of 23) of his three-point field goal attempts. Sophomore guard Vincent Simpson is also off to a strong start, averaging 18.3 points and 2.7 steals per game. Hampton is led by Kevin Nickelberry, who is in his second season as the Pirates head coach, with an overall record of 16-18. Nickelberry previously spent three years as an assistant coach at Clemson, and was an assistant coach at Holy Cross from 1999-2001.

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 the victory over Hofstra on Nov. 10, the Crusaders improved to 64-25 all-time in their opening game of the season, including a 7-2 mark under Ralph Willard, Holy Cross also upped its record to 26-7 in home openers since moving into the Hart Center ... Junior forward Colin Cunningham set a new career-high with 17 points scored in the victory at Fairfield ... 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.