Holy Cross Puts Winning Streak On The Line At Harvard

Nov. 20, 2006

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The Teams: Holy Cross (3-0, 0-0 PL) vs. Harvard (1-2, 0-0 Ivy)
Date: November 21, 2006
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Lavietes Pavilion (2,050), Cambridge, Mass.
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
Harvard Radio: Dave Jageler, play-by-play; Jay Pearlman, color; WAGM 890 AM, Boston; WLLH 1400 AM, Lowell
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 39-20
Last Meeting: Harvard 70, Holy Cross 55 (November 22, 2005, Worcester, Mass.)

Pos.  No.  Name                Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      33  Colin Cunningham    6-6   205   So.
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      10  Keith Simmons       6-5   205   Sr.

THE SERIES WITH HARVARD: This will be the 60th meeting between the Crusaders and the Crimson on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 39-20. The Crusaders had won five straight meetings in the series, before Harvard posted a 70-55 victory at the Hart Center last season. For games played in Cambridge, Holy Cross holds a 20-7 advantage, including a 9-3 record at Lavietes Pavilion. Holy Cross and Harvard first met on January 15, 1901, with the Crimson posting a 20-10 victory in Worcester.

Overall: Holy Cross leads, 39-20
In Cambridge: Holy Cross leads, 20-7
At Lavietes Pavilion: Holy Cross leads, 9-3
Ralph Willard vs. Harvard: 5-2
Frank Sullivan vs. Holy Cross: 5-10
Current Win Streak: Harvard, one game
In Overtime: Harvard leads, 1-0

CRUSADERS OFF TO FAST START: Holy Cross has opened the season with three straight victories, marking the second time in the last three years the Crusaders have started at 3-0. The only other 3-0 start of the Ralph Willard era came in 2004-2005, when Holy Cross opened with victories over Boston University (58-48), Harvard (60-52) and Marist (79-52). Holy Cross has not won four 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). Overall, the longest season-opening winning streak in school history came during the 1949-1950 season, when the Crusaders won their first 26 games. Holy Cross has also opened up the season with at least five straight victories on 10 occasions.

SIMMONS HAS STRONG START TO SEASON: Senior guard Keith Simmons (Kingston, N.Y.) has started the season hot, averaging 18.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in the first three games of the year. Against Siena on Saturday, he posted his second career double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He previously totaled 19 points, six rebounds and two assists against Hampton, after recording 18 points, five steals and two rebounds in the victory over Fairfield. Prior to the start of the year, Simmons was selected as a 2006-2007 preseason mid-major All-American by CollegeInsider.com (one of just 25 players from across the nation to be chosen to the squad). He was also 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 the Harvard game, Simmons has scored 1,133 career points as a Crusader, while making 49.6 percent of his field goal attempts (390 of 786) and 44.7 percent from three-point range (147 of 329). He is currently the all-time Patriot League leader in career three-point field goal percentage, and while ranking second all-time at Holy Cross in three-point field goals made and 28th in points scored.

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross stands 3-0 at the Hart Center so far this season, and now owns an all-time record of 279-105 in the building. The Crusaders went 11-2 at the Hart Center last season with an 8-1 mark against Patriot League opponents, 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 67-12 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 SHINES IN SENIOR SEASON: Senior point guard Torey Thomas (White Plains, N.Y.) 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. In Saturday's victory over Siena, Thomas recorded 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. He previously totaled 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals against Hampton, while posting 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals against Fairfield, including a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining in overtime to win the game. Through three games, Thomas is now averaging 16.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.3 steals per contest. A year ago he averaged 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals per game, 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 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 786 points, 369 rebounds, 321 assists and 183 steals. He currently ranks fourth all-time at Holy Cross in career steals, and ninth in career assists.

STEALING THE SHOW: Holy Cross has opened the 2006-2007 season by averaging 13.0 steals per game, including a high of 16 steals against Fairfield. Senior guard Torey Thomas currently has a team-high 10 steals so far this season, while senior guard Keith Simmons and sophomore guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) have added seven steals each. 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 last year, while Thomas added 77 steals last season. With his 102 total steals, Hamilton set new Holy Cross and Patriot League single season records. Hamilton's average of 3.3 steals per game last year also set a new Patriot League single season record.

SIENA RECAP: Keith Simmons recorded 18 points and a career high-tying 11 rebounds, to lead Holy Cross to a 65-57 victory over Siena at the Hart Center. Simmons posted the second double-double of his collegiate career, while Alex Vander Baan added 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. The teams traded baskets early in the game, and the Crusaders held a 16-14 lead with 10 minutes left to play before the break. Siena then went on an 11-0 run over the next two minutes, to build its largest lead of the day (25-16). But Holy Cross responded with an 18-4 run to close out the half, taking a 34-29 lead into the locker room. The Crusaders stayed hot to start the second half, using a 10-2 run to take a 13-point lead (44-31) with 15 minutes left in regulation. But the Saints came right back with a 13-2 spurt to make it a two-point game, and eventually tied the score at 50-50 with six minutes remaining. Holy Cross was able to go back in front by two, before David Ryan hit a three-pointer to give Siena its first lead of the second half (55-54), with just 3:12 left to play. But Vander Baan made a put back after an offensive rebound on the next possession, igniting an 11-1 run which put the game away. Overall the Crusaders held the Saints to just two points over the final three minutes of play. Torey Thomas scored a game-high 20 points for Holy Cross, to go along with five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Michael Haddix led Siena with 13 points and four rebounds, while Ryan and Kenny Hasbrouck scored 11 points each. As a team, the Crusaders posted a 43-21 rebounding advantage, in addition to posting 11 steals.

CRUSADERS LOOK TO REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross should once again be among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2006-2007. Through the first three games of the year, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 56.3 points per game, in addition to averaging 13.0 steals per contest. 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 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 58.9 points per contest. In addition, the Crusaders ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense in 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).

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 137-80 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 281-204. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH HARVARD: All five Harvard starters scored in double figures, as the Crimson posted a 70-55 victory over Holy Cross at the Hart Center on Nov. 22, 2005. Jim Goffredo led Harvard with 17 points, while Keith Simmons had a team-high 15 points for the Crusaders. Both teams struggled to score during a first half which featured 14 lead changes. Neither team led by more than three points at any time in the half, before the Crimson took a 24-23 lead into the locker room. Harvard increased its lead to three points (29-26) early in the second half, before Holy Cross went on a 16-4 run to build a nine-point lead (42-33). Six different players scored for the Crusaders during that spurt, and Holy Cross appeared to have the momentum with 10:30 left to play. But the Crusaders then went cold from the field, and would make only one shot from the floor in the next nine minutes. Harvard used a 10-0 run during that time to reclaim the lead, and would gradually build its advantage up to double figures with just 1:32 remaining in the game. The Crimson made 11 of 13 free throw attempts over the final four minutes of play to help secure the victory. Torey Thomas totaled 11 points, five rebounds and four steals for the Crusaders, while Kevin Hamilton added 10 points and six rebounds, while tying a school single-game record with seven steals.

VANDER BAAN LOOKS TO BUILD ON ALL-ROOKIE SEASON: Sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) is 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 Saturday's victory over Siena, Vander Baan posted his first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. He previously recorded nine points and six rebounds against Hampton, and is averaging 8.0 points and 7.0 rebounds through the first three games of the season. In 32 games played last year, Vander Baan 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 last 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.

HOLY CROSS TAKES SEASON OPENER: The Crusaders began the 2006-2007 season by posting a 67-65 overtime victory against Fairfield. With that win, Holy Cross improved its all-time record in its opening game of the season to 63-25, including a 37-6 mark at home. Since Ralph Willard took over as head coach, the Crusaders now stand 6-2 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) 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).

SIMMONS AND THOMAS NAMED CAPTAINS: Senior guard Keith Simmons and senior guard Torey Thomas 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).

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 conclusion of the 2005-2006 season.

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. Through the first three games of 2006-2007, he is averaging 7.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per contest. 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 349 points, 218 rebounds and 86 blocked shots. He currently ranks seventh all-time at Holy Cross in career blocks.

SCOUTING THE CRIMSON: Harvard enters the game with an overall record of 1-2 on the year. The Crimson defeated Maine 75-71 in their season opener, before falling to Boston University (78-74) and Michigan (82-50). Senior center Brian Cusworth leads the team with averages of 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, while hitting 60.0 percent (15 of 25) of his shots from the floor. Senior guard Jim Goffredo (15.0 points per game) and sophomore forward Evan Harris (12.3 points per game) are also scoring in double figures for Harvard. The Crimson are led by head coach Frank Sullivan, who has a 167-231 mark in his 16 years in Cambridge. Sullivan's career record stands at 281-317, including seven seasons at Bentley.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 88th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1227-789 (.609), 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.

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders finished the 2005-2006 season ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in eight statistical categories. In addition, guard Kevin Hamilton and guard Torey Thomas were both ranked among the national leaders in two categories. The rankings:

Category                  Rank  Player / Team    Avg.
Steals                       5  Kevin Hamilton    3.3
                            26  Torey Thomas      2.4
                            26  Holy Cross        9.1
Field Goal Percent Defense  29  Holy Cross       40.2
Scoring Defense             29  Holy Cross       60.5
Rebound Margin              52  Holy Cross       +3.9
Assists                     60  Torey Thomas      4.8
Scoring Margin              62  Holy Cross       +5.9
Free Throw Percentage       81  Holy Cross       71.8
Three-Point Percentage      82  Holy Cross       36.6
Scoring                     84  Kevin Hamilton   17.6
Winning Percentage          87  Holy Cross       62.5

CRUSADERS REACH DOUBLE-FIGURES IN LEAGUE WINS: Holy Cross finished the 2005-2006 regular season with an 11-3 mark in Patriot League play. That marked the sixth time the Crusaders reached double-figures in conference victories, since the Patriot League began play in the 1990-1991 season. The school record for most conference wins is held by the 2002-2003 and 2004-2005 teams, which both posted 13-1 marks in the Patriot League. In addition, the 1992-1993 team went 12-2, the 2000-2001 team was 10-2, and the 1991-1992 team had a 10-4 record. Holy Cross' six seasons with double-figure victories are the most in Patriot League history, as no other school has accomplished the feat more than five times.

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   CSTV / 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

DRIBBLES: Sophomore center Greg McCarthy (Mansfield, Mass.) has totaled eight points and four rebounds, while playing 31 minutes during the first three games of the season. Last year, he totaled four points and one rebound in 15 minutes of action all season ... Freshman forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) has started his collegiate career strong, averaging 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest, while his 15.3 minutes per game are the most of any Holy Cross reserve ... The Crusaders received 64 votes in the preseason Mid-Major Top 25 Poll from CollegeInsider.com.