November 20, 2008

Holy Cross Returns To Action On Saturday At Northeastern

Nov. 20, 2008

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (2-1, 0-0 PL) vs. Northeastern (2-1, 0-0 CAA)
Date: November 22, 2008
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Matthews Arena (6,000), Boston, Mass.
Live Video Streaming: www.gonu.tv
Holy Cross Radio: WWFX 100.1 FM, Worcester; www.worcesterpike.com, internet; Dick Lutsk, play-by-play
Northeastern Radio: WRBB 104.9 FM, Boston; Tom Giles, play-by-play; Jason Levine, color
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 13-4
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 61, Northeastern 47 (February 23, 2008; Worcester, Mass.)


PROBABLE HOLY CROSS STARTERS:
Pos.  No.  Name               Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      21  Alex Vander Baan   6-9   205   Sr.
F      33  Colin Cunningham   6-6   220   Sr.
C      53  Eric Meister       6-8   225   Jr.
G       2  Devin Brown        6-1   190   Fr.
G      12  Adam May           6-8   205   Jr.

THE SERIES WITH NORTHEASTERN: This will be the 18th meeting between the Crusaders and the Huskies on the hardwood, with Holy Cross leading the all-time series 13-4. The two schools last met on Feb. 23, 2008, when the Crusaders posted a 61-47 victory in Worcester. Holy Cross has won the last five meetings in the series, and seven of the last nine. For games played in Boston, the Crusaders hold a 5-2 advantage, including a 1-1 record against the Huskies at Matthews Arena. The schools first met on January 16, 1924, with Holy Cross winning 47-21 in Worcester.

SERIES QUICK FACTS:
Overall: Holy Cross leads, 13-4
In Boston: Holy Cross leads, 5-2
At Matthews Arena: Tied, 1-1
Ralph Willard vs. Northeastern: 5-0
Bill Coen vs. Holy Cross: 0-1
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, 5 games
In Overtime: Tied, 1-1

HOLY CROSS AT MATTHEWS ARENA: The Crusaders stand 18-3 all-time in games played at Matthews Arena. Holy Cross has lost its last two contests in the building, falling to Northeastern 102-94 on Jan. 9, 1989, and losing to Boston University 63-62 in the ECAC championship game on March 12, 1983. The Crusaders first game at Matthews Arena came on Dec. 31, 1934, then they fell to Notre Dame 45-19. Between that loss to Notre Dame and the 1983 contest with Boston University, Holy Cross won 18 consecutive games in the building (defeating Boston College six times, Boston University three times, Harvard twice, and Arizona State, Connecticut, Georgetown, Loyola (Ill.), New Hampshire, Northeastern and Toledo once each).

EVANS HAS BIG START TO COLLEGIATE CAREER: Freshman guard R.J. Evans (Salem, Conn.) has turned in some solid performances to start his Holy Cross career. In the season opening victory over Sacred Heart, Evans scored a team-high 15 points, hitting seven of 12 shots from the field. Then in the win over St. Joseph's on Sunday, he scored 12 points and pulled down three rebounds. Evans' 15 points against Sacred Heart were the most by a Crusader in his collegiate debut since Torey Thomas scored 18 points against Boston University on Nov. 22, 2003. He also became the first Crusader since Thomas to reach double-figures in the first two games of his collegiate career. Through three games played, Evans is averaging a team-best 12.0 points, while hitting 54.8 percent of his field goal attempts. Evans came to Holy Cross from Norwich (Conn.) Free Academy, where he was a two-time All-State selection and score 2,030 career points.

HOLY CROSS NAMES CAPTAINS: Senior forward Colin Cunningham (Memphis, Tenn.), senior guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) and senior forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) have been selected as the Crusaders' captains for the 2008-2009 season. These three players will take over the leadership role from Tim Clifford and Kyle Cruze, who served as the Crusaders' captains as seniors during the 2007-2008 season.

CUNNINGHAM STEPS UP IN SENIOR SEASON: Senior forward Colin Cunningham has returned to the Holy Cross lineup at small forward this year, and is once again one of the Crusaders' top players. In three games played so far this year, he has averaged 8.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and a team-best 5.0 assists per contest. During the Brown game, Cunningham led the team with 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Last season, he averaged 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game, while hitting 36.8 percent (28 of 76) of his three-point attempts. Cunningham's top game in 2007-2008 came at American in the Patriot League quarterfinals, when he scored a career-high 20 points, to go along with four rebounds and three assists. He also had a big night at Lehigh in the regular season finale, recording 15 points, four rebounds and four assists. Some of Cunningham's other top performances last season came against Fairfield (career-high 17 points, 10 of 10 on the free throw line), Boston University (16 points, four rebounds, three steals, four of five from three-point range) and Siena (15 points, four assists, three rebounds, three steals). Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Cunningham has totaled 429 points, 261 rebounds, 123 assists and 59 steals.

VANDER BAAN PLAYS KEY ROLE ON FRONT LINE: Senior forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) is once again a key member of the Holy Cross lineup this year. In the victory over St. Joseph's, Vander Baan posted his third career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He also recorded nine points and seven rebounds against Sacred Heart, while totaling six points, eight rebounds and five assists against Brown. Through three games played, Vander Baan is averaging 9.3 points and 8.7 rebounds. During the 2007-2008 season, he averaged 8.5 points and 5.7 rebounds in 19 games played, while missing a good deal of time in the second half of the year due to injury. During last year's victory over Harvard, Vander Baan totaled a season-high 18 points and eight rebounds. He also had a huge game in last year's win at St. Joseph's, recording 16 points and seven rebounds, while making all four of his free throws in the final minute of play. Some of Vander Baan's other top performances last year came against Hofstra (15 rebounds, 10 points, three assists, three blocks), at Bucknell (14 points, five rebounds) and at Army (13 points, seven rebounds). As a freshman in 2005-2006, Vander Baan was selected to the Patriot League All-Rookie team. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, he has now totaled 604 points, 472 rebounds, 132 assists, 66 steals and 30 blocked shots.

HOLY CROSS HAS GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders are once again an outstanding rebounding team this year, averaging 40.7 boards per contest and outrebounding their opponents by an average margin of 9.0 rebounds per game. So far this season, Holy Cross' smallest advantage on the glass in any one game has been eight rebounds. Senior forward Alex Vander Baan currently leads the team with an average of 8.7 rebounds per game, while junior forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) has added 7.3 boards per contest and senior forward Colin Cunningham is averaging 7.0 rebounds per game. Five other Crusaders are averaging at least two rebounds per contest this season. In 2007-2008, Holy Cross was outrebounded only five times in 29 games, while averaging 33.5 rebounds per game and outrebounding the opposition by 5.6 boards per contest. The Crusaders were even more impressive in Patriot League play, outrebounding conference foes by 6.3 boards per game. Entering 2008-2009, the Crusaders have posted a positive rebounding margin in nine straight seasons, including seven years in which they outrebounded the opposition by at least four boards per game.

BROWN RECAP: Brown forward Matt Mullery totaled 18 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots, to lead the Bears to a 62-57 victory over Holy Cross at the Hart Center on Nov. 19, 2008. Holy Cross led 14-12 after the first 10 minutes of play, before going on a 6-0 run to take a 20-12 advantage. But the Bears responded with a 6-0 run of their own, and would eventually claim a 27-24 lead with just under two minutes left before the break. The Crusaders came back to close out the half with a 7-0 spurt, including five points from Lawrence Dixon, and took a 31-27 advantage into the locker room. Early in the second half, Holy Cross expanded its lead to eight points (37-29), but Brown refused to go away, using an 8-0 run to tie up the score. Neither team led by more than two points for the next several minutes, until the Crusaders took a 49-45 advantage with six minutes left to play. Brown then went on a 12-0 run over the next three minutes to take the lead for good. Holy Cross would get no closer than four points down the stretch, as the Bears held on for the victory. Colin Cunningham led the Crusaders with 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Andrew Beinert added nine points and three assists. Brown made 12 of 22 free throw attempts on the night, while Holy Cross was just two of four from the foul line.

WILLARD CONTINUES IMPRESSIVE RUN AT HOLY CROSS: Ralph Willard is now in his 10th season as the Crusaders' head coach, and currently owns a mark of 176-104 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). In 2006-2007, 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 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 320-228. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

CRUSADERS PICKED THIRD IN PRESEASON POLL: In the 2008-2009 Patriot League preseason poll, Holy Cross was picked to finish in third place in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. The Crusaders received 68 total points in the poll, including two first place votes. American placed first in the poll with 98 points and 14 first place votes, while Lehigh was second with 75 points. Following Holy Cross in the poll were Colgate (fourth, 67 points), Bucknell (fifth, 47 points), Navy (sixth, 46 points), Army (seventh, 29 points) and Lafayette (eighth, 18 points).

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 90th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1266-814 (.609), 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.

THE LAST MEETING WITH NORTHEASTERN: Tim Clifford totaled 26 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots, to lead Holy Cross to a 61-47 victory over Northeastern at the Hart Center on Feb. 23, 2008, in a contest which was part of the O'Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters. The score was tied 7-7 after the first seven minutes of play, when Holy Cross went on a 6-1 run to claim the lead. After Northeastern was able to pull within four points (16-12), the Crusaders used a 10-3 spurt to build their lead up to double figures (26-15), with Greg McCarthy scoring five points during that time. Holy Cross eventually held a 32-21 advantage heading into the locker room. The Crusaders increased their lead to 13 points (36-23) early in the second half, before the Huskies went on a 9-2 run to work their way back into the game. Northeastern would eventually get as close as four points (46-42) with 4:40 left to play, before Holy Cross reclaimed control of the action. The Crusaders used a 7-0 run to build their lead back to double figures, and eventually led by as many as 16 points in the closing minutes. Holy Cross turned in another outstanding performance on the defensive end of the court, holding the Huskies to just 28.8 percent shooting from the field, and 17.6 percent shooting from three-point range. The Crusaders also forced 15 turnovers, while totaling six blocked shots and nine steals. McCarthy finished the game with 11 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Colin Cunningham added eight points and six assists. The Huskies were led by Eugene Spates with 12 points.

MEISTER MOVES INTO STARTING LINEUP: Junior forward Eric Meister has taken over as a starter for Holy Cross in the low post this season. He opened the year strong against Sacred Heart, posting his first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Meister then recorded nine points, seven rebounds and three blocks in the victory over St. Joseph's. On the season, he is averaging 7.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game. Last year, Meister averaged 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds, while playing in 18 games with eight starts. During the 2007-2008 victory at Army, he scored 11 points on four of four shooting from the field. Meister also had a big game in the victory over Lehigh, totaling 10 points, a team-high nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Some of Meister's other top performances last season came against Yale (eight points, nine rebounds), Ohio (eight points, six rebounds) and Hofstra (seven points, nine boards). As a freshman in 2006-2007, Meister was selected to the Patriot League All-Rookie team. Over the course of his Holy Cross career, he has now totaled 222 points, 228 rebounds and 38 blocked shots.

CRUSADERS REACH 300 VICTORIES AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross currently owns an all-time record of 301-110 at the Hart Center, after posting its 300th win in the building against Sacred Heart on Nov. 14. The Crusaders had a 23-game winning streak at the Hart Center from Feb. 15, 2006-Jan. 2, 2008, which was the longest streak in the history of the building and the sixth-longest home court winning streak in the nation at the time. In 2006-2007 Holy Cross posted a perfect 14-0 mark at the Hart Center, setting a school record for the most home victories since it moved into the building. During the Hart Center's history, Holy Cross has posted a winning record at home in 29 out of 33 seasons, while recording double-figure home victories 15 times. The Crusaders stand 88-18 at home since the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, including a 54-10 record against Patriot League foes.

CRUSADERS LOOK TO REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross should once again be among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2008-2009. In three games played so far this season, the Crusaders have allowed 63.0 points per game, while forcing 17.3 turnovers per contest and outrebounding the opposition by 9.0 board per game. Last year, the Crusaders held their opponents to 60.5 points per contest and 41.0 percent shooting from the field. Holy Cross also outrebounded the opposition by 5.6 boards per game, while forcing 13.9 turnovers per contest. Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Holy Cross has held its opposition to only 58.9 points per contest. In addition, the Crusaders have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense in five of the last seven 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). Here is a look at Holy Cross' defensive statistics under Ralph Willard.

 

Season       PPG    FG%   3FG%    SPG   BPG
1999-2000   63.3   39.6   31.3    6.5   3.8
2000-2001   62.3   38.2   35.2    6.3   5.2
2001-2002   59.6   42.0   38.5    7.8   3.1
2002-2003   58.7   40.6   33.2    7.9   4.5
2003-2004   58.6   40.3   32.9   10.7   4.5
2004-2005   56.8   38.9   36.3   10.3   5.0
2005-2006   60.5   40.2   30.3    9.1   3.5
2006-2007   57.5   41.4   37.8    9.5   3.6
2007-2008   60.5   41.0   36.9    7.4   3.9

SCOUTING THE HUSKIES: Northeastern has an overall record of 2-1 so far this season. The Huskies have defeated Providence and Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis, while losing to Michigan. The leading scorer for Northeastern is junior guard Matt Janning, who has averaged 17.0 points, and 4.3 rebounds per game this year. Senior forward Eugene Spates has chipped in with 13.0 points and a team-best 5.0 rebounds per contest, while sophomore guard Chaisson Allen is averaging 9.0 points and 5.0 assists per game. The Huskies are coming off a 2007-2008 campaign in which they posted an overall record of 14-17 and a 9-9 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association. Northeastern is led by head coach Bill Coen, who has a 29-37 mark in his three seasons with the Huskies. Prior to his time at Northeastern, Coen served as an assistant coach at Boston College and Rhode Island.

HOLY CROSS ON THE RADIO: Most of the Crusaders' basketball contests during the 2008-2009 season will be carried by The Pike, WWFX 100.1 FM in Worcester. Holy Cross Hall of Famer Bob Fouracre will be in his 22nd season calling the play-by-play for Crusader basketball on the radio. In addition, Jeremy Lechan and Dick Lutsk are in their fifth year on the Holy Cross broadcast crew, and will handle either play-by-play or color commentary for selected games. The Pike is currently scheduled to air 23 of the Crusaders' 29 regular season games. All games aired on The Pike can also be heard live over the internet at `www.worcesterpike.com'. The six games not carried on The Pike will be broadcast exclusively over the internet at `www.sportsjuice.com'. In addition, the Holy Cross student station, WCHC 88.1 FM, will carry 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 eight television appearances last year, while appearing on television 13 times in 2006-2007, 10 times in 2005-2006 and 10 times in 2004-2005. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule for the 2008-2009 season:

 

Date     Opponent       Television Outlet
Nov. 29  Loyola (Ill.)  Lakeshore Public Television
Dec. 30  Siena          WCTR-TV3
Jan. 17  Bucknell       ESPNU
Jan. 24  American       ESPNU
Jan. 31  Lehigh         Service Electric Cable
Feb. 7   Lafayette      Lafayette Sports Network
Feb. 11  Army           WCTR-TV3
Feb. 25  Colgate        Time Warner Cable

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 CBS College Sports Online, is available for a $9.95 monthly subscription. For details on how to sign up for Crusader All-Access, click here.

DRIBBLES: At halftime of the game between Holy Cross and St. Joseph's on Nov. 16, four all-time Crusader basketball greats were honored. George Kaftan (Class of 1949), Bob Cousy (Class of 1950), Togo Palazzi (Class of 1954) and Tom Heinsohn (Class of 1956) were all be on hand to witness their jerseys being lifted to the Hart Center rafters -- the first time Holy Cross held such a ceremony for any former student-athlete ... With the victory over St. Joseph's, Holy Cross is 1-0 this season in overtime games. The Crusaders now stand 12-3 in overtime contests under Ralph Willard ... With the Nov. 14 victory over Sacred Heart, Holy Cross improved to 27-7 in home openers at the Hart Center, with an 8-2 mark under Ralph Willard ... The Crusaders also improved their all-time mark in season openers to 65-25, including a 39-6 mark at home and an 8-2 record under Ralph Willard ... Holy Cross wore its black uniforms at home for the first time ever against Sacred Heart, as part of the Black Out Night promotion ... The Crusaders stand 1-1 this season when wearing their white uniforms and 1-0 in their black uniforms (they have not worn their purple uniforms yet this season) ... Holy Cross' victory at Bucknell on Feb. 16, 2008, was its first at Sojka Pavilion in five years, breaking a five-game losing streak in the building.