November 22, 2006

Men's Basketball Returns Home To Face William & Mary

Nov. 22, 2006

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (4-0, 0-0 PL) vs. William & Mary (1-1, 0-0 CAA)
Date: November 25, 2006
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
Holy Cross Student Radio: WCHC 88.1 FM, Worcester
William & Mary Radio Network: Jay Colley, play-by-play; Bill McDonald, color; Charlie Woollum, color; WTYD 92.3 FM, Williamsburg, flagship
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 4-0
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 67, William & Mary 55 (November 19, 2005, Williamsburg, Va.)


PROBABLE HOLY CROSS STARTERS:
Pos.  No.  Name                Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      21  Alex Vander Baan    6-8   205   So.
F      33  Colin Cunningham    6-6   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 WILLIAM & MARY: This will be the fifth meeting between the Crusaders and the Tribe on the hardwood. Holy Cross won each of the four previous contests between the schools, including a 67-55 victory in Williamsburg last season. The Crusaders also posted victories in Williamsburg during the 1992-1993 (83-78) and 1994-1995 (92-87) seasons, in addition to taking the lone meeting between the schools in Worcester (80-74 on Jan. 5, 1994). Against current members of the Colonial Athletic Association, Holy Cross has an all-time record of 21-5 (0-1 vs. George Mason, 1-0 against Georgia State, 4-0 vs. Hofstra, 12-4 against Northeastern and 4-0 vs. William & Mary).

SERIES QUICK FACTS:
Overall: Holy Cross leads, 4-0
In Worcester: Holy Cross leads, 1-0
At the Hart Center: Holy Cross leads, 1-0
Ralph Willard vs. William & Mary: 1-0
Tony Shaver vs. Holy Cross: 0-1
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, four games

HOLY CROSS PREPARING FOR LONG ROAD TRIP: Following the contest with William & Mary, the Crusaders will play their next 11 games away from the Hart Center. Holy Cross begins that stretch with four road games in 10 days, against Syracuse (Nov. 27), Yale (Nov. 29), Dayton (Dec. 2) and Duke (Dec. 6). Other road games in the next six weeks come at Providence (Dec. 19), La Salle (Dec. 28), Boston University (Jan. 3) and Lafayette (Jan. 6). In addition, the Crusaders will face Niagara (Dec. 29) and Delaware (Dec. 30) at the Explorer Classic, and George Mason (Dec. 21) at the DCU Center.

CRUSADERS OFF TO FAST START: Holy Cross has opened the season with four straight victories, marking the teams best start during Ralph Willard's tenure as head coach. Previously, the best start of the Willard era came in 2004-2005, when Holy Cross opened 3-0 with victories over Boston University (58-48), Harvard (60-52) and Marist (79-52). Holy Cross has not won five 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 18.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals in the first four games of the year. In Tuesday's victory at Harvard, he had 20 points and six rebounds, while hitting eight of 13 field goal attempts. In the previous game against Siena, Simmons posted his second career double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He also totaled 19 points, six rebounds and two assists against Hampton, while 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. Entering the William & Mary game, Simmons has scored 1,153 career points as a Crusader, while making 49.8 percent of his field goal attempts (398 of 799) and 44.9 percent from three-point range (150 of 334). 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 26th 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.) is once again among the top players in the Patriot League this season, and has been named to the preseason all-conference team. In Tuesday's win at Harvard, he scored 12 points on four of six shooting, in addition to handing out six assists. In the previous game against Siena, Thomas recorded 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. He also 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 four games, Thomas is now averaging 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.5 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 798 points, 371 rebounds, 327 assists and 183 steals. He currently ranks fourth all-time at Holy Cross in career steals, and ninth in career assists.

HARVARD RECAP: Tim Clifford scored 22 points on nine of 11 shooting from the field, to lead Holy Cross to an 82-69 victory over Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion on Nov. 21, 2006. Keith Simmons also had an outstanding game, totaling 20 points and six rebounds. Clifford started the game hot, scoring nine points in the first 4:15 of play, as the Crusaders jumped out to an early 11-4 lead. The Crimson responded with a quick 6-0 run, but a few minutes later Holy Cross used a 9-0 spurt to build its biggest lead of the half, 29-15. Harvard would once again battle back with another 6-0 run, and trailed just 35-29 at the break. At halftime, Clifford had 16 points, including a perfect seven for seven shooting performance from the floor. The Crimson then opened the second half with an 11-2 run, claiming its first lead of the night (40-37) at the 16:50-mark on a three-pointer by Jim Goffredo. But Harvard was never able to expand its lead to more than three points, and the score was tied at 63-63 with 4:29 remaining in the game. Holy Cross then went on a 14-0 run over the next 3:30, to put the game away. The Crusaders hit three key three-pointers during that stretch, one each from Simmons, Pat Doherty and Alex Vander Baan. The Holy Cross lead would grow as large as 16 points in the final minute, before the Crusaders finally won 82-69. Goffredo led Harvard with 22 points and four rebounds, while Brian Cusworth added 10 points and 11 rebounds. As a team, Holy Cross hit 10 of 18 three-point field goals in the game (55.6 percent), including a seven of nine performance in the second half (77.8 percent).

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 four games of the year, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 59.5 points per game and 38.3 percent shooting, in addition to averaging 10.8 steals and 5.3 blocks 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 138-80 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 282-204. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH WILLIAM & MARY: Torey Thomas recorded 15 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and four steals to lead Holy Cross to a 67-55 victory over William & Mary in the championship game of the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic at Kaplan Arena on Nov. 19, 2005. Holy Cross started the game hot, jumping out to a 11-1 lead after just 3:18 of play. After William & Mary had cut the lead to six points, the Crusaders used a 11-0 run to go up 26-9. Holy Cross would lead by as many as 23 points in the opening half, before taking a 39-18 advantage into the locker room. After the intermission, the Crusaders extended their lead to as many as 25 points, before going cold from the floor. Holy Cross went over six minutes without scoring a point, and William & Mary used a 13-0 run to get back into the game. But the Tribe would get no closer than 10 points down the stretch, and the Crusaders made five of six free throws in the final two minutes to secure the victory. Kevin Hamilton led Holy Cross in scoring with 18 points, in addition to pulling down nine rebounds. Keith Simmons added 16 points for the Crusaders. Calvin Baker led the Tribe with 15 points, while Corey Cofield and Brian Hutt added 13 points each. The victory gave the Crusaders their first regular season tournament title since the 1982-1983 season, when they won the Worcester County Classic.

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. In Tuesday's victory at Harvard, Clifford scored a team-high 22 points on nine of 11 shooting from the field. Through the first four games of the year, he is averaging 10.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 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 371 points, 220 rebounds and 89 blocked shots. He currently ranks sixth all-time at Holy Cross in career blocks.

STEALING THE SHOW: Holy Cross has opened the 2006-2007 season by averaging 10.8 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 has added eight steals and sophomore guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) has posted seven steals. 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.

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).

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 also had a solid game against Hampton, recording nine points and six rebounds. In four games played so far this season, Vander Baan is averaging 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest, while making 80.0 percent of his field goal attempts (eight of 10) and 77.8 percent of his free throws (14 of 18). 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.

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.

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.

SCOUTING THE TRIBE: William & Mary enters the game with an overall record of 1-1 on the year. The Tribe defeated Wagner 77-53 on Monday night, after falling at Kansas State 70-60 in their season opener. Junior forward Laimis Kisielius currently leads the team in scoring at 17.0 points per game, while hitting 68.4 percent (13 of 19) of his field goal attempts. Freshman guard David Schneider is also off to a strong start this season, averaging 13.0 points, 6.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. William & Mary is led by head coach Tony Shaver, who has a 24-63 mark in his four years with the Tribe. Shaver's career record stands at 382-184, including 17 seasons at Hampden-Sydney College, where his teams won eight Old Dominion Athletic Conference titles and advanced to the NCAA Division III tournament 11 times.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 88th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1228-789 (.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 10 points and five rebounds, while playing 44 minutes during the first four 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 3.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest, including a career-high 10 rebounds in Tuesday's victory over Harvard ... Sophomore guard Lawrence Dixon (Columbia, Md.) has hit three out of four attempts from three-point range so far this season ... The Crusaders received 64 votes in the preseason Mid-Major Top 25 Poll from CollegeInsider.com.