Holy Cross Set To Face Ohio In Battle Of Unbeatens

Nov. 25, 2007

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The Teams: Holy Cross (4-0, 0-0 PL) vs. Ohio (2-0, 0-0 MAC)
Date: November 26, 2007
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
Live Video Streaming: Crusader All-Access
Holy Cross Radio: Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; Jeremy Lechan, color; WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet
Holy Cross Student Radio: WCHC 88.1 FM, Worcester
Ohio Radio Network: Warren Swain, play-by-play; WXTQ, 105.5 FM, Athens, Ohio, flagship
Series Record: First Meeting

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 OHIO: This will be the first meeting between the Crusaders and the Bobcats on the hardwood. Against current members of the Mid-American Conference, Holy Cross has an all-time record of 8-3 (4-1 vs. Bowling Green, 1-0 against Buffalo, 2-0 vs. Toledo and 1-2 against Western Michigan). The last time the Crusaders faced a Mid-American Conference opponent came on Nov. 30, 1991, when they fell at Western Michigan 78-65.

CRUSADERS LOOK TO EXTEND HART CENTER WINNING STREAK: Holy Cross currently owns a 20-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 293-104 all-time at the Hart Center, including an 80-12 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                    Ended By
  1.  20 games  2/15/2006-present        -----
  2.  15 games  1/9/1993-1/12/1994       Lehigh (87-85)
  3.  14 games  11/23/2002-11/25/2003    Williams (78-71)
      14 games  12/22/1980-1/9/1982      Boston U. (96-82)
  5.  11 games  12/28/2000-11/20/2001    Boston U. (61-49)
  6.  10 games  1/5/2005-3/6/2005        Bucknell (67-51)
      10 games  12/1/1975-1/22/1976      Connecticut (73-69)

CRUSADERS OFF TO FAST START: If Holy Cross can defeat Ohio, it would start the season 5-0 for the second straight year. 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).

CLIFFORD PLAYS BIG ROLE IN THE MIDDLE: Senior center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) is once again among the top big men in the conference this season, after earning second team All-Patriot League honors in 2006-2007. In the first four games of the season, he has averaged 13.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per contest. Clifford had a big night with 22 points and four rebounds against Harvard, after recording 22 points and six rebounds at Hampton. 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 2007 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 779 points, 374 rebounds and 147 blocked shots. He currently stands just six blocks away from Nate Lufkin's school record of 153 career blocked shots, while needing 221 points to become Holy Cross' 44th 1,000-point scorer.

VANDER BAAN RETURNS TO STARTING LINEUP: Junior forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) is once again a key member of the Holy Cross lineup this season. Through the first four contests of the season, he has averaged 11.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. In the victory over Harvard, Vander Baan totaled 18 points and eight rebounds, while hitting seven of 11 field goal attempts. Previously at Fairfield, he recorded 11 points and four rebounds. Vander Baan also had a big night in the season opener against Hofstra, pulling down a career-high 15 rebounds, in addition to totaling 10 points, three assists and three blocks. 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 461 points, 372 rebounds, 107 assists, 50 steals and 25 blocked shots.

DOHERTY TAKES OVER AT THE POINT: Junior guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) 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 four contests of the season, Doherty has averaged 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.3 steals 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 344 points, 158 assists, 111 rebounds and 76 steals.

HARVARD RECAP: Tim Clifford had 22 points and four rebounds, to lead Holy Cross to an 80-69 victory over Harvard at the Hart Center on Nov. 20, 2007. Clifford hit 10 of 16 field goal attempts on the night, in addition to making both of his foul shots. Alex Vander Baan scored the first nine points of the game for Holy Cross, as the Crusaders jumped out to a 9-4 lead after three minutes of play. A few minutes later Holy Cross went on a 12-3 run, including six points by Adam May, to take its biggest lead of the day, 27-12 with eight minutes left in the half. The Crusaders were still up by 15 at the 2:56-mark, before Harvard closed the half with an 8-3 spurt to trail by 10 points at the break (42-32). Holy Cross held a nine point lead (57-48) with 10:23 left to play, when the Crimson started to rally. Harvard went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to two points, and would eventually tie the score at 62-62 with 5:56 remaining in the game. Clifford hit a basket on the Crusaders' next possession to put Holy Cross back in front, but the lead was still just one point (66-65) with 4:21 left to play. The Crusaders then went on a 10-0 spurt over the next three and a half minutes to put the game away, with five different players scoring two points during that span. Vander Baan finished the night with 18 points and eight rebounds, while May added a career-high 16 points and six boards. Colin Cunningham also had a big game with 13 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Pat Doherty totaled seven points, eight assists and four steals. Harvard was led by Drew Housman with 19 points and three rebounds, and Jeremy Lin with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists.

CUNNINGHAM STARTS SEASON STRONG: Junior forward Colin Cunningham (Memphis, Tenn.), who took over as the starting small forward for Holy Cross this year, has been one of the Crusaders' top players so far this season. In the victory at Fairfield, Cunningham led the team with a career-high 17 points, including a perfect 10 of 10 performance at the free throw line. He followed that up with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists in the win at Hampton, and 13 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals against Harvard. Overall this season, Cunningham is now averaging 11.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2007-2008. In four games played so far this season, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 55.5 points per contest, 37.1 percent shooting from the field and 31.9 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross is also outrebounding the opposition by 10.3 boards per game, while forcing 15.5 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 four games played so far this year, he is averaging 3.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest. Meister had seven points and nine rebounds in the season opener against Hofstra, then posted 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.

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 163-89 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 307-213. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

HOLY CROSS HAS GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders have once again shown themselves to be an outstanding rebounding team this year. Holy Cross has outrebounded each of its first four opponents, while averaging 36.8 rebounds per game and outrebounding the opposition by 10.3 boards per contest. The rebounding load has been well balanced, with six different players averaging at least 4.0 rebounds per game. Junior forward Alex Vander Baan leads the team with an average of 8.5 rebounds per game, followed by junior guard Pat Doherty with 5.0 boards per contest. Senior center Tim Clifford and junior forward Colin Cunningham have both added 4.5 rebounds per game, while sophomore forward Eric Meister has chipped in 4.3 boards per game and sophomore forward Adam May (Mentor, Ohio) had contributed 4.0 rebounds 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.

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.

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. Holy Cross currently has five players averaging at least 9.5 points per game so far this season. Senior center Tim Clifford leads the team in scoring at 13.5 points per game, followed by junior forward Alex Vander Baan at 11.8 points per contest. Junior forward Colin Cunningham has averaged 11.0 points per game, junior guard Pat Doherty has added 10.0 points per contest, and sophomore forward Adam May is chipping in with 9.5 points per game.

CRUZE PLAYS KEY MINUTES IN THE BACKCOURT: Senior guard Kyle Cruze has developed into a strong player in the Holy Cross backcourt. Through the first four games of the season, he has averaged 5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per contest. In the season opener against Hofstra, Cruze scored in double figures for just the second time in his collegiate career, totaling 10 points, two rebounds and two steals. He also finished with nine points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in the win at Fairfield. Last season, Cruze started 25 games for the Crusaders, averaging 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per contest.

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).

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 89th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1253-799 (.611), 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 EARN FIFTH PATRIOT LEAGUE TOURNAMENT CROWN: Last year, Holy Cross won the fifth Patriot League Tournament title in school history with its 74-66 victory over Bucknell on March 9, 2007. The Crusaders' previous tournament titles came in 2003 (72-64 over American), 2002 (58-54 at American), 2001 (68-64 over Navy in overtime) and 1993 (98-73 at Bucknell). Holy Cross' five conference tournament championships are the most in Patriot League history, with Navy having the second most (three in 1994, 1997 and 1998). Holy Cross also appeared in the championship game for the third straight season and the sixth time in the last seven years. Overall, the Crusaders made their conference-record ninth appearance in the Patriot League championship game.

HOLY CROSS NAMES CAPTAINS: Senior center Tim Clifford and senior guard Kyle Cruze have been selected as the Crusaders' captains for the 2007-2008 season, while junior guard Pat Doherty and junior forward Alex Vander Baan 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.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS: Ohio enters the game with an overall record of 2-0 on the year. The Bobcats posted an 80-72 victory over New Mexico State in their opener, then defeated Cornell 102-89. Junior forward Jerome Tillman leads the team by averaging 20.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, while senior guard Bubba Walther has added 19.0 points per contest. Senior forward Leon Williams (17.0 points per game), junior forward Justin Orr (14.0 points per game) and junior guard Michael Allen (11.0 points per game) are also scoring in double figures for Ohio. The Bobcats are led by head coach Tim O'Shea, who has a 102-82 mark in seven seasons at Ohio.

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, 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 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 ... The Crusaders went 4-0 in overtime games last season, and have now won their last seven overtime contests ... Last year, Tim Clifford and Alex Vander Baan both broke the all-time Holy Cross single season records for games played and games started. They both had 34 appearances and starts last year. Eric Meister also broke the record for games played, as he has appeared in all 34 contests last season ... Holy Cross won 14 straight Patriot League regular season contests from Feb. 15, 2006-Feb. 6, 2007, good for the fourth-longest conference winning streak in league history ... The Crusaders are ranked 13th in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 Poll from CollegeInsider.com, released on November 19.