Holy Cross Continues Road Trip At Yale On Wednesday

Nov. 28, 2006

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The Teams: Holy Cross (5-1, 0-0 PL) vs. Yale (1-3, 0-0 Ivy)
Date: November 29, 2006
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: John J. Lee Amphitheater (2,532), New Haven, Conn.
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
Yale Radio: WYBC 1340 AM, New Haven, Conn.
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 33-28
Last Meeting: Yale 70, Holy Cross 66 (December 11, 2002, Hartford, Conn.)

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 YALE: This will be the 62nd meeting between the Crusaders and the Bulldogs on the hardwood. Holy Cross holds a 33-28 advantage in the all-time series, including wins in six of the last nine games. Yale posted a 70-66 victory in the last meeting on Dec. 11, 2002, but prior to that the Crusaders had won four straight games against the Bulldogs. For games played in New Haven, Yale holds a slim 21-20 advantage in the series. Holy Cross and Yale first met on Feb. 10, 1903, with the Bulldogs posting a 26-10 victory in Worcester.

Overall: Holy Cross leads, 33-28
In New Haven: Yale leads, 21-20
At the John J. Lee Amphitheater: Holy Cross leads, 19-16
Ralph Willard vs. Yale: 2-1
James Jones vs. Holy Cross: 1-2
Current Win Streak: Yale, one game
In Overtime: Holy Cross leads, 4-2

HOLY CROSS TAKES LONG ROAD TRIP: Beginning with Monday's contest at Syracuse, the Crusaders are in the midst of a stretch of 11 straight games away from the Hart Center. The contest at Yale is the second of four road games in 10 days, including upcoming contests at 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. Holy Cross' next game at the Hart Center will come on Jan. 9 against Army.

SIMMONS HAS STRONG START TO SEASON: Senior guard Keith Simmons (Kingston, N.Y.) has started the season hot, averaging 18.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.7 steals in the first six games of the year. In Monday's contest at Syracuse, Simmons scored a game-high 22 points. In the previous game against William & Mary, he totaled 16 points and eight rebounds, while tying a school single-game record with seven steals. Simmons also had 20 points and six rebounds at Harvard, while posting his second career double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds against Siena. He previously 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 Yale game, Simmons has scored 1,191 career points as a Crusader, while making 49.7 percent of his field goal attempts (412 of 829) and 44.1 percent from three-point range (153 of 347). 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 22nd in points scored.

CRUSADERS OFF TO FAST START: Holy Cross opened the season with five straight victories, marking the team's 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 had its best start to open a season since the 1988-1989 campaign, when it 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). This year marked the 11th time in school history in which Holy Cross opened a season with at least five straight victories. Overall, the longest season-opening winning streak in school history came during the 1949-1950 season, when the Crusaders won their first 26 games.

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 was named to the preseason all-conference team. In Monday's game at Syracuse, Thomas had a solid all-around performance with six points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals. In the previous game against William & Mary, he totaled 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. Thomas also scored 12 points and handed out six assists at Harvard, while recording 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals against Siena. 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 six games, Thomas is now averaging 13.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.3 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 814 points, 383 rebounds, 338 assists and 187 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 10.0 steals per game, including a high of 16 steals against Fairfield. Senior guard Keith Simmons currently has a team-high 16 steals so far this season, while tying the school single-game record with seven steals in the victory over William & Mary. Senior guard Torey Thomas has added 14 steals on the year, and sophomore guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) has posted 10 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.

SYRACUSE RECAP: Keith Simmons totaled 22 points and three rebounds, but it was not enough as Holy Cross suffered a close 72-64 loss to 15th-ranked Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Nov. 27, 2006. The Crusaders started the game cold from the field, making just one shot in the first nine minutes of play, as Syracuse built an early 12-2 lead. The Orange would eventually increase their lead to as many as 18 points (30-12) with two minutes left before the break. But Holy Cross did close out the first half on a 7-1 run, to make the score 31-19 heading into the locker room. In the second half, Syracuse was able to build its lead back up to as many as 15 points (51-36 with 10:40 remaining). But the Crusaders then used a 10-4 run to get back into the game, and were down just 57-50 with 6:24 left to play. Holy Cross was eventually able to cut the lead down to four points in the final minute of play, before the Orange hit all four of their free throw attempts in the final 16 seconds to hold on for the victory. Colin Cunningham finished with 11 points and four rebounds for the Crusaders, while Alex Vander Baan added eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Demetris Nichols led Syracuse with 21 points and six rebounds, with Paul Harris (14 points) and Josh Wright (13 points) also scoring in double figures.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2006-2007. Through the first six games of the year, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 61.2 points per game and 39.3 percent shooting. Holy Cross has also averaged 10.0 steals and 4.8 blocks per contest, while outrebounding the opposition by 8.8 boards per game. In addition, the Crusaders have held four of their first six opponents to under 60 points during regulation. 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 also forced their 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 139-81 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 283-205. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH YALE: Tim Szatko totaled 19 points and 11 rebounds, but it was not enough as Holy Cross was defeated by Yale 70-66 at the Hartford Civic Center on Dec. 11, 2002, in the first round of the Phoenix Classic. The Bulldogs opened the game with an early 8-5 lead, before the Crusaders went on a 14-2 run to go up by nine points with 10:35 left in the first half. Brian Wilson hit a pair of three-pointers to ignite that Holy Cross run. But a few minutes later, Yale used an 18-5 spurt of their own to regain the lead, eventually taking a 34-31 advantage into the locker room. The Bulldogs stayed hot at the start of the second half, using a 17-8 run to go up by 13 points (51-38) with 12:26 remaining in regulation. Yale was still up by 10 with five minutes left in the game, before the Crusaders used a 13-2 spurt to reclaim the lead with one minute remaining. Kevin Hamilton hit a pair of three-pointers during that run, while Szatko added a three-pointer of his own to give Holy Cross the lead. But the Bulldogs responded with a layup by T.J. McHugh on their next possession to go back in front, and would hit five of six free throws the rest of the way to hold on for the win. Hamilton finished the game with 12 points, while Jave Meade added 10 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Edwin Draughan led Yale with 16 points and six rebounds, while Matt Minoff (14 points) and Paul Vitelli (12 points) also scored in double figures

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 Saturday's victory over William & Mary, he totaled 13 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots. Previously at Harvard, Clifford scored a team-high 22 points on nine of 11 shooting from the field. Through the first six games of the year, he is averaging 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 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 389 points, 227 rebounds and 92 blocked shots. He currently ranks sixth all-time at Holy Cross in career blocks.

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 Mondays' game at Syracuse, he grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds to go along with eight points and four assists. Previously at 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 six games played so far this season, Vander Baan is averaging 6.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest, while making 70.8 percent of his free throws (17 of 24). 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 HAVING GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders have averaged 38.2 rebounds through the first six games of the 2006-2007 season, and are currently outrebounding their opponents by an average of 8.8 boards per game. Holy Cross' top rebounding game so far this year came against Siena, when it held a 43-21 advantage on the glass. The rebounding load has been well balanced, with five different players currently averaging at least 4.2 boards per contest. Sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan leads the team with 7.2 rebounds per game, while senior guard Keith Simmons has averaged 6.0 boards per contest. Senior guard Torey Thomas (5.0 rebounds per game) and junior center Tim Clifford (4.8 rebounds per game) are also enjoying fine seasons on the glass, while freshman forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) is chipping in with 4.2 boards per game.

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).

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross stands 4-0 at the Hart Center so far this season, and now owns an all-time record of 280-105 in the building. The Crusaders currently have an eight-game home winning streak, after going 11-2 at the Hart Center last season with an 8-1 mark against Patriot League opponents. Holy Cross also stands 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 68-12 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.

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 BULLDOGS: Yale enters the game with an overall record of 1-3 on the year. The Bulldogs have lost their last three games, against Bucknell (72-57), Dayton (73-62) and Ohio University (73-65), after defeating Division III Allegheny 98-55 in their season opener. Junior guard Eric Flato leads the team in scoring with 15.8 points per game, in addition to posting 3.3 assists and 2.3 rebounds per contest. Senior guard Casey Hughes chips in with 10.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, while senior forward Jason Abromaitis averages a team-best 7.8 rebounds per contest. Yale is led by head coach James Jones, who owns an overall record of 91-109 in eight seasons with the Bulldogs. During the 2001-2002 season, Jones led Yale to an overall record of 21-11 and the school's first Ivy League championship since 1962-1963.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 88th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1229-790 (.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 forward Colin Cunningham (Memphis, Tenn.) scored a season-high 11 points in Monday's contest at Syracuse ... Sophomore center Greg McCarthy (Mansfield, Mass.) has totaled 15 points and six rebounds, while playing 57 minutes during the first six games of the season. Last year, he totaled four points and one rebound in 15 minutes of action all season ... Freshman forward Eric Meister has started his collegiate career strong, averaging 4.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest, including a career-high 10 rebounds in the victory over Harvard ... Sophomore guard Lawrence Dixon (Columbia, Md.) has hit four out of eight 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.