Holy Cross Returns To The Court Next Tuesday At Providence

Dec. 12, 2006

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The Teams: Holy Cross (6-3, 0-0 PL) vs. Providence (7-2, 0-0 Big East)
Date: December 19, 2006
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Dunkin' Donuts Center (12,993), Providence, R.I.
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
Providence Radio: WSKO 99.7 FM, Providence; John Rooke, play-by-play; Joe Hassett, color
Series Record: Providence leads, 37-29
Last Meeting: Providence 63, Holy Cross 57 (November 18, 2000, Providence, R.I.)

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 PROVIDENCE: This will be the 67th meeting between the Crusaders and the Friars on the hardwood. The schools have not met since Nov. 18, 2000, when Providence posted a 63-57 home victory. Holy Cross and Providence have alternated wins and losses over the last five meetings in the series, since the Friars won two straight games against the Crusaders in 1988 and 1989. For games played in Providence, the Friars hold a 21-11 advantage in the series, including a 10-4 mark at the Dunkin' Donuts Center (formerly the Providence Civic Center). Holy Cross and Providence first met on Dec. 14, 1921, with the Crusaders posting a 56-10 victory on the road.

Overall: Providence leads, 37-29
In Providence: Providence leads, 21-11
At the Dunkin' Donuts Center: Providence leads, 10-4
Ralph Willard vs. Providence: 3-7
Tim Welsh vs. Holy Cross: 1-1
Current Win Streak: Providence, one game
In Overtime: Providence leads, 2-0

HOLY CROSS IN THE MIDST OF LONG ROAD TRIP: The contest at Providence is the fifth straight for the Crusaders on the road, including the contests at Syracuse (Nov. 27), Yale (Nov. 29), Dayton (Dec. 2) and Duke (Dec. 6). Following a neutral site game against George Mason (Dec. 21) at the DCU Center in Worcester, Holy Cross will travel to Philadelphia for the La Salle Invitational, where it will face La Salle (Dec. 28), Niagara (Dec. 29) and Delaware (Dec. 30). The Crusaders conclude their road trip with contests at Boston University (Jan. 3) and Lafayette (Jan. 6). 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 17.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 steals in the first nine games of the year. In the contest at Duke, he led the team with 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Simmons also recorded 15 points and seven rebounds at Dayton, after totaling 12 points and five rebounds in the contest at Yale. He previously scored a game-high 22 points at Syracuse, and totaled 16 points, eight rebounds and a school single-game record-tying seven steals against William & Mary. 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 opened the season by totaling 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. Entering the Providence game, Simmons has scored 1,231 career points as a Crusader, while making 49.6 percent of his field goal attempts (425 of 857) and 43.5 percent from three-point range (155 of 356). 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 20th in points scored.

DOHERTY HEATS UP: Sophomore guard Pat Doherty (Scranton, Pa.) has been one of the Crusaders' top players over the last few weeks. In the victory at Yale, he led the team with a career-high 18 points, four assists and three steals, while making five of six shots from the floor, all four of his attempts from three-point range, and all four of his free throws. Doherty also played well in the game at Dayton, totaling nine points and three assists. Through the first nine contests of the season, he is now averaging 7.0 points, 2.9 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Doherty returned to the Holy Cross lineup this year, 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.

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 the game at Dayton, Thomas totaled 13 points, four assists and three steals, while hitting both of his three-point field goal attempts. He previously recorded six points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals at Syracuse, while totaling 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals against William & Mary. 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 began the season by totaling 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 nine games, Thomas is now averaging 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.4 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. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, Thomas has now totaled 841 points, 393 rebounds, 348 assists and 195 steals. He currently ranks fourth all-time at Holy Cross in career steals, and ninth in career assists.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2006-2007. Through the first nine games of the year, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 61.2 points per game, 42.5 percent shooting from the floor, and 34.2 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross has also averaged 9.2 steals and 4.2 blocks per contest, while forcing the opposition to commit 17.4 turnovers per game and outrebounding its opponents by 3.3 boards per contest. In addition, the Crusaders have held six of their first nine 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 59.0 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).

DUKE RECAP: Keith Simmons recorded 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals, but it was not enough as Holy Cross was defeated by No. 7 Duke 57-45 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Dec. 6, 2006. The game was close throughout a first half which featured four ties and four lead changes. Duke was up 7-5 after four minutes of play, before Holy Cross went on a 9-2 run to take a five-point lead (14-9). The Blue Devils responded with a 10-2 spurt of their own to go back in front, before the Crusaders closed out the half on a 12-3 run to take a six-point advantage into the locker room (28-22). Duke opened the second half on an 8-2 run to tie the score once again at 30-30, before Holy Cross then scored four straight points to go back in front. But that would be the Crusaders' last lead of the night, as the Blue Devils scored the next 13 points to take control of the game. Holy Cross would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way, as Duke eventually pulled away to win by 12. Torey Thomas finished the game with six points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists, while Alex Vander Baan added six points and three rebounds. Duke was led by Josh McRoberts with 13 points and six rebounds, and DeMarcus Nelson chipped in with 13 points and two boards.

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 140-83 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 284-207. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

VANDER BAAN LOOKS TO BUILD ON ALL-ROOKIE SEASON: Sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) is once again a key member of the Holy Cross lineup this season, after being selected to the 2005-2006 Patriot League All-Rookie Team. In the victory at Yale, Vander Baan totaled 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. In the previous contest at Syracuse, he grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds to go along with eight points and four assists. Vander Baan also posted his first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds against Siena, while recording nine points and six rebounds against Hampton. In nine games played so far this season, Vander Baan is averaging 6.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest, while making 47.5 percent of his field goal attempts (19 of 40). 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 the 2005-2006 campaign 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.

THE LAST MEETING WITH PROVIDENCE: Josh Sankes totaled 15 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots, but it was not enough as Holy Cross was defeated by Providence 63-57 at the Providence Civic Center on Nov. 18, 2000. The Friars held a 35-30 lead at the break, after holding the Crusaders to just 33.3 percent shooting from the field in the opening half. Holy Cross then opened the second half with a 10-4 run, and claimed its first lead since the early minutes of the game on a slam dunk by Sankes with 14:17 left to play, making the score 40-39. But the Friars then came back with a 10-2 run of their own over the next 6:21 to claim the lead. The Crusaders refused to go away, as Jared Curry hit a three-pointer as part of a 7-0 spurt which made the score 51-49 with just 4:33 left in regulation. Holy Cross was still down by just two minutes remaining, but Providence hit seven out of eight free throw attempts in the final minute to hold on for the victory. Brian Wilson finished the game with 10 points and four rebounds, while Curry added nine points, five assists and four boards. The Friars were led by Erron Maxey with 16 points, seven rebounds and four steals, with Christopher Anrin adding 11 points and three assists off the bench.

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is presently ranked 37th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .6019 through games of December 11. The Crusaders are currently the only team in the Patriot League ranked in the top 100, with the second-highest ranking belonging to Navy (110th, .5376). In addition, Holy Cross' non-conference schedule ranks as the 69th hardest in the country. The Crusaders concluded the 2005-2006 season ranked 111th in the country in the RPI with a rating of .5304. Holy Cross also ranked 49th in the nation in the RPI at the end of the 2004-2005 season with a mark of .5657, to place ahead of four at large selections to the NCAA tournament.

STEALING THE SHOW: Holy Cross has opened the 2006-2007 season by averaging 9.2 steals per game, including a high of 16 steals against Fairfield. Senior guard Keith Simmons currently has a team-high 23 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 22 steals on the year, and sophomore guard Pat Doherty has posted 13 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 HAVING GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders have averaged 33.3 rebounds through the first nine games of the 2006-2007 season, and are currently outrebounding their opponents by an average of 3.3 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 3.1 boards per contest. Sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan leads the team with 6.6 rebounds per game, while senior guard Keith Simmons has averaged 6.1 boards per contest. Senior guard Torey Thomas (4.4 rebounds per game) and junior center Tim Clifford (4.0 rebounds per game) are also enjoying fine seasons on the glass, while freshman forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) is chipping in with 3.1 boards per game.

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 the 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 nine games of the year, he is averaging 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 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 409 points, 234 rebounds and 98 blocked shots. He currently ranks sixth all-time at Holy Cross in career blocks.

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.

CRUSADERS GET OFF TO FAST START: Holy Cross opened the season with a 6-2 record during its first eight games. This marks the best start for the Crusaders since the 2002-2003 squad also began the year with a 6-2 mark. This year's squad also opened the season with five straight victories, marking the team's best start during Ralph Willard's tenure as head coach. Holy Cross has not won more than five in a row 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 marks 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.

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.

HOLY CROSS TAKES SEASON OPENER: The Crusaders began the 2006-2007 season by posting a 67-65 overtime victory against Fairfield. With that win, Holy Cross improved its all-time record in its opening game of the season to 63-25, including a 37-6 mark at home. Since Ralph Willard took over as head coach, the Crusaders now stand 6-2 in season openers. During the Willard era, Holy Cross has defeated Providence (54-43 in 1999-2000), Quinnipiac (85-57 in 2001-2002), Boston University (59-57 in 2003-2004; 58-48 in 2004-2005) and High Point (85-73 in 2005-2006) on opening day, while falling to Providence (63-57 in 2000-2001) and Kansas (81-57 in 2002-2003).

SIMMONS AND THOMAS NAMED CAPTAINS: Senior guard Keith Simmons and senior guard Torey Thomas have been selected as the Crusaders' captains for the 2006-2007 season. Both players are three-year letterwinners for the Crusaders, and will take over the leadership role from Kevin Hamilton and Kevin Hyland, who served as the Crusaders' captains as seniors during the 2005-2006 season.

SCOUTING THE FRIARS: Providence enters the game with an overall record of 7-2 on the year. The Friars also stand 7-1 at the Dunkin' Donuts Center this season, with their only home loss coming against Brown (51-41). Sophomore guard Sharaud Curry currently leads the team in scoring with an average of 16.6 points per game, in addition to handing out a team-best 48 assists. Sophomore forward Geoff McDermott is averaging a double-double with 10.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest, while senior center Herbert Hill (16.1 points per game) and sophomore guard Weyinmi Efejuku (14.8) are also scoring in double figures. Providence is led by head coach Tim Welsh, who owns an overall record of 134-116 in nine seasons with the Friars. Welsh's career record stands at 204-138, including three seasons at Iona.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 88th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1230-792 (.608), 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 are currently ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in steals, through games of Dec. 10. Senior guard Keith Simmons and senior guard Torey Thomas are also ranked among the national leaders in steals. The rankings:

Category    Rank  Player / Team    Avg.
Steals        30  Keith Simmons     2.6
              40  Torey Thomas      2.4
              40  Holy Cross        9.2

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: The Crusaders own an all-time record of 6-13 in games played at the Dunkin' Donuts Center (4-10 vs. Providence, 0-2 against Rhode Island, 1-0 vs. Brown, 1-0 against Assumption and 0-1 vs. Iona) ... The crowd of 19,235 at the Holy Cross-Syracuse game on Nov. 27 was the largest to ever witness a Crusader game during the regular season (attendance records are not available prior to the 1982-1983 season). It is also the third largest overall crowd to ever see Holy Cross play, behind the Kansas game in the 2002 NCAA Tournament (26,612) and the Marquette game in the 2003 NCAA Tournament (20,960) ... Sophomore forward Colin Cunningham (Memphis, Tenn.) scored a season-high 11 points in the contest at Syracuse ... Sophomore center Greg McCarthy (Mansfield, Mass.) has totaled 19 points and nine rebounds, while playing 72 minutes in eight games this 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 3.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per contest, including a career-high 10 rebounds in the victory over Harvard ... The Crusaders are ranked 18th in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 Poll from CollegeInsider.com, released on Dec. 11.