December 15, 2005

Men's Basketball Heads South For 2005 San Juan Shootout

Dec. 15, 2005

Complete Release in PDF Format
Download Free Acrobat Reader

GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
Event: Holy Cross (4-4, 0-0 PL) at San Juan Shootout
Dates: December 19-21, 2005
Place: Mario Morales Coliseum, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
Radio: Click here for broadcast information

PROBABLE HOLY CROSS STARTERS:
Pos.  No.  Name               Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      10  Keith Simmons      6-4   210   Jr.
F      21  Alex Vander Baan   6-8   195   Fr.
C      41  Kevin Hyland       6-8   245   Sr.
G       1  Torey Thomas      5-11   170   Jr.
G      14  Kevin Hamilton     6-4   190   Sr.

THE SAN JUAN SHOOTOUT: Holy Cross opens play in the San Juan Shootout against Tennessee-Chattanooga (3-5, prior to Dec. 15 game with Virginia Intermont) on Monday, Dec. 19, at 1:00 p.m. (AST). The Crusaders will then face either Clemson (8-0) or Puerto Rico-Mayaquez on Tuesday, Dec. 20. On the final day of the tournament, Wednesday, Dec. 21, Holy Cross will take on Akron (3-2), Liberty (2-5), Mississippi State (6-2, prior to Dec. 15 game with Jacksonville State) or Mount St. Mary's (1-6).

THE SERIES RECORDS: In the opening round of the San Juan Shootout, Holy Cross will be facing Tennessee-Chattanooga for the first time ever. Against current members of the Southern Conference, the Crusaders have an all-time record of 3-3. Holy Cross has a record of 0-1 all-time against possible second round opponent Clemson, with the Tigers posting a 67-49 victory on Dec. 29, 1971, at the Poinsettia Classic in Greenville, S.C. The Crusaders also have a 4-0 record all-time against possible final round opponent Mount St. Mary's. Holy Cross defeated the Mountaineers four times from 1988-1992, playing twice in Worcester and twice in Emmitsburg. The Crusaders have never faced any of the other four teams taking part in the San Juan Shootout (Akron, Liberty, Mississippi State and Puerto Rico-Mayaguez).

HOLY CROSS IN REGULAR SEASON TOURNAMENTS: The Crusaders will take part in the 73rd regular season tournament in school history at the San Juan Shootout. Holy Cross enters the week with an all-time record of 70-84 in regular season tournaments. On Nov. 18-19, the Crusaders won the championship of the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic, to claim the 12th regular season tournament title in school history. The last of Holy Cross' previous 11 regular season tournament championships came during the 1982-1983 season, when the Crusaders defeated Davidson (65-62) and Iona (66-65) to capture the crown of the Worcester County Classic, played at the Worcester Centrum. Holy Cross had gone 23 straight tournaments without a championship before winning earlier this season. If the Crusaders are able to win the San Juan Shootout, it would mark on the second time in school history that they captured the title of two regular season tournaments in the same year. During the 1976-1977 season, Holy Cross won both the Colonial Classic (at the Boston Garden) and the Madison Square Garden Classic. The Crusaders defeated Massachusetts (92-85 in overtime) and Providence (67-65) to win the Colonial Classic, while downing Manhattan (82-64) and Seton Hall (82-77) to take the title at the Madison Square Garden Classic.

SIMMONS SHINES AS A STARTER: Sophomore guard Keith Simmons (Kingston, N.Y.) has moved into the starting lineup for the Crusaders this season, after serving as Holy Cross' sixth man in 2004-2005. In the Crusaders' last game against Brown, he scored 14 points in addition to handing out a career-high five assists. Simmons previously totaled 12 points and six rebounds against Fordham (making three of four shots from beyond the three-point line), while recording a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds at Siena (hitting seven of 11 field goal attempts and three of four shots from three-point range). He also totaled 18 points and five rebounds at Vermont, had 12 points at Cincinnati, and scored a team-high 15 points in the Harvard game. To open the year, Simmons was named to the All-Tournament Team at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic, after averaging 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in the two games. Simmons posted his second career double-double against High Point with 21 points and 10 rebounds, then added 16 points against William & Mary. Simmons now leads the team with an average of 16.0 points per contest, to go along with 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. A year ago, Simmons earned first team All-Patriot League honors in voting by the conference's head coaches. In 32 games played, he averaged 12.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest, while hitting 50.6 percent of his field goals (132 of 261) and 42.0 percent of his three-pointers (50 of 119). He enters the San Juan Shootout with a career field goal percentage of 48.1 (260 of 541), while hitting 43.7 percent (101 of 231) of his three-point attempts.

THOMAS ENJOYS STRONG START TO SEASON: Junior point guard Torey Thomas (White Plains, N.Y.) is once again one of the Crusaders' top players this season. He has averaged 11.0 points, 5.8 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game, while posting a 2.56-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Thomas totaled five points, nine rebounds and eight assists against Brown, while recording a career-high 23 points, five assists, five steals and four rebounds against Fordham. He previously had 11 rebounds, five points, five assists and five steals at Siena, while totaling 11 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists against Harvard. Thomas opened up the year by scoring 20 points against High Point, in addition to totaling six rebounds, six assists and three steals. He also posted 15 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and four steals in the win over William & Mary. Last year, Thomas played in 31 games with 22 starts, averaging 7.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.8 steals per contest. He also posted a 2.04-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, a mark which was the best in the Patriot League. Thomas led the team and ranked third in the league in assists, while placing second on the team and fifth in the conference in steals. Entering the San Juan Shootout, Thomas has career totals of 471 points, 228 rebounds, 201 assists and 125 steals.

HAMILTON LOOKS TO HAVE ANOTHER OUTSTANDING SEASON: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton (Queens Village, N.Y.) is once again one of the top players in the Patriot League this year. He began the 2005-2006 season by being named Patriot League Player of the Week and Most Valuable Player at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic. Hamilton scored 22 points on eight of 11 shooting in the victory over High Point, then had 18 points and nine rebounds in the win over William & Mary. He also scored 14 points at Vermont, while recording 13 points at Cincinnati. After missing the Siena contest due to illness, Hamilton totaled nine points and seven rebounds in the victory over Fordham, and had 12 points and six rebounds against Brown. He has now scored in double figures in six of the seven games he has played this season. On the year, Hamilton is averaging 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals per contest. Last season, Hamilton was named Patriot League Player of the Year, first team All-Patriot League, All-Patriot League Tournament and an honorable mention All-American (by the Associated Press). In 32 games played last year, Hamilton averaged 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.8 assists. He has now scored in double figures 59 times during his Holy Cross career, including 49 times in his last 55 games. This season, Hamilton can become only the third two-time Patriot League Player of the Year selection in conference history, as the only previous players to accomplish the feat are Adonal Foyle (Colgate, 1996 and 1997) and Brian Ehlers (Lafayette, 1999 and 2000).

STEALING THE SHOW: In the first eight games of the 2005-2006 season, the Crusaders have totaled 84 steals for a Patriot League-best average of 10.5 steals per game. Holy Cross has reached double figures in steals four times this season, with a high of 16 against Harvard. Junior guard Torey Thomas has led the team in steals so far this season, totaling 29 for an average of 3.6 steals per game. Last year, the Crusaders recorded 329 steals in 32 games, good for an average of 10.3 steals per contest. The Crusaders reached double figures in steals for a game 15 times last season, with highs of 20 at Harvard, 18 against Iona and 16 at Fordham. Leading the way was guard Kevin Hamilton, who totaled 92 steals last year. Hamilton set a new Holy Cross single season record for steals (breaking the mark of 78 by Gordon Hamilton in 1993-1994). As a team, the Crusaders broke the school single season record for steals (the old mark was 304 in 1992-1993) and came close to the Patriot League single season record of 352 (Navy, 1999-2000).

BROWN RECAP: Tim Clifford scored a career-high 21 points to go along with seven rebounds and four blocked shots, leading Holy Cross to a 64-41 victory over Brown at the Hart Center on Dec. 7, 2005. Clifford made nine of 12 attempts from the floor, including his only three-point attempt, and was also a perfect two of two at the free throw line. Brown opened the game with a 9-5 lead after four minutes of play, but Holy Cross responded with a 10-0 run of its own to take the lead for good. The Crusaders were still up by just five points (26-21) with five minutes left until the intermission, before closing out the half with an 11-1 spurt to take a 15-point lead into the locker room. The Bears scored the first four points of the second half to trim the Holy Cross lead to 11, but that was as close as Brown would get the rest of the night. The Crusaders used a 15-6 run to increase their lead to 20 points with just under 10 minutes remaining, before eventually expanding the lead to 23 points in the final minute. Keith Simmons finished the game with 14 points and five assists, while Kevin Hamilton added 12 points, six rebounds and two steals. Brown was led by junior forward Sam Manhanga with 18 points and five rebounds. The Crusaders made eight of 19 shots from three-point range on the day (42.1 percent), and also outrebounded the Bears 37-29. In addition, Holy Cross held Brown to just 28.6 percent shooting from the field (14 of 49), including just 12.5 percent from three-point range (two of 16).

WILLARD CONTINUES IMPRESSIVE RUN AT HOLY CROSS: Ralph Willard is now in his seventh season as the Crusaders' head coach, and currently owns a mark of 118-72 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 262-196. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

CRUSADERS PICK UP DEFENSIVE EFFORT: Holy Cross has turned in two of its top defensive performances of the season over the last two games. During the 73-61 double overtime victory over Fordham, the Crusaders forced the Rams to commit 25 turnovers, while holding Fordham to 42.6 percent shooting from the field. Holy Cross really picked things up on the defensive end during the final five minutes of regulation and the two overtime periods, when it rallied from a seven-point deficit to win the game. During the final 15 minutes of play, the Crusaders allowed the Rams to score just 14 points, with Fordham making only three of 17 field goal attempts and committing seven turnovers. Holy Cross was also impressive on defense during the 64-41 win over Brown. The Crusaders held the Bears to 28.6 percent shooting from the floor (14 of 49) and 12.5 percent shooting from three-point range, while the 41 points scored were the fewest by a Holy Cross opponent this season.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again be among the top defensive teams in the nation this year. Through eight games, the Crusaders have allowed 64.4 points per game, while holding the opposition to 41.4 percent shooting from the floor and 29.9 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross has also forced its opponents to commit an average of 18.4 turnovers per game, including 25 by Fordham and 22 by Harvard. In addition, the Crusaders are averaging 10.5 steals and 3.5 blocks per contest, while outrebounding the opposition by 2.4 boards per game. Last year, the Crusaders allowed their opponents to average just 56.8 points per game, while holding 22 of their 32 foes to under 60 points in regulation. Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Holy Cross has never allowed its opponents to average over 60 points per game for a season, while holding the opposition to only 58.8 points per contest during that span. In addition, the Crusaders have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense during each of the last four 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).

CRUSADERS HAVE FOUR DIFFERENT 20-POINT SCORERS: In only eight games played so far this season, Holy Cross has had four different players score 20 or more points in a single contest. Junior guard Keith Simmons and junior guard Torey Thomas have led the way by scoring 20 points in a game twice each. Simmons had 21 points against High Point and 20 points at Siena, while Thomas totaled 23 points against Fordham and 20 points against High Point. In addition, senior guard Kevin Hamilton scored 22 points against High Point, and sophomore center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) had 21 points against Brown. Against High Point, the Crusaders had three 20-point scorers in a single game for the first time since Feb. 9, 1994, against Lehigh. In addition, Holy Cross' four different 20-point scorers this year are its most since four players had 20-point games during the 2002-2003 season (Patrick Whearty four times, Tim Szatko three times, Brian Wilson three times, and Jave Meade once).

CLIFFORD COMING OFF CAREER GAME: Sophomore center Tim Clifford had the top game of his Holy Cross career in the victory over Brown. He totaled 21 points, seven rebounds and four blocks against the Bears, while hitting nine of 12 field goal attempts (including his first collegiate three pointer). Through eight games played, Clifford has averaged 5.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. In 28 games played last season, he averaged points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest. Clifford was particularly impressive last year in the three games starting center Nate Lufkin missed due to injury, averaging 10.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.7 blocks in those contests. Clifford also finished the 2004-2005 season ranked fifth in the Patriot League with his 31 blocked shots.

CUNNINGHAM PLAYING KEY MINUTES OFF THE BENCH: Freshman forward Colin Cunningham (Memphis, Tenn.) was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week on Dec. 5, following his performances against Fordham, Siena and Vermont. Against Fordham, he totaled 15 points, four rebounds and two assists, while scoring all five of the Crusaders' points in the last 10 seconds of regulation to force overtime. In the previous game at Siena, Cunningham posted career-highs of 16 points and nine rebounds, in addition to recording two assists and two steals in 30 minutes of action. He also played well in the first appearance of his collegiate career at Cincinnati, totaling four points, six rebounds and two assists, and had five points, two rebounds and two steals at Vermont. In five games played on the year, including two starts, Cunningham is averaging 9.0 points and 4.6 rebounds, to go along with 10 assists and six steals. Cunningham came to Holy Cross from White Station High School, where he helped his team to two Tennessee state championships.

HAMILTON RECORDS 1,000TH CAREER POINT: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton has put his name among the all-time leaders at Holy Cross in a number of statistical categories. Against Cincinnati, Hamilton hit a free throw at the 4:34 mark of the first half to become the 41st player in school history to score 1,000 career points (and the first since Jave Meade scored his 1,000th point against Bucknell on Feb. 27, 2004). He now has 1,043 points during his four-year career as a Crusader. In addition, Hamilton is already the Crusaders' all-time leader in career three-point field goals made (167) and attempted (492). He also has a good chance to become Holy Cross' all-time leader in steals, as he currently has 206, standing just 40 behind current record-holder Jave Meade (246 steals, 2000-2004).

CRUSADERS KEEP WINNING AT THE HART CENTER: Holy Cross stands 2-1 at the Hart Center so far this season, and now owns an all-time record of 267-104 in the building. The Crusaders posted a 12-3 mark at home last year, including a 10-game winning streak and nine straight victories against Patriot League foes. During those games against conference opponents, Holy Cross won by an average of 18.7 points per contest, with all but one game being decided by at least 10 points. Since the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, the Crusaders now have an overall mark of 55-11 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 26 out of 30 seasons, while posting double-figure home victories 13 times.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 87th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1208-781 (.607), 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 nine players on to professional basketball, 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.

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 17th 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 second year on the Holy Cross broadcast crew, and will handle either play-by-play or color commentary for selected games. Most games will be carried over the internet at "www.sportsjuice.com", including a few games which are not on WTAG. The Holy Cross student station, WCHC 88.1 FM, will also carry a number of games this year.

CRUSADERS ON TELEVISION: Holy Cross is currently scheduled to have seven games shown on live television during the 2005-2006 season, with a number of other television appearances still to be announced. Last year the Crusaders had 10 television appearances, including three games which were shown on ESPN2. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule for the 2005-2006 campaign:

Date     Opponent            Television Outlet
Dec. 1   Siena               Time Warner
Jan. 2   Boston University   NESN
Jan. 14  Bucknell            CSTV
Jan. 17  Boston College      NESN
Jan. 28  Lehigh              Fox College Sports / Service Electric
Feb. 4   Lafayette           Lafayette Sports Network
Feb. 26  Lehigh              CSTV

CRUSADERS PICKED SECOND IN PRESEASON POLL: In the 2005-2006 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 (98 points). Holy Cross received two first-place votes in the poll, with the Bison accounting for the other 14 first-place votes. Following the Crusaders in the poll were Lehigh (third, 65 points), Colgate (fourth, 59 points), American (fifth, 55 points), Navy (sixth, 42 points), Lafayette (seventh, 26 points) and Army (eighth, 17 points).

HAMILTON AND SIMMONS NAMED PRESEASON ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton and junior guard Keith Simmons were both named preseason All-Patriot League, in voting by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. Holy Cross was one of only two teams in the league to place more than one player on the preseason all-conference team. Along with Hamilton and Simmons, other selections to the squad were Bucknell junior center Chris McNaughton, American junior guard Andre Ingram and Bucknell senior guard Charles Lee. All five players on the preseason All-Patriot League squad were also on last year's postseason All-Patriot League first team.

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders are currently ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in two different statistical categories, through games of Dec. 12. In addition, junior guard Torey Thomas is listed among the nation's leaders in both assists and steals. The rankings:

Category              Rank  Player / Team     Avg. / No.
Steals                   7  Torey Thomas             3.6
                        23  Holy Cross              10.5
Assists                 30  Torey Thomas             5.8
Free Throw Percentage   48  Holy Cross              73.2

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is currently ranked 124th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, through games of Dec. 14. The Crusaders concluded the 2004-2005 season ranked 49th in the nation in the Ratings Percentage Index, according to Collegiate Basketball News. In the final ratings, Holy Cross had an RPI of .5657, to place ahead of NCAA tournament participants Alabama-Birmingham (54th), North Carolina State (56th), Iowa (59th) and Iowa State (70th). The Crusaders' non-conference schedule ranked as the 84th-toughest in the country, including games against three teams which finished the year ranked in the top 50 (No. 13 Boston College, No. 21 Vermont and No. 50 Northeastern). Holy Cross was the second-highest rated team out of the Patriot League, coming in behind only Bucknell (39th, .5709).

DRIBBLES: Senior guard Kevin Hamilton has been selected as the Crusaders' captain for the 2005-2006 season, while senior forward Kevin Hyland will serve as Holy Cross' co-captain ... The starting time for Holy Cross' game at Northeastern on Dec. 30 has been changed to 3:00 p.m. ... Holy Cross' 85 points against High Point were its most in a season opener since an 85-57 victory over Quinnipiac in 2001-2002.