Holy Cross To Face George Mason At The DCU Center

Dec. 20, 2006

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The Teams: Holy Cross (6-4, 0-0 PL) vs. George Mason (4-4, 0-0 CAA)
Date: December 21, 2006
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: DCU Center (13,008), Worcester, Mass.
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; www.sportsjuice.com, internet; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
George Mason Radio: WXXX 730 AM, Silver Spring, Md.; Bill Rohland, play-by-play; Ric Wilson, color
Series Record: George Mason leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: George Mason 71, Holy Cross 38 (December 27, 2005, Fairfax, Va.)

Pos.  No.  Name                Ht.   Wt.   Cl.
F      10  Keith Simmons       6-5   205   Sr.
F      21  Alex Vander Baan    6-8   205   So.
C      00  Tim Clifford       6-10   270   Jr.
G       1  Torey Thomas       5-11   185   Sr.
G       2  Kyle Cruze          6-2   175   Jr.

THE SERIES WITH GEORGE MASON: This will be the second meeting between the Crusaders and the Patriots on the hardwood. In the first game, George Mason posted a 71-38 victory in Fairfax on Dec. 27, 2005. Against current members of the Colonial Athletic Association, Holy Cross has an all-time record of 22-5 (0-1 vs. George Mason, 1-0 against Georgia State, 4-0 vs. Hofstra, 12-4 against Northeastern and 5-0 vs. William & Mary).

Overall: George Mason leads, 1-0
In Worcester: First Meeting
At the DCU Center: First Meeting
Ralph Willard vs. George Mason: 0-1
Jim Larranaga vs. Holy Cross: 1-0
Current Win Streak: George Mason, one game

HOLY CROSS AT THE DCU CENTER: The Crusaders will be making their 18th appearance at the DCU Center, formerly known as the Worcester Centrum. Holy Cross owns an all-time record of just 6-11 at the DCU Center, but stands 3-1 under the direction of head coach Ralph Willard. The most recent contest for the Crusaders at the DCU Center came on Jan. 17, 2006, when they fell to Boston College 63-53. Holy Cross' victories in the building under Willard came against Iona (78-53 on Jan. 18, 2005), Boston College (71-70 on Dec. 1, 2002) and Massachusetts (78-65 on Nov. 25, 2000). In 2005, the DCU Center served as a site for first and second round games of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament. The building previously hosted NCAA first and second round games in 1992. Overall, a total of 40 Division I collegiate men's basketball games have been played at the DCU Center in its history. The first contests came on Dec. 29, 1982, when Holy Cross defeated Davidson 65-62 and Iona downed George Washington 65-57 in the Shawmut Worcester County Classic.

HOLY CROSS IN THE MIDST OF LONG ROAD TRIP: The contest against George Mason will be the closest thing the Crusaders have to a home game over a six-week span. Prior to facing the Patriots, Holy Cross played five straight games on the road at Syracuse (Nov. 27), Yale (Nov. 29), Dayton (Dec. 2), Duke (Dec. 6) and Providence (Dec. 19). Following a break for Christmas, the Crusaders will travel to Philadelphia for the La Salle Invitational, where they will face La Salle (Dec. 28), Niagara (Dec. 29) and Delaware (Dec. 30). Holy Cross then concludes its road trip with contests at Boston University (Jan. 3) and Lafayette (Jan. 6). The Crusaders' 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 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.6 steals in the first 10 games of the year. In Tuesday's game at Providence, Simmons totaled 20 points, four rebounds and three steals. In the previous 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. Some of Simmons' other top performances this season have come against Syracuse (game-high 22 points), Harvard (20 points and six rebounds), Hampton (19 points, six rebounds and two assists), Siena (18 points and 11 rebounds), Fairfield (18 points and five steals) and William & Mary (16 points, eight rebounds and a school single-game record-tying seven steals). 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 George Mason game, Simmons has scored 1,251 career points as a Crusader, while making 49.6 percent of his field goal attempts (432 of 871) and 43.5 percent from three-point range (157 of 361). He is currently the all-time Patriot League leader in career three-point field goal percentage, while ranking second all-time at Holy Cross in three-point field goals made and 19th in points scored.

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 game at Providence, Clifford led the team with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. Previously at Harvard, he scored a team-high 22 points on nine of 11 shooting from the field. Clifford also played well against William & Mary, totaling 13 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots. Through the first 10 games of the year, he is averaging 10.2 points, 4.3 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 430 points, 241 rebounds and 100 blocked shots. He currently ranks sixth all-time at Holy Cross in career blocks.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2006-2007. Through the first 10 games of the year, the Crusaders have held their opponents to 62.8 points per game, 43.7 percent shooting from the floor, and 35.8 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross has also averaged 9.7 steals and 4.1 blocks per contest, while forcing the opposition to commit 17.7 turnovers per game and outrebounding its opponents by 1.7 boards per contest. In addition, the Crusaders have held six of their first 10 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 59.1 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).

PROVIDENCE RECAP: Tim Clifford totaled 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots, but it was not enough as Holy Cross was defeated by Providence 77-68 at the Dunkin' Donuts Center on Dec. 19, 2006. Keith Simmons added 20 points, four rebounds and three steals for the Crusaders. Providence held a 9-6 lead after five minutes of play, before going to a 15-3 run to make the score 24-9 with 11:01 left before the break. The Friars were able to extend their lead to as many as 18 points (34-16 at the 6:01-mark), before the Crusaders started to come to life. Holy Cross closed out the half on an 11-4 run to trail by just 11 points (38-27) heading into the locker room. Providence was still up by 10 points (44-34) with 17:51 left in regulation, before the Crusaders went on an 11-2 run to make it a one-point game (46-45) with 14:50 remaining. But that would be as close as Holy Cross could get, as the Friars responded with a 10-3 spurt of their own to take back control of the game. The Crusaders would trim the lead to no less than six points in the final 10 minutes, as Providence held on to win by nine (77-68). Torey Thomas finished the game with 13 points, four rebounds and four steals, while Alex Vander Baan added seven points, seven rebounds and three assists. The Friars were led by Weyinmi Efejuku with 21 points and six rebounds, while Geoff McDermott posted a double-double with 11 points and 17 rebounds.

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. On Tuesday at Providence, he recorded 13 points, four rebounds and four steals. Previously 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 also 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 previously 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 10 games, Thomas is now averaging 11.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.6 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 854 points, 397 rebounds, 350 assists and 199 steals. He currently ranks fourth all-time at Holy Cross in career steals, and ninth in career assists.

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 140-84 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 284-208. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

THE LAST MEETING WITH GEORGE MASON: George Mason guard Lamar Butler scored 26 points on 11 of 17 shooting to lead the Patriots to a 71-38 victory over Holy Cross at the Patriot Center on Dec. 27, 2005. Tony Skinn added 21 points for George Mason, while Torey Thomas led the Crusaders with 16 points and six rebounds. Kevin Hamilton scored the first five points of the game to give the Crusaders an early 5-0 lead, and Holy Cross was still up 16-12 with nine minutes remaining before the break. George Mason then used a 5-0 run to regain the lead, but was up by only two points (25-23) with 3:37 left to play in the opening stanza. The Patriots then closed out the half on a 7-0 run, to take a 32-23 advantage into the locker room. George Mason kept the momentum in the second half, scoring the first 14 points after the break to complete a 21-0 run and build its lead to 23 points (46-23). The Crusaders would get no closer than 21 points the rest of the way, as the Patriots increased their lead to as many as 37 points, before finally winning by 33.

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is presently ranked 40th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, with a rating of .5970 through games of December 19. The Crusaders are currently the only team in the Patriot League ranked in the top 100, with the second-highest ranking belonging to Navy (116th, .5318). In addition, Holy Cross' non-conference schedule ranks as the 41st 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 9.7 steals per game, including a high of 16 steals against Fairfield. Senior guard Keith Simmons is currently tied for the team lead with 26 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 also has 26 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.

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 10 games played so far this season, Vander Baan is averaging 6.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest, while making 45.7 percent of his field goal attempts (21 of 46). 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.

HOLY CROSS HAVING GOOD SUCCESS ON THE BOARDS: The Crusaders have averaged 32.6 rebounds through the first 10 games of the 2006-2007 season, and are currently outrebounding their opponents by an average of 1.7 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 four different players currently averaging at least 4.3 boards per contest. Sophomore forward Alex Vander Baan leads the team with 6.6 rebounds per game, while senior guard Keith Simmons has averaged 5.9 boards per contest. Senior guard Torey Thomas (4.4 rebounds per game) and junior center Tim Clifford (4.3 rebounds per game) are also enjoying fine seasons on the glass.

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.

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.

SCOUTING THE PATRIOTS: George Mason enters the game with an overall record of 4-4 on the year. The Patriots stand 3-2 in road games so far this season, but are coming off a 69-53 loss at Duke. Junior forward Folarin Campbell currently leads the team in scoring with an average of 15.9 points per game, in addition to handing out a team-best 32 assists. Junior forward Will Thomas is averaging 13.3 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds per contest, while sophomore guard John Vaughan is also scoring in double figures (13.4 points per game). George Mason is led by head coach Jim Larranaga, who owns an overall record of 170-108 in 10 seasons with the Patriots. Larranaga's career record stands at 368-277, including 11 seasons at Bowling Green and two years at American International College.

TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: This year marks the 88th season of Holy Cross men's basketball. The Crusaders own an overall record of 1230-793 (.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. 17. 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
               36  Torey Thomas       2.4
               37  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 10 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. 3   Boston University    CN8
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 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 79 minutes in nine games this season. Last year, he totaled four points and one rebound in 15 minutes of action all season ... Freshman forward Eric Meister (Boalsburg, Pa.) has started his collegiate career strong, averaging 3.1 points and 2.8 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. 18.