December 23, 2005

Crusaders To Return To Action At George Mason On Dec. 27

Dec. 23, 2005

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:
The Teams: Holy Cross (5-6, 0-0 PL) vs. George Mason (6-3, 1-1 CAA)
Date: December 27, 2005
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Patriot Center (10,000), Fairfax, Va.
George Mason Radio: Bill Rohland, play-by-play; Jen Surlas, color; WDCT 1310 AM, Fairfax, Va.
Series Record: First Meeting

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 SERIES WITH GEORGE MASON: This will be the first meeting between the Crusaders and the Patriots on the hardwood. Against current members of the Colonial Athletic Association, Holy Cross has an all-time record of 20-4 (1-0 vs. Georgia State, 4-0 against Hofstra, 11-4 vs. Northeastern and 4-0 against William & Mary). The Crusaders also stand 5-1 all-time against schools from the state of Virginia (1-0 vs. Hampton, 0-1 against Radford and 4-0 vs. William & Mary). In addition, Holy Cross has a 4-1 all-time mark in games played in Virginia (3-0 at William & Mary, plus a win over High Point in Williamsburg this year, and a loss to Maryland in Hampton on Dec. 22, 1971).

HAMILTON ENJOYING 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 earned All-Tournament honors at last week's San Juan Shootout, averaging 26.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in three games, while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor and 57.1 percent from three-point range. Hamilton began the tournament by scoring a career-high 38 points against Tennessee-Chattanooga, while making 13 of 20 shots from the floor and seven of 10 three-pointers. He then added 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals against Clemson, before totaling 27 points, six assists and three steals against Mississippi State. Earlier this season, Hamilton was named Patriot League Player of the Week and Most Valuable Player at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic. He 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. Hamilton has now scored in double figures in nine of the 10 games he has played this season. On the year, he is averaging 17.6 points, 5.7 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 62 times during his Holy Cross career, including 52 times in his last 58 games.

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 10.8 points, 5.4 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game, while posting a 2.11-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Thomas was named to the All-Tournament team at last week's San Juan Shootout, after averaging 10.3 points, 4.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds over three games, and hitting four of seven (57.1 percent) three-point attempts. He had 11 points, six assists and five rebounds against Tennessee-Chattanooga, and added 13 points, four rebounds and three assists against Mississippi State. Earlier in the season, Thomas recorded a career-high 23 points, five assists, five steals and four rebounds against Fordham. He also played well at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic in a pair of games against High Point (20 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals) and William & Mary (15 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and four steals). 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. Entering the George Mason game, he has career totals of 502 points, 239 rebounds, 214 assists and 130 steals.

VANDER BAAN COMING OFF HUGE WEEK IN SAN JUAN: Freshman forward Alex Vander Baan (Uxbridge, Mass.) had three outstanding games for the Crusaders at last week's San Juan Shootout. He began the tournament by tying his career high with 11 points against Tennessee-Chattanooga, in addition to pulling down five rebounds. Against Clemson in the semifinals, Vander Baan set a new career-high in scoring, as he led the team with 15 points and seven rebounds. He then improved on his career-high once again against Mississippi State in the third place game, totaling 21 points and nine rebounds. Over the three games at the San Juan Shootout, Vander Baan averaged 15.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest, while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor. Earlier in the season, he was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week (Nov. 21), following his performance at the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic. Vander Baan averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in the two games, while shooting 60.0 percent from the field. His top game came against High Point in the first contest of his collegiate career, when he totaled 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Through 11 games played this season, Vander Baan has averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest, while hitting 45.3 percent (29 of 64) of his field goal attempts. Vander Baan came to Holy Cross from Whitinsville Christian School, where he averaged 16.1 points and 15.6 rebounds as a senior.

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. Simmons was able to play only 17.7 minutes per game at the San Juan shootout due to injury, but still ranks as the team's second-leading scorer this season. In the Brown game, 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. On the season, he is averaging 12.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 42.6 percent (20 of 47) from three-point range. 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 George Mason game with a career field goal percentage of 47.7 (265 of 555), while hitting 43.3 percent (103 of 238) of his three-point attempts.

HAMILTON IN THE RECORD BOOKS: 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. He now has 1,121 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 (179) and attempted (513). He also has a good chance to become Holy Cross' all-time leader in steals, as he currently has 213, standing just 33 behind current record-holder Jave Meade (246 steals, 2000-2004). In addition, Hamilton has tied the school single game records for steals (seven against Harvard) and three-point field goals (seven against Tennessee-Chattanooga) this season.

MISSISSIPPI STATE RECAP: Mississippi State's Jamall Edmondson hit a three-point field goal with 4.5 seconds remaining to lift the Bulldogs to a 76-75 victory over Holy Cross in the third place game of the San Juan Shootout at Mario Morales Coliseum on Dec. 21, 2005. The Crusaders were led by Kevin Hamilton with 27 points, six assists and three steals. Holy Cross held a 72-65 lead with 1:21 remaining in the game when the Bulldogs began their comeback. Dietric Slater and Reginald Delk hit a pair of baskets for Mississippi State to make the score 72-69, before Hamilton made two free throws to put Holy Cross back up by five. But Walter Sharpe then made a shot, and following a turnover, Jamont Gordon scored to make the score 74-73. Alex Vander Baan was able to hit on only one of two free throw attempts for the Crusaders with 11.7 seconds remaining, before Edmondson made the game-winning three-pointer. The game was close throughout a first half which featured five ties and six lead changes, and the Crusaders held a 39-37 lead heading into the locker room. Holy Cross came out hot to start the second half, using an 8-2 run to build a 47-39 lead. But Mississippi State came back with a 9-0 run to go up 56-51 with eight minutes left to play. The Crusaders used a 9-0 run of their own to regain the lead, and increased their advantage to nine points (70-61 with 2:50 left), before the Bulldogs came back for the win.Vander Baan finished the game with a career-high 21 points and nine rebounds, while Torey Thomas totaled 13 points and three assists.

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 119-74 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 263-198. Willard is a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, and was a three-year letterwinner for the Crusaders.

CRUSADERS HAVE FIVE DIFFERENT 20-POINT SCORERS: In only 11 games played so far this season, Holy Cross has had five different players score 20 or more points in a single contest. Senior guard Kevin Hamilton has led the way with three 20-point games this season, against Tennessee-Chattanooga (38 points), Mississippi State (27 points) and High Point (22 points). Junior guard Keith Simmons and junior guard Torey Thomas each have a pair of 20-point games this year, as 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, sophomore center Tim Clifford (Walpole, Mass.) had 21 points against Brown, and freshman forward Alex Vander Baan recorded 21 points against Mississippi State. 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' five different 20-point scorers this year are its most since five players had 20-point games during the 1996-1997 season (Chris Rojik four times, Damion Ezell three times, John Hightower twice, Jon Kerr twice and Carlos Clark once).

HOLY CROSS IN REGULAR SEASON TOURNAMENTS: The Crusaders will took part in a pair of regular season tournaments this season, winning the championship of the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic, and placing fourth out of eight teams at the San Juan Shootout. Including this year's 3-2 mark, Holy Cross now has an all-time record of 71-86 in 73 regular season tournaments. When the Crusaders won the William & Mary Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 18-19, it marked 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.

STEALING THE SHOW: In the first 11 games of the 2005-2006 season, the Crusaders have totaled 102 steals for a Patriot League-best average of 9.3 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 34 for an average of 3.1 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 also broke the school single season record for steals.

CRUSADERS REMAIN TOUGH ON DEFENSE: Holy Cross is once again among the top defensive teams in the nation this year. Through 11 games, the Crusaders have allowed 66.1 points per game, while holding the opposition to 43.3 percent shooting from the floor and 32.4 percent shooting from three-point range. Holy Cross has also forced its opponents to commit an average of 17.5 turnovers per game, including 25 by Fordham and 22 by Harvard. In addition, the Crusaders are averaging 9.3 steals and 3.0 blocks per contest, while outrebounding the opposition by 2.0 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 59.1 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 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 1209-783 (.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.

CLIFFORD PLAYING BIG IN THE POST: Sophomore center Tim Clifford has turned into one of the top low-post players for the Crusaders this season. He had the top game of his collegiate career against Brown, totaling 21 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, while hitting nine of 12 field goal attempts (including his first collegiate three pointer). Through 11 games played, Clifford has averaged 5.5 points, 4.2 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 eight games played on the year, including two starts, Cunningham is averaging 6.3 points and 3.5 rebounds, to go along with 13 assists and six steals. Cunningham came to Holy Cross from White Station High School, where he helped his team to two Tennessee state championships.

HYLAND LOOKS TO BE A FORCE DOWN LOW: Senior forward Kevin Hyland (White Plains, N.Y.) was the first big man off the bench for the Crusaders a year ago, and has taken over a starting role for Holy Cross in 2005-2006. Through the first 11 contests of the season, he has averaged 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds. In 32 games played last year, Hyland averaged 4.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per contest. He was also one of the most accurate shooters on the team, hitting on 59.8 percent (55 of 92) of his field goal attempts. Entering the George Mason game, Hyland has career totals of 255 points, 162 rebounds and 53 blocks, while shooting 51.2 percent (110 of 215) from the floor.

HOLY CROSS IN THE NCAA STATISTICS: The Crusaders are currently ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in steals, through games of Dec. 19. 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          8  Torey Thomas             3.4
               34  Holy Cross               9.9
Assists        26  Torey Thomas             5.8

HOLY CROSS IN THE RPI: Holy Cross is currently ranked 125th in the nation in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, through games of Dec. 22. 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).

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

SCOUTING THE PATRIOTS: George Mason has an overall record of 6-3 so far this season, with a 1-1 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association, The Patriots have won two straight and five out of their last six games, and have a 2-1 mark so far this season in home games. Senior center Jai Lewis leads the team with averages of 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds this year, while shooting 60.2 percent (53 of 88) from the floor. Senior guard Lamar Butler has added 14.6 points per game, while senior guard Tony Skinn has averaged 13.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest. Head coach Jim Larranaga has a record of 145-99 during his nine seasons at George Mason. Larranaga's career record stands at 343-268, including 11 years and Bowling Green and two seasons at American International College.

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.

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.