Crusaders Prep For Decisive League Bout With Lehigh Saturday

Kelly Hamner

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Game Day Quick Facts
The Teams: Holy Cross (7-14, 3-3 PL) vs. Lehigh (12-9, 2-4 PL)
Date: January 29, 2010
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.

Holy Cross Radio: Stretch Internet Radio; Dick Lutsk, play-by-play; Listen Here
Lehigh Radio: WLVR-FM; Matt Markus, play-by-play

Unofficial Live Statistics:
Patriot League All-Access:

Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 37-11
Last Meeting: Lehigh 73, Holy Cross 57 (March 7, 2010, Worcester, Mass.)

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST LEHIGH: Saturday's match-up will be the 49th meeting between Holy Cross and Lehigh with the Crusaders owning a 37-11 advantage over the Mountain Hawks. The teams first met in Holy Cross' inaugural season of Patriot League play (1990-1991), earning two back-to-back victories, a 75-55 home victory and then an 87-56 tally on the road. After compiling six consecutive wins against Lehigh from Feb. 1, 1992 until Jan. 15, 1994, the Crusaders were handed their first loss, falling 77-74 in Bethlehem, Pa. on Feb. 9, 1994. Holy Cross avenged the loss with 18 back-to-back wins over the Mountain Hawks, including a 94-68 win in the Patriot League Tournament championship game held at the Hart Center on March 8, 2001. Holy Cross went 11-5 from Jan. 19, 2002 until March 9, 2008, as Lehigh has won the last five meetings dating back to that 2007-2008 season. Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons is responsible for the 37-11 record while the Mountain Hawks head coach, Sue Troyan, is 10-25 against the Crusaders. The Crusaders look to hold serve at home as well, as Lehigh has taken the last two contests held on the Hart Center hardwood, bringing the all-time series record at the Hart Center to 18-5.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST CONFERENCE FOES: The 2010-2011 season marks the 22nd year of Patriot League competition for the Crusaders. After Wednesday's victory over Colgate, Holy Cross stands at 3-3 in league play, remaining in fourth place. Holy Cross has never started league competition with a 3-3 record, dating back to the inaugural season of Patriot League play in 1990-1991. Over the last 21 seasons, the team has competed in a total of 294 league match-ups, winning 230 and dropping 64 games total for a .782 winning percentage. The team was seeded fifth in the tournament last season, a program low, but proved that it could not be counted out, topping Army, 57-53 in the quarterfinal round before falling to the 2010 champion, Lehigh, in the semifinals. The squad also recorded its first losing season in Patriot League play in 2009-2010, going 5-9. Holy Cross possesses two unblemished Patriot League seasons, going 12-0 in 1990-1991, and doing it again in 1996-1997. Head coach Bill Gibbons has been along for the entire ride and is responsible for the 230-64 league record. In all, Holy Cross has made 20 appearances in the Patriot League Tournament, boasting 11 championships and a 38-9 all-time record. The Crusaders are most successful against Colgate as they have mounted a 42-3 all-time record against the Raiders. The team also boasts a 44-8 record against Lafayette. Army and American have given Holy Cross the most trouble, as the two have combined for 24 of the 63 wins against the Crusaders. Lehigh has put up 11 wins against Holy Cross as well.

PLAYING THE MOUNTAIN HAWKS: There are three types of nicknames that begin with Mountain amongst all collegiate institutions and include the Mountain Hawks, the Mountain Lions and the Mountain Cats. Lehigh is the only collegiate institution that uses the nickname Mountain Hawks while there is one college (Pittsburgh-Johnstown) that bears the Mountain Cats title. Four schools call themselves the Mountain Lions and include Alliant International in California, Concord in West Virginia, Colorado-Colorado Springs and Young Harris in Georgia. Holy Cross has played two of the six schools that incorporate mountain in to its nickname; Lehigh and Alliant International. The Crusaders topped the Alliant Mountain Lions during the 1988-1989 season, winning 94-84 in California. In all, Holy Cross holds a 38-11 record against "mountain" teams.

HOME IS WHERE THE HART IS: Holy Cross, who has played in nine home match-ups so far, return to the Hart Center on Jan. 29 against Lehigh. The Crusaders are now 4-5 when playing on their home hardwood this season, winning against New Hampshire, Harvard, Maine and Bucknell, and falling to Yale, Central Connecticut, Boston College, Army and Navy. The Crusaders currently have a .775 home victory percentage since becoming a Division I program as the 2010-2011 season marks the 36th season of women's basketball competition at the Hart Center. The program holds an all-time 332-110 advantage at home and has posted 29 winning records at home and just five losing seasons, including last year's 4-9 record. Combined, the Crusaders have won 155 of 195 meetings against this year's home opponents, including a 124-23 record against Patriot League foes (1-2 this season).

ROADWOES: Holy Cross played in its final road game in the first Patriot League go-around on Wednesday, Jan. 26 at Colgate after playing away against American on Jan. 22. Road trips have not been too kind to the Crusaders, as they are 3-7 when playing on the road this season after topping Colgate the last time out. Overall, the team is averaging 55.1 points per road game. Home teams average 72.2 points and are knocking down 43.7 percent of their baskets, while the Crusaders shoot 34.1 percent as the visitors. On a neutral floor, as in the Cavalier Classic, Holy Cross posted 65.0 points per game and allowed an average of 82.5 points to be scored. The Crusaders are also out-rebounded by an average of 8.8 rebounds when playing on the road.

ALL-AROUND AMY: Sophomore starting forward Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) is continuing to show off her full strength and versatility on all sides of the basketball court this season. Through the 21 games played, Lepley is averaging 9.4 points, a team-best 5.6 rebounds per game and has the best shooting percentage, 40.8 percent (80-for-196), amongst starters. She has already recorded two double-doubles this season, an 18-point, 11-rebound outing against Yale and a 13-point, 12-rebound effort in the team's first win against Quinnipiac. Her 12 rebounds against Quinnipiac were a career-high while her 17 field goal attempts against Yale were also a career-best. She tied her career-high with nine made field goals against the Bulldogs as well. Lepley has recorded nine double-digit scoring outings this season; 13 points against Central Connecticut, 10 points against Maine, 10 points against Boston College, 12 points against Bryant, 13 points against East Tennessee State, 14 points against North Carolina A&T and 10 points versus Navy. She has led or tied the team-high in rebounding in 11 out of the 20 games, including the last three games, highlighted by her 10 rebounds in the win over Colgate on Jan. 26. She has led the team in points twice (against Yale and North Carolina A&T), in steals five times and in assists three times. Amongst Patriot League leaders, Lepley ranks 10th in assists (2.4), ninth in steals (1.5), ninth in rebounding and 15th in scoring. She has also played in an average of 26.8 minutes per game after playing 26 minutes at Colgate. Lepley was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team last season after playing a full season of basketball for the first time since her junior year in high school, averaging 23.7 minutes, 6.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Lepley also claimed six Patriot League Rookie of the Week awards. The Massachusetts native also finished the season with a 44.2 field goal percentage, a team-high, and led the team in rebounding in four contests, including a season-high 10 rebounds twice.

SMOOTH SMITH: Freshman Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) has completely emerged into her role as a starting guard for the Crusaders. On the season, Smith ranks second on the team with 11.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 35.9 percent from the floor (74 of 206). Fifty-seven of her field goals made have come as three-point shots, which now rank eighth in the Holy Cross single season records list for three-pointers made in a season. One hundred-fifty nine of her field goal attempts have come as three-point shots as well, as she is sinking 35.8 percent of her three-point tries. In her last performance against American, Smith scored six points, making one of her five three-point shot attempts. Smith reached new heights in the game against Northeastern, as she poured in a season-best 22 points, the most points a Holy Cross player has put up this season. She also marked season-bests with eight field goals made, including six treys, which ranks third amongst the program's single-game records. Smith has either led or tied for the team lead in points in six out of the 20 games played and has also posted double-figures in seven of the last 11 games. She has notched 12 double-digit scoring affairs in all (12 vs. UConn, 16 vs. New Hampshire, 14 vs. Harvard, 15 vs. Central Connecticut, 21 vs. Maine, 14 vs. Bryant, 22 vs. Northeastern, 16 vs. East Tennessee State, 10 vs. North Carolina A&T, 10 at Dartmouth, 17 at Lafayette, 11 vs. Bucknell). According to the Jan. 23 NCAA rankings, Smith sits at 20th in the nation in the three-pointers made per game category (2.9). She is first amongst league leaders in that category as well. She is 10th in three-point field goal percentage and 13th in scoring average amidst league leaders. She also has two Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors under her belt (11/29 and 12/6), was named AT&T Crusader of the Week on Dec. 20 and named to the Cavalier Classic's All-Tournament Team. Smith showed off her versatility against Dartmouth as she led the team in rebounding for the first time this season, bringing down a season-high eight rebounds, while also collecting six steals, another season-high. She is now the team-leader in assists, collecting 62 in all. In the league, she ranks within the top-10 in assists (fourth), steals (seventh) and minutes played (fifth). In those categories, Smith is averaging 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 31.9 minutes per game.

FREMEAU BREAKS LOOSE: Senior forward Whitney Fremeau (Manchester, N.H.) continues to be one of the team's biggest offensive threats and defensive presences so far this season. Currently, Fremeau leads the team with a 13.3 points per game average, adds 4.1 rebounds per game and is making and taking the team's largest number of shots (115-for-285 from the floor). She poured in a career-high 24 points in the team's win over Colgate on Jan. 26, tying her career-high with eight field goals made, including three three-point shots. Fremeau has attempted a season-high of 17 field goal attempts in a total of three games (Quinnipiac, North Carolina A&T and Dartmouth) and has attempted at least 10 shots in 19 of the 21 games played. She also sank eight field goals against Lafayette on Jan. 8, scoring 19 points to lead the team. She has posted a total of 17 double-digit scoring outings this season, including the last 11 games. Her double-digit outings comprise of; 13 vs. Yale, 20 at Quinnipiac, 16 vs. New Hampshire, 15 vs. Harvard, 13 vs. Maine, 16 vs. Boston College, 19 vs. Northeastern, 10 vs. East Tennessee State, 10 vs. North Carolina A&T, 15 at Dartmouth, 13 at Massachusetts, 19 at Lafayette, 12 vs. Army, 15 vs. Bucknell, 12 vs. Navy, 12 at American and 24 at Colgate. She has also led or tied the team in scoring 10 times. She currently averages 15.7 points per game against Patriot League opponents. In all games, Fremeau ranks third amongst Patriot League individuals with her 13.3 scoring average. She also averages 30.1 minutes per game (10th in the league) and is shooting 40.4 percent from the floor (11th in the league). Her 2.5 assists per game ranks eighth in the league as she has a total of 52 assists. She has also led or tied the team-high in rebounding in three of the last seven games and posted a season-high seven rebounds against Army on Jan. 13. In her 107 career games played, Fremeau has recorded 946 points, 416 rebounds and 197 assists.

THE FROSH IMPACT: Through the 21 games played so far this season, the five-member freshman class is showing why head coach Bill Gibbons has so much faith in their immediate impact on the program. So far, the newcomers have scored 501 of the team's 1,253 total points, are bringing down 238 out of 733 rebounds and add 114 of the 318 assists and 77 of the 179 total steals. Together, the five are averaging 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, while making 164 of their 488 field goal attempts (33.6 percent). In all, the freshman class has led the squad in scoring eight times and in rebounding seven times.

WILLFUL WARD: Junior Meredith Ward (Westerly, R.I.), who began the season as the team's sixth-man off the bench, moved in to the starting role at guard against New Hampshire on Nov. 23. After starting 12 games and coming off the bench in nine, Ward averages 6.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 32.5 percent from the floor (38-for-117) on the season, almost doubling her career average of 3.4 points and 1.5 rebounds. Against Colgate the last time out, Ward scored six points, including three free throws made, and added three rebounds. In her second consecutive start against Harvard, Ward broke out for a career-best 17-point outing, sinking seven of her 11 field goal attempts. Her seven field goals made were a career-high as she also posted six assists, a season-best. Ward now has five double-digit scoring outings in 21 games played (14 vs. Quinnipiac, 10 at Fordham, 11 vs. New Hampshire, 17 vs. Harvard and 12 vs. East Tennessee State). In the first day of action at the Cavalier Classic, Ward attempted a season and career-high with 12 field goal attempts against East Tennessee State, making four of them. She is extremely calm and collected at the free throw line this season, as she has made 50 free throws in 60 attempts (83.3 percent) including a perfect 12-for-12 performance at Quinnipiac. The 12 free throws attempted and made set a new single-game record for the program. Her free throw percentage is amidst the nation's best, as she ranks 27th amongst all NCAA leaders as of Jan. 23. She also ranks second amongst Patriot League leaders. In all, Ward has led the squad in scoring twice (Fordham, Harvard) and has led or tied the team in assists six times (Harvard, Central Connecticut, Boston College, Bryant, Northeastern and North Carolina A&T). She has a total of 48 assists this season, averaging 2.3 per game, which ranks 12th amongst Patriot League leaders. In her 79 career games played, Ward has collected 328 points, 149 rebounds and 126 assists.

GOOD GRABS BY GANSER: Freshman Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.) is emerging as a great force underneath the basket for the Crusaders this season as she currently averages 5.0 points and 3.9 rebounds in 21 games off the bench. She also shoots 35.1 percent (27-for-77) from the floor and averages 15.1 minutes played per game. She recorded her best offensive outing of the season in the big win against Lafayette, tallying season-highs with 15 points on five of nine shooting. She also ranks third on the team with her 3.9 rebounding average. Ganser has a total of three double-digit outings thus far (10 vs. Central Connecticut, 12 vs. North Carolina A&T and 15 at Lafayette) and has at least one rebound in the last 12 games. She brought down a season-best eight rebounds three times against Fordham, New Hampshire and Harvard. The Needham, Mass. product is also one of the team's best free-throw shooters, sinking 47 of 63 free throw attempts (74.6 percent), ranking seventh amongst league individuals. 

DEFENSE MAY'S WAY: Senior Alyssa May (Oradell, N.J.), who is listed as a 6-0 forward/guard, leads the team with 11 blocks so far this season. She recorded a career-best four blocks against East Tennessee State on Dec. 28 and averages 0.5 blocks-per-game, ranking 15th amongst the top Patriot League performers. Her 11 blocks are a career-high, besting her eight blocks from the 2009-2010 season as she has recorded at least one block in eight games this season. Through 21 games, May is averaging 4.2 points and 3.6 rebounds. She scored a career-high 12 points against Boston College on Dec. 8 and posted a season-best nine rebounds against Harvard on Nov. 28. May had her best overall game in the win over Colgate the last time out, scoring 11 points, recording eight rebounds and tying her career-high with five steals, leading the team in that category. She is generally quick with her hands too, as she now averages 1.6 steals per game (eighth amongst top league performers), collecting a total of 33 steals thus far. In her 74 career games played, May has recorded 425 points, 278 rebounds and 135 assists.

HELPING HANDS: Holy Cross ranks first amongst Patriot League teams in the assists category. Through 21 games, Holy Cross averages 15.1 assists per game (318 total) as Alex Smith leads the way with 62 assists, leading the team in the category in six of the last eight games. The team ranks third in assist/turnover ratio, averaging 15.1 assists to 18.6 turnovers (0.8 ratio). The team recorded a season-best 26 assists versus Maine on Dec. 4 and also had 24 assists against Harvard on Nov. 28. Amy Lepley and Whitney Fremeau have both recorded seven assists, a single game-high for the Crusaders. Lepley recorded seven assists against New Hampshire while Fremeau recorded her seven in the season-opener against Yale. In all, the Crusaders have recorded more assists than their opponents in 11 games.

I'LL TAKE THAT: The Holy Cross squad averages 8.5 steals per game through 21 games this season. After recording the second-lowest number of steals (3) this season against American on Jan. 22 and following with nine steals over Colgate on Jan. 26, the Crusaders now rank second in the league next to American (8.7) in the steals category. Amy Lepley and Alex Smith are the team's top thieves, recording 32 total steals. Smith notched a single game-high with six steals against Dartmouth. The team as a whole topped out with 16 steals against New Hampshire on Nov. 23 and has made more steals against their opponents in eight games so far.

TURNOVER TENACITY: Turning the ball over has not been a problem for the Crusaders this season, as they currently own a +0.4 turnover margin through 21 games. The margin is second-best in Patriot League ranks. Altogether, the team has turned the ball over just 391 times while opponents have turned the ball over 400 times. The team is 5-1 in games when they commit fewer turnovers then their opponents while they stand at 0-11 when they commit more turnovers. The team committed a season-low 14 turnovers in the win over Quinnipiac and most recently committed 17 turnovers next to Colgate's 18 turnovers in the win on Jan. 26.

HEAD COACH BILL GIBBONS: 26th SEASON: Bill Gibbons is in his 26th season at the helm of the Holy Cross women's basketball program and 30th as a member of the Holy Cross basketball family in 2010-2011. He has compiled a 493-280 record as head coach (.638 winning percentage), including a 7-14 record at the helm this season. He ranks 28th on the active Division I win leaders list as well. His quarter-century pledge to the team has made a major impact on all aspects of the women's basketball world and especially in the surrounding community. He has led the Crusaders to nine Patriot League Championships in the last 15 years. He has also made 12 postseason appearances (11 NCAA Tournaments and one WNIT) in his 25 years as head coach. With sixteen 20-win seasons under his belt, Gibbons has cemented himself and the women's basketball program as one of the best in the East. The sixth coach of the women's program at Holy Cross, Gibbons has enjoyed the longest tenure in the position. He has led the Holy Cross women's basketball program to more victories than any other coach, and is the winningest coach in Holy Cross Basketball history. With his 358th victory, he surpassed George Blaney (357 wins as head coach of the Holy Cross men's basketball program), who had hired him to be his assistant coach in 1981. Now with more than 450 wins, Gibbons is the second-winningest coach in Holy Cross Athletics history, behind legendary baseball coach Jack Barry, who totaled 616 wins from 1921-1960.

CRUSADERS PICKED FIFTH IN PRESEASON POLL: Holy Cross was picked to finish fifth in the 2010-2011 Patriot League preseason poll, receiving 42 votes. American was chosen to finish first, receiving nine first-place votes as senior forward Michelle Kirk was also voted Preseason Player of the Year. The Eagles earned a league-high 93 points and was followed closely behind by reigning Patriot League Champion, Lehigh, who received seven first place votes and 91 points. Navy was picked third with 70 points, while Army (59 points) and Holy Cross (42) were selected fourth and fifth respectively. Colgate and Lafayette tied for sixth place with 40 votes and Bucknell wrapped up the standings in eighth place with 31 points.

FREMEAU, MAY AND WARD NAMED 2010-2011 TEAM CAPTAINS: Whitney Fremeau, Alyssa May and Meredith Ward were named captains for the 2010-2011 season. Fremeau topped the team in rebounding last year, ranking 10th in the league as well with an average of 5.4 rebounds per game. She is also a threat not only on defense but on offense as well as she also posted a 12.3 scoring average, ranking seventh amongst league individuals and third on the team last season. She was named to the second team All-Patriot League for her efforts. May is the veteran starting in the backcourt, as she returns as the team's best defensive player. As a junior, she averaged 22.1 minutes, 3.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Her 4.1 rebound average was second highest on the team. Ward is also listed among the veterans in the backcourt. Ward saw action in all 31 games last season, averaging 26.8 minutes, 5.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. She ranked second on the team and ninth in the Patriot League with 72 assists, averaging 2.3 assists per game. Combined, the three scored 661 out of the 899 points posted by the team's returning letterwinners. They also pulled down 348 out of the 502 rebounds collected by this year's returners. Through the 21 games of action, the captains have put up 501 points, 226 rebounds and 137 assists.

WELCOME TO WORCESTER: There are two new faces handling front office duties for the 2010-2011 Crusader basketball squad, assistant coaches Chante Bonds and Kristin Drabyn. Bonds spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach for the Fairleigh Dickinson University women's basketball team. She was a four-year letter winner on the Bentley women's basketball team, graduating in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in Informational Design and Corporate Communication. Drabyn spent the previous two seasons as a graduate assistant coach for the women's basketball team at Texas Tech. Drabyn was also a four-year member of the University of Maryland Baltimore County women's basketball team. She graduated as the school's all-time record holder in free throw percentage (90%) and in made three pointers (169). She co-captained the squad as a senior and was an All-Conference selection in 2008. A 2008 graduate of UMBC with a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Communications and Exercise Physiology, Drabyn earned her Master's degree in Sports Management from Texas Tech in 2010.

RETURNING TO GLORY: The 2010-2011 season is the first instance under Gibbons' tutelage that a player on the roster has not participated in the NCAA Tournament. The last time a Holy Cross team made the NCAA Tournament was the 2006-2007 season. Holy Cross has played in the Big Dance 12 times, posting a 1-12 all-time record. It received a team-best seventh seeding in 1985 and played as the 16th seed in its last appearance, 2007. The Crusaders have also participated in the WNIT, playing in the 2002 season.

HOLY CROSS AMONGST THE NATION'S BEST: Holy Cross has gained recognition with many of the nation's top teams and players after the sixth round of the NCAA Division I rankings was released on Jan. 23. Currently, the Crusaders rank 49th in assists per game (15.3), 94th in assist/turnover ratio (0.82) and 236th in scoring offense (59.5). Alex Smith remains a top the nation's three-point performers as she ranks 20th in three-point shots made per game (2.9) and 112th in three-point percentage (36.4). Lastly, Meredith Ward ranks 27th on the national scene with her 88.0 free throw percentage.

NEXT UP FOR THE CRUSADERS: Holy Cross returns to action for the second Patriot League go-around on Feb. 5 against Lafayette. The Leopards visit Worcester for a 1:00 p.m. game at the Hart Center. The game will serve as the team's "Women in Sports Day" and the annual "Pink Zone Day" for breast cancer awareness.

12-9 (2-4 Patriot League)

HEAD COACH: Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan is in her 16th season at the helm of the Mountain Hawks women's basketball program. Troyan took over the reins at Lehigh during the 1995-1996 season and owns a 248-211 career record with the Mountain Hawks, including the 12-9 record in the 2010-2011 season. Troyan is also 10-25 when facing the Crusaders, but has guided her team to five straight wins, including a 73-57 victory in the semifinal round of the 2010 Patriot League Tournament. 

2010-2011 SQUAD: This year's Lehigh team enters Saturday's game with a 12-9 record, 2-4 in the Patriot League. The squad most recently beat Bucknell one the road, and is tied for fifth place in conference standings. The Mountain Hawk started conference play with losses to American (64-51), Navy (63-62) and Army (54-52) before advancing past Colgate (75-57) and going 1-1 in the last two games, falling to Lafayette (57-54) and topping Bucknell (64048). They went 10-5 in non-conference play and are 4-5 when playing on the road, including a 1-2 record against conference foes. The team returns 12 letterwinners, including three of the five starters from last season. Senior guard Erica Prosser leads the team offensively with 12.8 points per game, while shooting 39.6 percent (88 of 222) from the floor. Senior forward Courtney Dentler follows with 12.2 points and a team-leading 5.7 rebounds per game. Junior forward Emily Gratch also averages in double-digits, putting up 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Lehigh is the reigning Patriot League champions, finishing last season with a 12-3 overall record, 13-1 in league play.