Crusaders Continue Travels With Contest At #4 Connecticut On Sunday

Kaitlin Cole

Full UConn Game Notes in PDF Format

Game Day Quick Facts:
The Teams: Holy Cross (0-1, 0-0 Patriot) vs. No. 4 Connecticut (0-0, 0-0 Big East)
Date: November 13, 2011
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Place: Gampel Pavilion (10,167), Storrs, Conn.
Holy Cross Radio: Stretch Internet Radio, Bob Fouracre; play-by-play; Click here
Connecticut Television: CPTV; Click here
Unofficial Live Stats: Click here
UConn Radio: WTIC-UConn Radio Network
Series Record: Connecticut leads, 19-2
Last Meeting: UConn 117, Holy Cross 37 (November 14, 2011, Storrs, Conn.)

THE SERIES WITH CONNECTICUT: Connecticut has been an annual competitor for the Holy Cross women's basketball team ever since Bill Gibbons became head coach in the 1985-1986 season. This year marks the 22nd meeting between the two teams, with the Huskies taking an all-time 19-2 advantage. The first meeting between the two teams occurred on Dec. 20, 1982 on Connecticut's home court. The Huskies won that first meeting, 75-72. Holy Cross nabbed its two victories, first winning at home 89-57 on Feb. 1, 1984 and then following with a 65-49 victory on Dec. 4, 1986 again at the Hart Center in coach Gibbons' first season. The 89 points scored in 1984 was a series-high points scored for the Crusaders. Connecticut has gone on to win the last 18 meetings, outscoring Holy Cross in those contests 1,557-921. The Huskies scored a series-high 117 points against the Crusaders in last season's match-up on Nov. 12. Twelve of the contests have been held in Storrs, Conn., while five contests have been played at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass. and three held at the DCU Center in Worcester, including an 87-34 defeat in 2009. The Crusaders scored just seven points in the second half last season, marking a team record low for points in a half. Holy Cross is 0-2 in the last two games held at Gampel Pavilion as Connecticut has won every game at the Gampel Pavilion, earning a 10-0 record on the hardwood as the two teams have played a total of 10 times on the hardwood, dating back to Nov. 14, 1997.

PLAYING RANKED OPPONENTS: Over the last six seasons, the Crusaders have competed against four ranked opponents; Boston College, Connecticut, DePaul and Duke. The squad has faced a ranked Connecticut team in seven meetings, falling in all competitions. The Huskies, who enter Sunday's match-up with a No. 4 ranking, have been the highest-ranked team Holy Cross has faced. Dating back to the 2004-2005 season, UConn has been ranked as low as No. 9 (2005-2006 and 2006-2007) and as high as No. 1 (2007-2008, 2008-2009 and 2010-2011). Holy Cross has also faced a nationally-ranked Duke team twice, competing against the No. 2 Blue Devils on Jan. 4, 2005 and Jan. 16, 2006. The Crusaders played a No. 21 Boston College team on Dec. 1, 2004 and a No. 18 DePaul squad on Jan. 2, 2005. Holy Cross lost by just eight points, its smallest losing margin, against the Eagles in 2004.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE BIG EAST: In program history, Holy Cross has played against 10 of the 14 teams that make up the Big East conference. The Crusaders have played in a total of 54 games against Big East foes, winning 15 games in all. Holy Cross boasts a winning percentage in the series against Cincinnati (1-0), Syracuse (3-2), Georgetown (1-0), Marquette (1-0) and Seton Hall (1-0) and a losing percentage against DePaul (0-2), St. John's (1-3), Connecticut (2-19), Providence (5-10) and Rutgers (1-2). The squad has not played against Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, South Florida or Louisville.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE HUSKIES: The Crusaders look to break into the wins column against their first opponent who carries the Husky nickname on Sunday. The team will play a total of two teams with the Husky nickname this season; UConn and Northeastern. There are a total of nine collegiate institutions that bear the Husky nickname. Of those nine, Holy Cross has played against three Husky opponents, Connecticut, Northeastern and Northern Illinois. The Huskies have taken the all-time series advantage over the Crusaders, winning 24 of 40 contests.

CRUSADERS PICKED FIFTH IN PRESEASON POLL: Holy Cross was picked to finish fifth for the second straight season in the 2011-2012 Patriot League preseason poll, receiving 52 votes. American was chosen to finish first, receiving 11 first-place votes as senior Lisa Strack was voted preseason All-Patriot League. The Eagles earned a league-high 94 points and was followed by Lehigh, who received three first place votes and 83 points. Reigning Patriot League champion Navy was picked third with 74 points and two first place votes, while Bucknell (58 points) and Holy Cross (52) were selected fourth and fifth respectively. Lafayette, Army and Colgate followed in order, earning 38, 26 and 23 points respectively.

WARD NAMED 2011-2012 TEAM CAPTAIN: The lone senior on the roster, Meredith Ward (Westerly, R.I.), was named captain for the 2011-2012 season. Ward was also named a tri-captain for the 2010-2011 season. She is the veteran leader in the backcourt and returns as one of the team's three starting guards. In her season debut, Ward went 3-for-6 from the floor and 2-for-3 from the free throw line, finishing with nine points. She saw action in all 30 games last season while starting 13. She averaged 23.2 minutes, 5.5 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. She registered a Holy Cross single-season record when she went 12-for-12 from the free throw line against Quinnipiac and finished the season as the team's top free throw performer. Her 84.0 free throw percentage was also first amongst league players as well.

SMITH NAMED TO PRESEASON ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE TEAM: Sophomore guard Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) was chosen to the preseason All-League Team after being named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team last season. She joins the team with two other sophomores, Navy's Jade Geif and Bucknell's Shelby Romine and three seniors, American's Strack and Lehigh's Alexa Williams and Emily Gratch. In her season debut, Smith returned to form from the three-point line, making three of her four attempts and finished the game with 11 points and three assists. She now has 23 games in her career where she's made at least two three-pointers. Last season, Smith ranked second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.1 point per game. She also ranked first on the team in minutes played per game (32.0) and assists (98). She finished the season with 82 three-pointers made, ranking second-highest in the Holy Cross single-season records.

LEAPS FOR LEPLEY: Junior forward Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) returns for her third-straight season as one of the team's starting forwards. Lepley is at full strength after recovering from a tweaked knee late last season. She scored 12 points, brought down five rebounds and tied the team-high with four assists in her 2011-2012 season debut against Yale. Originally playing as a guard in high school, the converted forward led the team in rebounding and blocks in 2010-2011. Her team-high of 5.6 rebounds per game also ranked ninth amongst Patriot League players. She is a threat not only on defense but on offense as well as she posted a 9.6 scoring average, third-highest on the team. Her 40.9 field goal percentage ranked second on the team and she posted two double-doubles. She led the team in rebounding in 12 of the 30 games from last season.

COMEBACK MALONE: Sophomore guard Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.), who did not start the two exhibition games for Holy Cross this fall, came back to earn the third starting guard spot in the season opener against Yale. She shined in her season debut, playing in a team-high 34 minutes, scoring 13 points on a 4-for-7 shooting effort. Two of her baskets made it a one-possession contest against the Bulldogs, including a three-pointer with nine seconds left in the game. As a freshman, she averaged 26.1 minutes and 7.1 points per game, while also adding 29 steals. Her scoring average and steals ranked fourth on the squad and she started in a total of 18 games.

HAMNER TIME: Sophomore guard Kelly Hamner (Manassas, Va.) has emerged from the preseason as one of the team's top shooting guards. Against Yale in the season opener, Hamner scored six points, going 3-for-5 from the floor and added five rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. Hamner returns to the court after averaging 12.3 minutes in the 28 games she played as a freshman. She tallied 3.0 points per game and scored in double-figures twice and finished the season with a 29.7 field goal percentage.

GAINS FOR GANSER: The third sophomore to earn a starting role for the 2011-2012 season is Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.). The 6-1 forward played in a career-high 24 minutes against Yale in the season opener. She adds spark to the Crusaders' frontcourt, as she appeared in all 30 games in her freshman campaign. She ranked fourth on the team in rebounding, averaging 3.8 rebounds per game and was solid from the free throw line, making 74.7 percent of her free throws. She led or tied the team-high in rebounding in seven games and shot a season total of 35.5 percent from the field, going 38-107.

MEET ME IN THE MIDDLE: Ever since Kaitlin Foley graduated from Holy Cross in 2007, the Crusaders have not had a true center on their roster. This year's team will turn to two new faces, freshmen Clare Sullivan (Belmont, Mass.) and Emily Parker (Johnston, Iowa) for that frontcourt presence. The two are listed at 6-3 and 6-2 respectively and were McDonald's All-America nominees and named to their respective All-Conference teams at least twice. Parker, who played in just 10 minutes for the Crusaders in the season opener against Yale, sank eight of her 11 shot attempts, leading the squad with 17 points. She was also the team's top rebounder, grabbing seven boards.

OFF THE BENCH: The Crusaders' bench will have a big impact on the court this season. The team, who is looking to have a more balanced approach to scoring, will turn to its bench as major factors in this. Against Yale on Friday, the Holy Cross bench outscored the Bulldogs' bench 25-11. Seventeen of those points came from Parker, while Kelly Hamner added six more. Junior forward Kaitlin Cole (Springfield, Pa.) tallied three rebounds and two rebounds. She continues to increase her playing time in the frontcourt after seeing action in 29 games as a sophomore. Junior guard Alexis Nicholas (Jamaica, N.Y.) and freshman guard Ashley Cooper (Colts Neck, N.J.) will increase the bench's depth, accounting for more scoring options.

DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS: Another goal of the 2011-2012 season is to step up on all aspects of the defense. One of the main ways the team will accomplish that goal is to win the rebounding battle. Despite the loss in Friday's season opener, the team did step up the defense, outrebounding Yale 33-28. Last season, the team was outrebounded by a margin of 1,186-1,023, a 123 rebound difference. The year prior, the team was outrebounded 1,197-960. The last Holy Cross team to outrebound all of its opponents during a season was in 2002-2003. That season, the squad put up 1,216 rebounds compared to 1,124 rebounds by their opponents. The squad finished with a 24-8 overall record and won the 2003 Patriot League Championship.

WELCOME TO WORCESTER: There will be one new face handling front office duties for the 2011-2012 Crusader basketball squad, assistant coach Sahar Nusseibeh. Nusseibeh was a former player for American, a Patriot League opponent, and was part of two squads that won the conference's regular season championship. Nusseibeh joins the Crusaders' hoops staff after spending the last two years as a graduate assistant at Cincinnati. While there, she provided on-road recruiting, video coordinating, served as the team's post coach and was the academic liaison between the players, academics department and coaches.

BOWL FOR BONDS: Assistant coach Chante Bonds knows what it's like to be a champion. This past summer, Bonds was a major part of the Boston Militia, a team in the Women's Football Alliance. Her squad went 7-1 during the regular season and finished with a 3-0 record in the national conference playoffs, earning them a spot in the world championship. Facing the San Diego Surge, Bonds' Militia won the game 35-19 and was crowned the 2011 Women's Football Alliance National Champions. Bonds, who was in her third year in the women's league, earned second team All-America honors as a wide receiver. Playing as a cornerback in the championship game, Bonds stopped a San Diego drive with an interception and an 11-yard return. Bonds, born and raised in Brockton, Mass., played Division II basketball at Bentley. A combo guard, Bonds' favorite tasks on the basketball court were diving for loose balls and setting screens for post players. On the football field, she caught on to contact and tackling quickly.

SUMMER SHAPE-UP: The Crusaders went through a tough and rigorous summer off season, working with assistant coach Chante Bonds and strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil. In addition to the normal training regimen of strength, power, core stability and knee injury prevention, Keil and Bonds implemented a conditioning sprint test. The sprint test simulated game-like conditions, and when they ran it together as a team, they competed to see who can stay on top of the 'speed ladder'; slowest person is last in line, fastest person is at the top, and they fight to move up or keep their position on every sprint rep. Both Bonds and Keil felt that this new training segment changed the squad's mentality of being on the team and kept them training with consistency and intensity throughout the summer.

PATRIOT LEAGUE DOMINANCE: Despite its preseason ranking, the Holy Cross women's basketball team has its eyes set back on the top spot amongst the Patriot League's eight teams. Since its inaugural season back in 1991, the team has posted 243 league victories and just 71 losses. It has made 20 appearances in the Patriot League Tournament, boasting 11 championships and a 38-10 all-time record. The team was seeded sixth in the tournament last season, a program low and lost to American in the quarterfinals. The Crusaders are most successful against Colgate as they have mounted a 43-3 all-time record against the Raiders. The team also boasts a 45-8 record against Lafayette. Army and American have given Holy Cross the most trouble, as the two have combined for 28 of the 71 wins against the Crusaders. Lehigh has put up 13 wins against Holy Cross as well.

RETURNING TO GLORY: The 2011-2012 season is the second 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.

HEAD COACH BILL GIBBONS: 27th SEASON: Bill Gibbons is in his 27th season at the helm of the Holy Cross women's basketball program and 31st as a member of the Holy Cross basketball family in 2011-2012. He has compiled a 496-287 record as head coach (.634 winning percentage), including a 0-1 record at the helm this season. He ranks 24th on the active Division I win leaders list and is four shy wins of his 500th victory. 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 16 years. He has also made 12 postseason appearances (11 NCAA Tournaments and one WNIT) in his 26 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 495 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.

NEXT UP FOR THE CRUSADERS: On Wednesday, Nov. 16, Holy Cross will host Quinnipiac in the home opener at the Hart Center. The contest will begin at 7:00 p.m. and serves as the Crusaders' second night game of the year. They lost their first night game against Yale in the season opener. The Bobcats opened up their season with a 81-73 loss on Friday night against James Madison.  

Record: 0-0 Affiliation: Big East
HEAD COACH: Head coach Geno Auriemma enters his 27th season at the helm of the Connecticut women's basketball team. His 26-year overall record stands at 771-122 (.861), by far the best winning percentage among active Division I coaches. Under his guidance, the Huskies have been transformed from a program with only one winning season, to its current state, which includes seven national titles, 12 Final Fours, four perfect seasons (1995, 2002, 2009, 2010) and 36 Big East titles, all since Auriemma's arrival in 1985.

2010-2011 SQUAD: The UConn women's basketball team was picked to finish second in the conference for the 2011-12 regular season. This marks only the second time since the 1992-1993 season that the Huskies were not selected as the favorite in the conference's preseason poll. Sophomore guard Bria Hartley and senior guard Tiffany Hayes were selected to the preseason All-Big East team. Sophomore center Stefanie Dolson was selected as an Honorable Mention pick. Hartley is the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year while Hayes was named to the first team 2010-11 All-Big East. The trio also earned spots on the Wooden Award and Wade Trophy Preseason Watch Lists.