Crusaders Ready To Rebound Against UMass on Tuesday Evening

Brisje Malone

Full UMass game notes in PDF format

Game Day Quick Facts:
The Teams: Holy Cross (1-3, 0-0 Patriot) vs. Massachusetts (1-2, 0-0 Atlantic 10)
Date: November 22, 2011
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
Holy Cross Radio: Stretch Internet Radio, Bob Fouracre; play-by-play; Listen here
Unofficial Live Stats: Click here
UMass Radio: WMUA, Cody Chruciel and Pat O'Neil; Listen here
Series Record: UMass leads, 8-7
Last Meeting: UMass 75, Holy Cross 50 (January 5, 2011, Amherst, Mass.)

THANKSGIVING CAN DRIVE: Anyone that brings a canned food item with them to the game against UMass will pay a $2 admission fee into the game. All canned goods will be donated to the St. Joan of Arc food pantry for Thanksgiving.

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST MASSACHUSETTS: Tuesday's match-up marks the 18th meeting all-time between Holy Cross and Massachusetts. UMass holds a slight edge in the series, 8-7, after topping the Crusaders 75-50 last season. The Minutewomen own a four-game win streak heading into Tuesday, including the two last games at the Hart Center. The last time the teams met in Worcester was in Jan. 3, 2007 where the Crusaders were handed a 77-46 loss. Holy Cross received its last win on Nov. 23, 2003, winning out 68-63 in Amherst, Mass. Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons picked up his fourth win in that game as he stands at 4-8 when playing the Minutewomen. UMass' second year head coach, Sharon Dawley, faces Holy Cross for the second time as head coach with the Minutewomen and owns a 5-0 record over Holy Cross teams with four wins stemming from her previous tenure at Vermont. The series first took root on Nov. 23, 1982 as the Crusaders won the first four meetings, outscoring UMass 338-276. Coach Gibbons' first win against the Minutewomen came in grand fashion, as his Crusaders topped their opponent 102-87 on Dec. 8, 1987. When playing in Worcester, the Crusaders hold a 4-3 edge.

PLAYING THE MINUTEMEN/WOMEN: In all of collegiate athletics, there are just two teams with the nickname Minutemen/women. Tuesday's game against the UMass Minutewomen will mark the one and only time the Holy Cross Crusaders meet up with a Minutemen/women team this season. The Crusaders have only played against one Minutemen/women squad all-time as Heritage College in Toppenish, Wash. also bears the same nickname.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE ATLANTIC 10: In program history, Holy Cross has played against 11 of the 14 teams that compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference. This season, the squad will face Fordham and Massachusetts as their only A-10 competitors. Combined, Holy Cross has registered an all-time 39-18 record against the Rams and Minutewomen after falling against Fordham on Saturday. Against the other nine conference teams, the Crusaders have notched 23 wins and 15 losses throughout program history. The team boasts winning records against Dayton (1-0), La Salle (11-8), Rhode Island (7-3), Richmond (1-0) Saint Louis (1-0) and Xavier (2-0) while posting losing records against George Washington (0-2), and Temple (0-1). The squad has never played Charlotte, Duquesne or St. Bonaventure.

HOME IS WHERE THE HART IS: Holy Cross, who is now 1-1 at the Hart Center this season, will play in 11 more home games. Last season, the Crusaders went 6-7 when playing on the Hart Center hardwood, winning against New Hampshire, Harvard, Maine, Bucknell, Lafayette and Colgate, and falling to Yale, Central Connecticut, Boston College, Army, Navy, Lehigh and American. The Crusaders currently have a .773 home victory percentage since becoming a Division I program as the 2011-2012 season marks the 38th season of women's basketball competition at the Hart Center. The program holds an all-time 334-112 advantage at home and has posted 29 winning records at home and six losing seasons, including last year's 6-7 record. A total of 47 teams have never won at the Hart Center. Combined, the Crusaders have won 156 of 190 meetings against this year's home opponents.

WARD AIMS HIGH: 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 has started at guard in all four games this season, averaging 33 minutes and 10.3 points per game. Ward has scored in double-figures in two consecutive games, notching a season-high 15 points against Quinnipiac and following with 12 points against Fordham. She shot 41.7 percent last week and attempted a season-high 16 shots against Fordham. She now has 12 career games where she's posted double-figures. In her season debut at Yale, Ward went 3-for-6 from the floor and 2-for-3 from the free throw line, finishing with nine points. She posted five points and four rebounds in the following game against nationally-ranked Connecticut. Ward 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, making 84 percent of her attempts. In her career, she has scored 403 points, recorded 178 rebounds and 172 assists.

SMOOTH SMITH: 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. Her numbers continue to improve as she recorded a season-high 14 points in the win over Quinnipiac and led the team with seven rebounds against Fordham. She averaged 10.5 points per game in all last week. She also tied her career-high with eight rebounds in the win over Quinnipiac. In her season debut at Yale, Smith returned to form from the three-point line, making three of her six attempts and finished the game with 11 points and a career-best eight assists. She sank two more three point shots against UConn and now has 24 games in her career where she's made at least two three-pointers. She currently leads the tram and Patriot League with 18 assists. As a freshman, 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. She is at full strength after recovering from a tweaked knee late last season. Lepley's numbers continue to improve as she notched two-straight double-figure outings against Fordham and Quinnipiac last week. She topped her season-high with 14 points, leading the team in scoring against the Rams and notched 13 points and six rebounds against the Bobcats. She scored 12 points, brought down five rebounds and tallied five assists in her 2011-2012 season debut against Yale for her third double-figure outing of the season. Through all four games Lepley is averaging 11.8 points and 5.3 rebounds. She has made 50  percent of her field goal attempts (19 of 38). Originally playing as a guard in high school, the converted forward led the team in rebounding (5.6 per game) and blocks (13) in 2010-2011. In her career she has scored 543 points, recorded 314 rebounds and 117 assists.

PICK-ME-UP PARKER: Freshman forward Emily Parker (Johnston, Iowa) got her Holy Cross career off to a great start, posting a double-double in her first game in a Crusaders uniform. Her 17-point, 10-rebound performance at Yale became the first time in 15 years of Holy Cross basketball that a freshman posted such high numbers in her first-ever performance. The feat landed her Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors on Nov. 15. She followed a break in actionwith a 20-point, eight rebound performance in the 80-70 win over Quinnipiac, leading the team in points and tying the team-high in rebounds. She also recorded two blocks and leads the team with three blocks on the season. After playing in limited minutes against Fordham where she tallied two points in 20 minutes of action, Parker now averages 13.0 points and seven rebounds per game.

COMEBACK MALONE: Sophomore guard Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.), who did not start the two exhibition games for Holy Cross this fall, has come back to earn the third starting guard spot in all four games this season. She shined in her season debut at Yale, playing 34 minutes and scoring 13 points on a 4-for-9 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. Against UConn, Malone made it to the free throw line eight times, tying her career-high with six free throws made. Malone then scored another four baskets against Quinnipiac and earned a career-high six assists and played in 32 minutes of the Fordham game, assisting on three baskets and bringing down three rebounds. After the four games, Malone averages 7.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. As a freshman, she averaged 26.1 minutes and 7.1 points per game, while 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. She then hit two of her three shot attempts in the win over Quinnipiac and registered a team and career-high three steals. She shot 37.5 percent from the field in all games last week (3 of 8) and brought down seven total rebounds. 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.

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 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. Both players have earned valuable playing time and are earning clutch points in the paint. On the season, the two have combined for 45 points and 25 rebounds.

HELPING HANDS: For the second season in a row, the Holy Cross women's basketball team is leading the Patriot League in assists. The squad has combined for 65 assists on the season, an average of 16.3 assists per game. American ranks second in the league with 15.5 assists per game, a difference of 0.8 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 4.5 assists per game, 0.5 more than the next Patriot League player.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the four games, Crusader starters have posted 198 of the team's 231 points. They have combined for 595 of the 800 minutes played and are shooting a combined 39.4 percent from the floor (68 of 168). They have also sported 68 rebounds, 54 assists and 20 steals. Emily Parker, who started her first career game against Quinnipiac, posted a team-high 20 points as the other four starters finished with 50 total points in the contest. Against Fordham, the team's starters scored 37 of the team's 43 points.

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 the season opener, the team did step up the defense, outrebounding Yale 43-33. UConn outrebounded Holy Cross 49-32 while Quinnipiac earned a slight 41-39 rebounding advantage. The Crusaders posted a 38-35 rebounding edge against Fordham and are now 0-2 in games when they outrebound their opponent. The team is now being outrebounded by just 1.5 boards per game. Despite the rebounding deficit, the Crusader improved their defense on another level, tallying a season-high four blocks next to the Bobcats' lone block on Nov. 16. Last season, the team was outrebounded by a margin of 1,186-1,023, a 123 rebound difference and finished last in the Patriot League in blocks. 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 team finished with a 24-8 overall record and won the 2003 Patriot League Championship.

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.

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 497-289 record as head coach (.632 winning percentage), including a 1-3 record at the helm this season. He ranks 24th on the active Division I win leaders list and is three wins shy 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: The Crusaders will break for the Thanksgiving holiday and return to action on Sunday, Nov. 27 at Harvard. Tip time is set for 2:00 p.m. at the Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge, Mass. Holy Cross won last season's match-up at home, 72-53.

Record: 1-2 Affiliation: Atlantic 10

HEAD COACH: Head coach Sharon Dawley is in her second season as head coach of the UMass women's basketball program after spending the prior seven seasons as the head coach at Vermont. Dawley came to UMass after a highly successful tenure with the Catamounts that included two consecutive America East titles (2008-2009 and 2009-2010) and three straight postseason berths. In seven seasons at Vermont, Dawley posted a mark of 128-86 (.598) and holds a career record of 266-150 (.639) through 16 seasons as a head coach.

2011-2012 SQUAD: The UMass women's basketball team stands at 1-2 on the young 2011-2012 season, winning against Boston University in its season opener and then falling to common opponent Central Connecticut and most recently Miami (Ohio). The Minutewomen return five letterwinners, including four starters from the 2010-2011 season. Junior Shakia Robinson currently leads the squad with 17.3 points per game while fellow junior Jasmine Watson leads the team defensively with nine rebounds per game.