Women's Basketball Set Sights On Harvard This Sunday Afternoon

Kaitlin Cole

Full Harvard Game Notes In PDF Format

Game Day Quick Facts:
The Teams: Holy Cross (2-3, 0-0 Patriot League) vs. Harvard (1-3, 0-0 Ivy League)
Date: November 27, 2011
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Place: Lavietes Pavilion (2,195), Cambridge, Mass.
Holy Cross Radio: Stretch Internet Radio, Jeremy Lechan; play-by-play; Listen here
Unofficial Live Stats: Click here
Harvard Video: Click Here
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 7-5
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 72, Harvard 53 (November 28, 2010, Worcester, Mass.)

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST HARVARD: Sunday's contest between Holy Cross and Harvard marks the 13th meeting between the two teams, with the series dating back to the 1977-1978 season. The teams played annually for six-consecutive years, with the Crusaders winning four of the six match-ups. The first game, back during the 1977-1978 season, was the worst loss for Holy Cross, who was a Division III team at the time. The Crusaders only managed to score 19 points against the Crimson, losing by a 73-19 final. In the team's inaugural season as a Division I program, Holy Cross earned its third victory of the series, topping Harvard on Dec. 11, 1982, 85-67. Sixteen years later, on Dec. 3, 1999, head coach Bill Gibbons won his first match-up against the Crimson, 89-61, at the ECAC Holiday Festival held at the Hart Center in Worcester. The teams have played in five-consecutive seasons after a seven-year hiatus. Since the 2006-2007 season, Harvard has won three of the five games against Holy Cross. The Crusaders halted a four-game slide against the Crimson last season, winning at the Hart Center on Nov. 28, 72-53. Gibbons is 3-3 when playing Harvard while Crimson head coach, Kathy Delaney-Smith, is 3-6 when taking on Holy Cross. Harvard leads the series when playing in Cambridge, 3-2.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE IVY LEAGUE: In program history, Holy Cross has played against four of the eight teams that compete in the Ivy League. Harvard will be the second of four Ivy League opponents the team will face this season as the team opened up against Yale on Nov. 11. The team will also play at Brown (Jan. 16) while hosting Dartmouth (Jan. 3). Harvard and Yale have been the most frequent Ivy League teams on the Holy Cross schedule, competing against the Crusaders a combined 25 times. Dartmouth will face Holy Cross for the ninth time this season while controlling the all-time series 6-2. Brown is the fourth and final Ivy League team Holy Cross has competed against, as the Crusaders have won all three meetings. The last time the Crusaders and Bears met was 1997. Holy Cross is a combined 13-12 against Yale and Harvard, including the loss to Yale earlier this season.

HITTING THE ROAD: Starting with the contest at Harvard, the Crusaders enter a three-game road series from Nov. 27 through Dec. 3, also traveling to Central Connecticut and New Hampshire. Holy Cross is currently 0-2 as the road team, losing to Yale and UConn. In program history, the Crusaders have won 13 of the 20 games against the three upcoming opponents, including an unblemished 5-0 record in New Britain, Conn., home of the Central Connecticut Blue Devils. Last season, the Crusaders finished 4-11 on the road.

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 five games this season, averaging 33 minutes and 11 points per game. Ward has scored in double-figures in three consecutive games, highlighted by her first career double-double against UMass on Nov. 22. She scored 14 points and tallied a career-best 12 rebounds, almost doubling her previous high of seven rebounds. Ward also scored a season-high 15 points against Quinnipiac and following with 12 points against Fordham. She now has 13 career games where she's posted double-figures. She currently leads the team in three-point percentage (38.5) and free throw percentage (92.3) after hitting all six of her free throw attempts against UMass. In her season debut at Yale, Ward finished with nine points and then posted five points and four rebounds in the following game against nationally-ranked Connecticut. Ward saw action in all 30 games as a junior, averaging 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 417 points, recorded 190 rebounds and 175 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 tied her season-high with 14 points in the win over UMass, hitting a season-high six field goals, including two three point shots. She currently averages 10.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and a team-high 4.4 assists per game. She recorded 14 points and also tied her career-high with eight rebounds in the win over Quinnipiac on Nov. 16. 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 25 games in her career where she's made at least two three-pointers. She has a total of 22 assists thus far, not only leading the team, but the Patriot League as well. She also leads the team in three-point shots made per game (1.8) and ties the team-high with 2.2 steals per game.  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 as she currently leads the team with 12.4 points per game. Lepley's numbers continue to impress as she has notched three-straight double-figure outings, topping out with a season-high 15 points in the win over UMass on Nov. 22. She has led the team in scoring in two of the last three games as she also scored 14 points against Fordham and 13 points versus Quinnipiac. She scored 12 points, brought down five rebounds and tallied five assists in her 2011-2012 season debut against Yale. Lepley has also been a factor on the boards, averaging 5.6 rebounds per game, including a season-high seven rebounds versus UMass. She has made 52 percent of her field goal attempts (26 of 50), ranking fifth amongst Patriot League players. 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 558 points, recorded 321 rebounds and 120 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 action with 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. Despite limited playing time in the last two games, Parker maintains a double-figure scoring average (12.0) and leads the team in rebounding (5.8). She also has a team-high field goal percentage (54.3) which ranks second amongst Patriot League players.  

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 five games this season. Malone tallied her second double-digit scoring affair in the last game against UMass, notching eight second half points to boost her total to 10 points. She also tallied a team-high five assists, notching the 10th time in her career where she's put together at least five assists. She shined in her season debut at Yale, playing 34 minutes and scoring 13 points on a 4-for-9 shooting effort. Against UConn, Malone made it to the free throw line eight times, tying her career-high with six free throws made. Malone also earned a career-high six assists against Quinnipiac on Nov. 16. After the five games, Malone averages 8.2 points and 3.6 assists per game. She leads Patriot League performers with a 1.6 assist/turnover ratio and 2.2 steals per game. Her 3.6 assists average is second only to fellow sophomore Alex Smith. As a freshman, she averaged 26.1 minutes and 7.1 points per game, while adding 29 steals.

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 54 points and 28 rebounds, an average of 13.5 points and seven rebounds per game.

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 83 assists on the season, an average of 16.6 assists per game. American ranks second in the league with 14.4 assists per game, a difference of 2.2 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 4.4 assists per game, Brisje Malone follows closely behind, ranking second with 3.6 assists per game.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the five games, Crusader starters have posted 248 of the team's 307 points. They have combined for 754 of the 1,000 minutes played and are shooting a combined 41.6 percent from the floor (91 of 219). They have also sported 115 rebounds, 70 assists and 32 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 while they followed with 62 of the team's 76 points versus UMass (82 percent). Four of the five regular starters are averaging in double-figures (Amy Lepley, Parker, Alex Smith and Meredith Ward).

HOME IS WHERE THE HART IS: Holy Cross, who is now 2-1 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.

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. The Crusaders also posted a 38-35 rebounding edge against Fordham and a +14 rebounding advantage against UMass, 44-31. The squad is now 1-2 in games when they outrebound their opponent and is averaging 1.4 more rebounds than their opponents through all five games. The Crusaders also stepped up their defense on another level, tallying a season-high four blocks next to Quinnipiac's 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 BILLGIBBONS: 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 498-289 record as head coach (.633 winning percentage), including a 2-3 record at the helm this season. He ranks 24th on the active Division I win leaders list and is two 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.

NEXTUP FOR THE CRUSADERS: The Crusaders will travel to Central Connecticut for a mid-week non-conference game. The squads will face-off at 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 30 at the Detrick Gymnasium in New Britain, Conn. The Blue Devils are currently 2-1 on the season.

SCOUTING HARVARD
Record: 1-3 Affiliation: Ivy League

HEAD COACH:
Head coach Kathy Delaney Smith is in her 30th season as head coach of the Harvard women's basketball program. She is the winningest Ivy League women's basketball coach of all-time and owns a 29-year coaching record at Harvard of 456-319, with a 274-120 record in Ivy League play. Included in those marks are nine 20-win seasons, 11 Ivy titles, a .500 record or better in 22 of the last 23 campaigns, and eight postseason appearances.

2011-2012 SQUAD: The Harvard women's basketball team stands at 1-3 on the 2011-2012 season, winning against Rhode Island the last time out after falling to Iowa, Butler and Providence. The Crimson return 10 letterwinners, including three starters from the 2010-2011 season. Sophomore Christine Clark currently leads the squad with 18.3 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game while junior Miriam Rutzen also adds six rebounds per game.