Crusaders Prepared For Saturday Afternoon Bout At New Hampshire

Meredith Ward

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The Teams:
Holy Cross (3-4, 0-0 PL) vs. New Hampshire (3-2, 0-0 America East)
Date: December 3, 2011
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Place: Lundholm Gymnasium (3,000), Durham, N.H.
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Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 13-7
Last Meeting:
Holy Cross 78, UNH 67; Nov. 23, 2010; Worcester, Mass.

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST NEW HAMPSHIRE: Saturday's match-up marks the 21st meeting all-time between Holy Cross and New Hampshire. The series started during the 1983-1984 season, with both schools members of the ECAC conference. The teams played twice that season, with New Hampshire earning the regular season and ECAC tournament victories. The Crusaders did not pick up a win against the Wildcats until head coach Bill Gibbons took over the reins, picking up his first victory, 83-67, on Jan. 9, 1988 at the Hart Center. The team continued on a five-game win streak over the next five seasons, outscoring New Hampshire 393-338. Gibbons lost his first contest against the Wildcats during the 1993-1994 season and has only lost one more match-up since then. The two squads competed annually from 1987-1988 until 2000-2001, with Holy Cross tallying a 10-2 overall record in play. The teams have split the last two meetings, with the Crusaders earning a 78-67 victory at the Hart Center last season. New Hampshire head coach Maureen Magarity faces Holy Cross for just the second time in her career while head coach Bill Gibbons owns a 13-3 record when playing UNH.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE AMERICA EAST CONFERENCE: Holy Cross has played against seven of the nine teams that compete in the America East Conference. This season, Holy Cross will face New Hampshire as its only America East opponent. Combined, Holy Cross has registered an all-time 13-7 record against the Wildcats. Against the other seven conference teams, the Crusaders have notched 32 wins and 14 losses throughout program history. New Hampshire has been the most frequent America East opponent for Holy Cross as they have played in 20 total match-ups. The Crusaders boast winning percentages against Albany (2-1), Boston University (9-2), Hartford (3-3), Maine (10-3) and Maryland-Baltimore County (1-0) while posting a losing percentage with Vermont (6-8). The squad has never faced Binghamton or Stony Brook.

PLAYING THE WILDCATS: In all of collegiate athletics, there are 31 teams with the nickname Wildcats. Saturday's game against the New Hampshire Wildcats will mark the one and only time the Holy Cross Crusaders meet up with a Wildcats team this season. The Crusaders have played against a total of four schools out of the 31 that bear the nickname, including Arizona, Kentucky, Northwestern and Villanova. All together, the Crusaders hold a 16-10 record against those teams. New Hampshire has been the most frequent Wildcats opponent as the team holds a 13-7 record over them. Holy Cross has also posted a 2-0 record against Arizona, a 0-1 record against Kentucky, a 0-2 record against Northwestern and a 2-2 record against Villanova.

499 AND COUNTING: Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons will be vying for his 500th career-win on Saturday. Gibbons began the season with 496 career wins and boasts a career record of 499-290 record as head coach (.633 winning percentage), including a 3-4 record at the helm this season. He 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.

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 six games this season, averaging 33.7 minutes and 10.1 points per game. Ward has notched three double-digit scoring outings thus far, 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 followed with 12 points against Fordham. She now has 13 career games where she's posted double-figures. She currently ranks second on the team and in the Patriot League in free throw percentage (83.3). She went a perfect 6-for-6 from the line against UMass. On the season, Ward has hit 15 of her 18 free throw attempts. As a junior, Ward 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 433 points, recorded 199 rebounds and 179 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 has led the team in scoring over the past two games, highlighted by a 22-point outburst at Harvard and followed by 15 points at Central Connecticut. Smith also topped out in the assists category, collecting 11 against the Crimson, notching a career-high and recording her first-ever double-double. Her other double-figure outings include 14 points versus UMass, 14 points versus Quinnipiac and 11 points at Yale. She took over the team's leading point provider, averaging 13 points per game. She also adds 4.3 rebounds and a team-high 5.3 assists per game. She has hit multiple three-pointers in four contests, including a season-high of four three pointers against Harvard, and has 26 games in her career where she's made at least two three-pointers. She has a total of 37 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 (2.0) and minutes played (36).  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 ranks second on the team with 12 points per game. Lepley's numbers continue to impress as she has notched four double-figure outings in the last five games, topping out with a season-high 15 points in wins over Harvard and UMass. She has she also notched double-figures against Fordham (14), Quinnipiac (13) and Yale (12). Lepley has also been a factor on the boards, averaging five rebounds per game, including a season-high seven rebounds versus UMass. She has made 47.4 percent of her field goal attempts (36 of 76), ranking second on the team and 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 580 points, recorded 328 rebounds and 124 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 four games, Parker maintains a double-figure scoring average (10.2) and averages 4.8 rebounds per game. She also has a team-high field goal percentage (48.8). 

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 seven games this season. Malone has now tallied three straight double-digit scoring affairs against UMass (10 points), Harvard (13) and Central Connecticut (11). Malone hits her stride in the clutch, notching nine second half points at CCSU, eight against UMass and nine second half points against Harvard. Through all seven games, Malone has scored 46 of her 65 total points in the second half of games (71 percent). She has totaled four double-figure scoring outings this season, adding 13 point in the season opener at Yale. Malone also earned a career-high six assists against Quinnipiac on Nov. 16. After the seven games, Malone averages 9.3 points and 3.1 assists per game, ranking 14th and fifth respectively in Patriot League standings. She leads Patriot League performers with a 1.5 assist/turnover ratio. As a freshman, she averaged 26.1 minutes and 7.1 points per game, while adding 29 steals.

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 has played valuable minutes in all seven games this season and led the team in rebounding for the first time this season with seven boards at Central Connecticut. She also stepped up big in the team's win over Harvard, notching a season-high 14 points, one shy of her career-high and played in a career-high of 35 minutes. She also scored 10 points against UMass on Nov. 22, going a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line. She was also perfect on the line versus the Crimson and has now hit 20 of her 23 free throw attempts, leading the team and Patriot League with a 87.0 free throw percentage. On the season, Ganser averages 5.3 points and 4.3rebounds per game in 143 minutes played. Ganser 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.

ROAD SERIES: Saturday's contest wraps up a three-game road stint for the Crusaders. Currently, Holy Cross holds a 1-3 record as the away team. They are being outscored by 12.2 points and have allowed the home teams to sink 45.7 percent of their shots. Holy Cross hits 38 percent of its shots on the road, compared to 42 percent at home. The team has also been beat on the home team's boards by 7.7 rebounds per game, compared to outrebounding opponents by 4.7 rebounds at home. Alex Smith leads the team on the road with an average of 14 points 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 114 assists on the season, an average of 16.3 assists per game. American ranks second in the league with 13.8 assists per game, a difference of 2.5 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 5.3 assists per game.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the seven games, Crusader starters have posted 364 of the team's 434 points (83.9 percent). They have combined for 1,082 of the 1,400 minutes played and are shooting a combined 41.9 percent from the floor (134 of 320). They have also sported 150 rebounds, 99 assists and 41 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). In the game against Harvard, the starters boasted 71 of 73 points and combined for 177 of the 200 minutes played. Forty-five of the team's 53 points were scored by the starting five at CCSU as well. Four of the five regular starters are averaging in double-figures (Amy Lepley, Parker, Alex Smith and Meredith Ward).

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 a minus 2.4 rebounding average per game versus all opponents. The Crusaders have also stepped up their defense on another level, obtaining more blocks than opponents in two of the seven games (4-1 versus Quinnipiac and 3-1 at Harvard). 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: Head coach Bill Gibbons' 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 return home for a Wednesday night bout against Northeastern on Dec. 7. Tip time is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Hart Center in Worcester. The Huskies edged the Crusaders 76-65 last season.  

Record: 3-2 Affiliation: America East
HEAD COACH: New Hampshirehead coach Maureen Magarity is back for her second season as head coach of the New Hampshire women's basketball team. Last season, Magarity led UNH to a 6-10 conference record - twice as many wins as the year before - and a trip to the America East tournament before the Wildcats fell to Binghamton in the quarterfinals. Magarity was named the sixth head coach in the history of the program on May 18, 2010 and the youngest coach of a Division I team – men's or women's – in the country.

2011-2012 SQUAD: The New Hampshire women's basketball team now stands at 3-2 on the season with a trio of road victories over Brown, Cornell and Dartmouth and losses to Central Connecticut and Seton Hall. Senior Denise Beliveau leads the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game, while sophomore Kelsey Hogan is also averaging double-digit scoring with 11.2 points per game. Beliveau is also the team's top rebounder with 9.0 boards per contest.