Crusaders Head To Navy For Mid-Week Conference Bout On Wednesday Night

Meredith Ward

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Game Day Quick Facts
The Teams: Holy Cross (8-7, 0-1 PL) vs. Navy (8-7, 1-0 PL)
Date: January 11, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Alumni Hall (5,710), Annapolis, Md.
Live Video Streaming: Patriot League All-Access
Holy Cross Radio: Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; Click Here to Listen
Unofficial Live Stats: Gametracker 
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 37-9
Last Meeting: Navy 73, Holy Cross 68 (ot), Annapolis, Md., Feb. 16, 2011

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST NAVY: Wednesday's match-up will be the 47th meeting all-time between Holy Cross and Navy, with the Crusaders owning a 37-9 advantage over the Midshipmen. The teams first met during the 1992-1993 season, as the Crusaders won 75-62 in Annapolis, Md. Holy Cross continued to win the next seven meetings, outscoring Navy 555-503. The Crusaders compiled their largest win streak of 11 games against the Mids from Feb. 22, 2004 until March 8, 2008 after winning 10 straight from Feb. 9, 1999-Feb. 23, 2003. Out of the nine total losses against Navy, four of them have come on the Hart Center hardwood, including the last three meetings in Worcester. The last time Holy Cross topped Navy at home was on Feb. 20, 2008, winning 56-53. Holy Cross is successful when playing on Navy's home court, recording 16 wins and five losses all-time. Navy took last season's meeting at Alumni Hall in overtime, 73-68, as the Crusaders last won in Annapolis on Feb. 18, 2009. Head coach Bill Gibbons is responsible for the 37-9 record while Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper holds a 5-1 record against the Crusaders since taking over the reins of the women's basketball program in 2008. The Midshipmen are currently on a four-game win streak against Holy Cross as they came away victorious in both meetings last season. Holy Cross has never lost four-straight games to the Mids and looks to end the slide on Wednesday.

ROADWOES: Holy Cross has found trouble winning on the road this season, as the squad holds a 2-6 record as the travel team. The Crusaders wrap up a two-game road trip at Navy on Wednesday and have lost their last three games away from Worcester. Altogether, the team averages 57.9 points per game as the road team while allowing 70.6 points. Comparatively, the Crusaders post 69.3 points per game at home while allowing their opponents to score 63.5 points per game. The Crusaders also shoot 38 percent on the road while they shoot over 40 percent, 43.1, at home. So far the team has lost at Yale, UConn, Central Connecticut, Boston College, Miami and Lehigh and won at New Hampshire and Harvard.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST CONFERENCE FOES: The 2011-2012 season marks the 23rd year of Patriot League competition for the Crusaders. Over the last 22 seasons, the Crusaders have competed in a total of 328 league match-ups, winning 249and dropping 79 games total for a 75.9 winning percentage. The team was seeded sixth in the tournament last season, its lowest ever, and lost in the quarterfinals against American. The squad has now recorded two consecutive losing seasons for the first time ever in program history, going 5-9 in 2009-2010 and 6-8 last season. 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 249-79 league record. In all, Holy Cross has made 21 appearances in the Patriot League Tournament, boasting 11 championships and a 38-10 all-time record. 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 26 of the 79 wins against the Crusaders. Lehigh has put up 14 wins against Holy Cross as well.

ONE-TWO PUNCH: Sophomore guard Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) and junior forward Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) are showing the Patriot League why Holy Cross boasts a winning record after 15 games of action. Lepley now leads the team with 13.5 points per game while Smith follows close behind with 13.1 points per game. Lepley ranks second in the league in scoring while Smith ranks fourth, separated only by Army's Jen Hazlett, who averages 13.3 points per game in 16 games played. Holy Cross and Army are the only two Patriot League schools to have two players rank within the top-10 in scoring as Black Knight Anna Simmers ranks fifth with 11.9 points per game. Combined, the two have led the team in scoring in 12 of the team's 15 games.

TURNOVER TENACITY: Sophomores Alex Smith and Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.) are showing off their seasoned skills, leading the team not only with their scoring capabilities, but also their ability to create shots for their teammates. The two have combined for 139 of the squad's 264 assists (53 percent) and account only for 98 of the total 252 turnovers. Through the 15 games, Smith leads the Patriot League with a 1.5 assist/turnover ratio (84 assists, 55 turnovers) while Malone is second with a 1.3 ratio (55 assists, 43 turnovers). The two have also tallied 11 assists in one game, Smith doing so against Harvard and Malone against Morgan State. Their output ranks in a tie for fifth in Holy Cross single-game records. 

OFFENSE ON TOP: The Holy Cross women's basketball team continues to keep up the offensive tempo after its first game in conference action, tallying 60 points in the loss against Lehigh, just 3.5 points off the season average. The team continues to lead the league by averaging 63.5 points per game, totaling 952 points in 15 contests. The second-highest scoring team in the Patriot League is Army, who averages 57.8 points per game, a difference of 5.7 points. The squad's outburst of 82 points against Bryant was a season and league-high. The Crusaders also hit a season-best 31 field goals against Bryant, the most field goals made by any Patriot League team this season. The team's field goal percentage, 40.2, is also a league best as they've combined to make 348 of their 866 shot attempts. Overall, the team is 6-1 when playing in games where they've scored over 60 points and 7-1 when shooting better than 40 percent.

WARD LEADS SQUAD: 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 15 games this season, averaging 32.3 minutes, 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Her playing time has increased dramatically during her senior season as she averaged 21.3 minutes over her first three years and now ranks sixth amongst Patriot League players in average minutes played. Her point and rebound averages have also improved, as she is scoring 3.2 more points and bringing down 3.4 more rebounds than her career averages (4.1 points, 1.9 rebounds). 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. Her other double-figure games include Quinnipiac (15 points) and Fordham (12). Her free throw shooting remains strong as well, as she hits 82.8 percent (24 of 29) from the line. As a junior, Ward registered a Holy Cross single-game 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 472 points, recorded 231 rebounds and 202 assists.

SMOOTH SMITH: Sophomore guard Alex Smith was chosen to the preseason All-League Team after being named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team last season. Her accolades continue to stack up as she was named to the Miami Classic All-Tournament team and the Patriot League Player of the Week on Dec. 12. Her numbers are impressive, as she has led the team in scoring in five of the last eight games. Highlighting her scoring efforts was a 22-point outburst at Harvard, tying her career-high. She scored 11 points in the team's last game at Lehigh, extending her double-digit scoring streak to seven games. Smith has notched 12 double-digit scoring affairs in all, including 11 points at Lehigh, 10 points vs. Dartmouth, 19 points vs. Morgan State, 11 points at Miami, 11 points vs. Bryant, 17 points at Boston College, 20 points vs. Northeastern, 15 points at Central Connecticut, 14 points versus UMass, 14 points versus Quinnipiac and 11 points at Yale. Smith also topped out in the assists category against Harvard, collecting 11 to notch a career-high and record her first-ever double-double. She has 84 total assists on the season, leading the team and Patriot League with 5.6 assists per game. She is once again a three-point threat, hitting a season-high of five three-point shots made in a game three times so far (vs. Northeastern, Boston College and Morgan State). She has hit multiple three-pointers in 12 contests, including the last eight games, and averages 2.7 three-pointers per game, leading the league. She now has 34 career games where she's made at least two three-pointers. She also has a total of 41 three-pointers made this season. 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. In her career, Smith has recorded 518 points, 161 rebounds and 182 assists.

LEAPS FOR LEPLEY: Junior forward Amy Lepley returns for her third-straight season as one of the team's starting forwards. She is at full strength as she currently ranks first on the team and second in the Patriot League in scoring average, putting up 13.5 points per game. Lepley's numbers continue to impress as she has notched 11 double-figure outings this season, highlighted by a season and career-high 22 point outburst against Lehigh the last time out. She hit nine field goals, including three three-point shots against the Mountain Hawks, also tying career-highs. Her previous season-high was 20 points at UNH as she is now the second player on the team to reach the 20-point feat this season. Lepley has also recorded double-figures against Dartmouth (13) Morgan State (19), Bryant (18) Boston College (11), UMass (15), Harvard (15), Fordham (14), Quinnipiac (13) and Yale (12). She has led the team in scoring in six total games. Lepley is the team and league's best shooter, making 50.6 percent of her field goal attempts (84 of 166). She is a true double-threat, as she leads the team and ranks 10th in the league in rebounding, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game. She has led the team in rebounding in the last three contests. Her season-high number of rebounds is 10, which she recorded against Morgan State on Dec. 29. Against the Bears, Lepley secured her fourth career double-double, scoring 19 points and tallying the 10 rebounds. 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 698 points, recorded 378 rebounds and 143 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 marked 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 also received Rookie of the Week honors on Dec. 27 after scoring 11 points and tallying six rebounds against Bryant on Dec. 21, becoming the first repeat rookie award winner this season. Parker scored a season-high 20-points against Quinnipiac, leading the team. She has three double-figure outings in the last seven games, notching 10 points at UNH, 13 points against Northeastern and 11 points over Bryant. She has 110 points on the season, an average of 8.5 points per game. She ranks fourth on the team and 19th in the Patriot League in the scoring category. She also continues to be one of the team's top rebounders as she tied her season-high with 10 rebounds against Boston College on Dec. 18. She averages 4.8 boards per game, third highest on the team. She is also the team's top shot-blocker as she tied her season-high with three blocks against Bryant. She has posted a total of 14 blocks on the season and has registered four games with multiple blocks, including two against Lehigh the last time out. She ranks seventh in the league with a 1.1 blocks per game average.

COMEBACK MALONE: Sophomore guard Brisje Malone, 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 15 games this season. Malone is producing some of the team's top offense as she has now tallied nine double-digit scoring affairs in the last 11 games. She hit a season-high 15 points against New Hampshire on Dec. 13 and scores 9.9 points per game overall. Her scoring average ranks third on the team and 14th amongst Patriot League players. She has also scored double-figures against Dartmouth (11), Morgan State (10), Bryant (14), Boston College (10), Northeastern (11), UMass (10), Harvard (13), Central Connecticut (11) and Yale (13). Malone hits her stride in the clutch, scoring 83 of her 148 total points in the second half of games (56 percent). Malone notched two season-highs in the game against Morgan State, tallying eight rebounds and 11 assists. She became the second player on the team to notch a points, assist double-double against the Bears, as her 11 assists were a career-best. Her versatility stretches to the defensive side of the ball as well as she ranks second on the team with a 4.9 rebounding average. She is also second on the team with 3.6 assists per game. As a freshman, she averaged 26.1 minutes and 7.1 points per game. In her career she has scored 340 points, brought down 151 rebounds and dished out 112 assists.  

GAINS FOR GANSER: Sophomore Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.), who has been a solid presence off the bench for Holy Cross this season broke out for a career-best 21-point, four steal performance in the team's win over Dartmouth. Ganser, whose previous high was 15 points, broke out for 11 free throws and five field goals made. Her point production was the most by any Crusader this season. Ganser is also a big addition for the Crusaders' defense as she posts 4.8 rebounds per game, third on the team and 18th amongst league foes. She makes 79.6 percent of her free throws (43 of 54) which ranks second amongst league players. She went 3-of-6 from the line in the Patriot League opener against Lehigh and also brought down five rebounds. Ganser played in all 30 games as a freshman, averging 4.8 points and 3.8 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 264 assists on the season, an average of 17.6 assists per game. Navy ranks second in the league with 13.1 assists per game, a difference of 4.5 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 5.6 assists per game, also leading the Patriot League. Holy Cross tallied another league-high, earning 27 assists over the Bryant Bulldogs on Dec. 21. There are a total of four Crusaders that rank within the top-10 conference assists leaders, the most of any other team in the conference. Sophomore Brisje Malone, senior Meredith Ward and junior Amy Lepley rank in the top-10 along with Smith.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the 15 games, Crusader starters have posted 769 of the team's 952 points (80.8 percent). They have combined for 2,244 of the 3,025 minutes played (74.2 percent) and are shooting a combined 41.8 percent from the floor (284 of 680). They have also sported 345 rebounds, 228 assists and 89 steals. Against Fordham, the team's starters scored 37 of the team's 43 points. In the game against Harvard, the starters boasted 71 of 73 points. Forty-five of the team's 53 points were scored by the starting five at CCSU and 59 of the team's 61 points versus UNH were put up by starters as well. Fifty of the squad's 60 points were scored by starters in the Patriot League opener at Lehigh the last time out.

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. The team has outrebounded eight of its 15 opponents thus far (Morgan State, Yale, Fordham, UMass, UNH, Northeastern, Boston College and Bryant). The team boasts a 5-3 record when outrebounding its opponent. Highlighting the teams rebounding efforts was a 52-33 margin against Bryant, a difference of 19 boards. The 52 rebounds were a single-game high and tied the most rebounds tallied by any Patriot League team so far this season. In all, opponents post five more rebounds than Holy Cross, a 570-575 difference. The Crusaders have also stepped up their defense on another level, obtaining more blocks than opponents in four of the 15 games (4-1 versus Quinnipiac, 3-1 at Harvard, 3-2 at UNH, 4-1 versus Bryant). Emily Parker has collected 14 of the team's 26 blocks. Last season, the team was outrebounded by a margin of 1,186-1,023, a 123 rebound difference. 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.

HOLY CROSS AMONGST THE NATION'S BEST: Holy Cross has gained recognition with many of the nation's top teams and players after the seventh round of the NCAA Division I rankings was released on Jan. 9. Currently, the Crusaders rank 14th in assists per game (17.6), 18th in assist/turnover ratio (1.05) and 145th in scoring offense (63.5). Alex Smith ranks within the top-50 in the nation with her 5.6 assists per game (21st). Her 11 assists versus Harvard rank 22nd in individual game-highs as does Brisje Malone's 11 dishes against Morgan State. Smith also ranks in the top-50 with her 2.7 three-pointers made per game, currently ranking 24th. Amy Lepley ranks 55th nationally with her 50.6 field goal percentage.

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.

HEAD COACH BILL GIBBONS:27th Season: Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons began the season with 496 career wins and now boasts a career record of 504-293 as head coach (63.3 winning percentage), including a 8-7 record at the helm this season. He became the 24th active Division I coach to have 500 career wins on Dec. 3 at New Hampshire. 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. 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. He holds sixteen 20-win seasons under his belt and is the sixth coach of the women's program at Holy Cross, enjoying 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 500 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: Holy Cross returns home to host American on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Hart Center. Game time is set for 1:00 p.m. against the Eagles in Worcester. American hosts Lehigh before making the trip on Wednesday.

SCOUTING NAVY: Navy enters the game with an overall record of 8-7 on the season. The Mids are 2-3 in their last five contests, topping Patriot League opponent Lafayette the last time out (60-55). Sophomore forward Audrey Bauer leads the team offensively with an average of 11.3 points per game. Fellow sophomore forward Jade Geif leads the team defensively with 8.0 rebounds per game and also adds 10.4 points. The squad averages 55.5 points and 38.5 rebounds per game as a whole. Navy is led by head coach Stefanie Pemper, who was named the 2011 Patriot League Coach of the Year. She owns a 60-48 record after four years of coaching the Mids.