Women's Basketball Set To Host American For Patriot League Weekend Action

Kaitlin Cole

Click here for the full American game notes in PDF format

Game Day Quick Facts
The Teams: Holy Cross (9-7, 1-1 PL) vs. American (10-6, 2-0 PL)
Date: January 14, 2012
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
Live Video Streaming: Patriot League All-Access
Holy Cross Radio: Jeremy Lechan, play-by-play; Click Here to Listen
Unofficial Live Stats: Click Here
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 14-10
Last Meeting: American 72, Holy Cross 44, Washington, D.C., March 5, 2011

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST AMERICAN: Saturday's match-up will be the 25th meeting between Holy Cross and American. The Eagles became the most recent member of the Patriot League during the 2001-2002 season and have been an annual competitor for Holy Cross since Jan. 26, 2002. The teams first met on Dec. 3, 2000 in the St. Joseph's Classic championship game. The Crusaders topped the Eagles, 67-62, to earn the championship title. Holy Cross then went on to win the following five meetings with its Patriot League opponent, scoring at least 60 points in every triumph. The Eagles broke the six-game slide on Feb. 20, 2004 in Washington, D.C. by a score of 81-65. The Crusaders then put together another five-game win streak, including a 57-49 victory over the Eagles in the 2006 Patriot League Tournament. Head coach Bill Gibbons is responsible for the 14-10 record while current American head coach, Matt Corkery, stands at 6-1 after earning his sixth win against the Crusaders in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Patriot League Championship, 72-44. Holy Cross leads the series at the Hart Center, 9-3, but has lost the last two match-ups at home, including a 73-62 loss last season. American has won a total of five straight and eight of the last nine. 

PLAYING THE EAGLES: The nickname Eagles is the most frequently used name of four-year college mascots, with a total of 76 institutions holding the title. Holy Cross has played one of the two teams with the Eagles mascot this season, Boston College, and plays American as its final Eagles opponent. Out of the other 74 colleges, the Crusaders have played against four schools with the Eagles mascot. Boston College and American have been annual competitors for Holy Cross while two other Eagles opponents, Coppin State and Eastern Michigan, have been on the Holy Cross schedule. The Crusaders traveled to play the Eagles of Eastern Michigan in the first game of head coach Bill Gibbons' career on Nov. 23, 1985, winning 90-58, and then played against the Coppin State Eagles on Dec. 29, 1991 at the St. John's Classic. In all, Holy Cross has collected a 24-37 all-time record against Eagles opponents.

HOME IS WHERE THE HART IS: Holy Cross, who is now 5-1 at the Hart Center this season, will play in seven more home games. The squad has topped Dartmouth, Quinnipiac, UMass, Northeastern and Bryant and lost to Fordham. The Crusaders currently have a 77.3 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 win over Dartmouth on Jan. 3 was the program's 300th win as a Division I squad. The program holds an all-time 339-113 advantage in Worcester and has posted 29 winning records 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 159 of 193 meetings against this year's home opponents.

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 330 league match-ups, winning 250and dropping 80 games total for a 75.8 winning percentage, including a 1-1 record so far this season. 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 249-80 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 15 wins against Holy Cross as well, including eight in a row, while the squad just broke a four-game slide against Navy on Jan. 11.

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 16 games of action. Lepley now leads the team with 13.5 points per game while Smith follows close behind with 12.9 points per game. Lepley ranks second in the league in scoring while Smith ranks fourth, separated only by Army's Jen Hazlett, who averages 13.4 points per game in 17 games played. Combined, the two have led the team in scoring in 13 of the team's 16 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 150 of the squad's 277 assists (54.2 percent) and account only for 100 of the total 267 turnovers. Through the 16 games, Smith leads the Patriot League with a 1.6 assist/turnover ratio (90 assists, 56 turnovers) while Malone is second with a 1.4 ratio (60 assists, 44 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.  

OFFENSEONTOP: The Holy Cross women's basketball team continues to keep up the offensive tempo two games into conference action. Against Navy, the Crusaders were below their season average, but won by a 17 point margin (55-38). The team continues to lead the league by averaging 62.9 points per game, totaling 1,007 points in 16 contests. The second-highest scoring team in the Patriot League is Lehigh, who averages 57.2 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, 40.1, is also a league best as they've combined to make 372 of their 927 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 16 games this season, averaging 31.9 minutes, 7.2 points, 4.2 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 ranks sixth amongst Patriot League players in average minutes played. Her point and rebound averages have also improved as she is scoring 3.1 more points and bringing down 3.3 more rebounds than her career averages (4.1 points, 1.9 rebounds). She currently ranks 22nd in scoring amongst Patriot League leaders as well. 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 475 points, recorded 233 rebounds and 204 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 nine games. Highlighting her scoring efforts was a 22-point outburst at Harvard, tying her career-high. She has scored in double-figures in seven of the last eight games and has 12 double-digit affairs on the season. Those games include 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 13 contests, including the last nine games, and averages 2.8 three-pointers per game, at total of 44 threes, leading the league. She now has 35 career games where she's made at least two three-pointers. 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 527 points, 165 rebounds and 188 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 12 double-figure outings this season, highlighted by a season and career-high 22 point outburst against Lehigh on Jan. 7. 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 hit double figures in the last four games, including a team-high 14 points at Navy. She 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 seven total games. Lepley is the team and league's best shooter, making 50.8 percent of her field goal attempts (90 of 177). 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 three of the last four 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 712 points, recorded 384 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 four double-figure outings in the last eight games, notching 12 points at Navy, 10 points at UNH, 13 points against Northeastern and 11 points over Bryant. She has 122 points on the season, an average of 8.7 points per game. She ranks fourth on the team and 18th in the Patriot League in the scoring category. She also continues to be one of the team's top rebounders as she earned her second double-double with 12 rebounds along with the 12 points at Navy, leading the team in rebounding. She averages 5.3 boards per game, second highest on the team. She is also the team's top shot-blocker as notched a season-high four blocks against the Midshipmen the last time. She has posted a total of 18 blocks on the season, an average of 1.3 blocks per game and ranks seventh amongst Patriot League players. She has registered five games with multiple blocks, the most by any other Crusader this season.

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 16 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 12 games. She hit a season-high 15 points against New Hampshire on Dec. 13 and scores 9.6 points per game overall. Her scoring average ranks third on the team and 13th amongst Patriot League players. She has 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 87 of her 154 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 this season, as her 11 assists were a career-best. Her versatility stretches to the defensive side of the ball as well as she ranks fourth on the team with a 4.8 rebounding average. She led the team in rebounding against New Hampshire and Miami. 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 346 points, brought down 154 rebounds and dished out 117 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, made 11 free throws and five field goals made. Ganser is also a big addition for the Crusaders' defense as she posts 5.0 rebounds per game, third on the team and 17th amongst league foes. She also 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. She then added eight rebounds and seven points against Navy and has had at least two rebounds in the last four contests. Ganser played in all 30 games as a freshman, averaging 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 277 assists on the season, an average of 17.3 assists per game. American ranks second in the league with 12.8 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 and senior Meredith Ward 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 16 games, Crusader starters have posted 815 of the team's 1,007 points (80.9 percent). They have combined for 2,395 of the 3,225 minutes played (74.3 percent) and are shooting a combined 41.6 percent from the floor (304 of 740). They have also sported 372 rebounds, 241 assists and 95 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. Fifty of the squad's 60 points were scored by starters in the Patriot League opener at Lehigh while 46 of the 55 points were posted by starters at Navy.

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 nine of its 16 opponents thus far (Navy, Morgan State, Yale, Fordham, UMass, UNH, Northeastern, Boston College and Bryant). The team boasts a 6-3 record when outrebounding its opponent. Highlighting the teams rebounding efforts was a 52-33 margin against Bryant, a difference of 19 boards and a +13 difference against Navy (46-33). 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, Holy Cross posts eight more rebounds than its opponents, a 616-608 difference. The Crusaders have also stepped up their defense on another level, obtaining more blocks than opponents in five of the 16 games (4-2 at Navy, 4-1 versus Quinnipiac, 3-1 at Harvard, 3-2 at UNH, 4-1 versus Bryant). Emily Parker has collected 18 of the team's 30 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 505-293 as head coach (63.3 winning percentage), including a 9-7 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 finishes its non-conference portion of the schedule at Brown on Monday, Jan. 16. The Crusaders will play at 7:00 p.m. against the Bears in Providence, R.I.

SCOUTING AMERICAN: American enters the game with an overall record of 10-6 on the season. The Eagles are 3-2 in their last five contests, including a 55-49 victory over Patriot League opponent Lehigh the last time out, moving the team to 2-0 in conference action. Sophomore Alexis Dobbs leads the team offensively with an average of 10.6 points per game. Senior Stephanie Anya leads the team defensively with 6.1 rebounds per game and also adds 6.6 points per game. Senior Lisa Strack also averages in double-figures, averaging 10.2 points per game. American is led by head coach Matt Corkery, who is in his fourth season at the helm of the Eagles program. He owns a 63-31 record after three years of coaching in D.C.