Women's Basketball Wraps Up Non-Conference Slate At Brown Monday Night

Ashley Cooper

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Game Day Quick Facts
The Teams: Holy Cross (9-8, 1-2 PL) vs. Brown (9-5, 0-1 Ivy League)
Date: January 16, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Pizzitola Sports Center (2,800), Providence, R.I.
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Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 3-0
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 80, Brown 60, Worcester, Mass., November 25, 1997

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST BROWN: Monday's match-up will be the fourth meeting all-time between Holy Cross and Brown. The teams have not played each other since the 1997-1998 season as the Crusaders have won all three of the previous match-ups. The Crusaders first played the Bears under the guidance of head coach Togo Palazzi in the 1981-1982 season, winning 71-60. After a 14-season hiatus, Holy Cross and Brown met again on Nov. 25, 1996. The Crusaders earned a 79-62 win that season and followed with their most recent match-up, an 80-60 win on Nov. 25, 1997 at the Hart Center. The first two games of the series were played in Providence as Monday's match-up will be the third game played on the road for Holy Cross. The Pizzitola Sports Center, the site of Monday's game, was dedicated in 1989 as the Crusaders have won two straight there. Current head coach Bill Gibbons is 2-0 against Brown while current Bears head coach, Jean Marie Burr, in her 24th season, is 0-2 against Holy Cross. 

PLAYING THE BEARS: There are a total of 25 collegiate institutions that carry the nickname Bears. Holy Cross has played one of the two teams with the Bears mascot this season, Morgan State, and plays Brown as its final Bears opponent. Out of the 25 colleges, the Crusaders have played against three schools with the Bears mascot, Bridgewater State, Brown and Morgan State. In all, Holy Cross has never lost to a Bears team, collecting an all-time record of 7-0 (3-0 vs. Brown, 3-0 vs. Bridgewater State and 1-0 vs. Morgan State).

ROADWOES: Holy Cross has found trouble winning on the road this season, as the squad holds a 3-6 record as the travel team. The Crusaders broke a three-game slide on the road at Navy on Jan. 11, topping the Mids 55-38. Altogether, the team averages 57.6 points per game as the road team while allowing 67.0 points. Comparatively, the Crusaders post 67.7 points per game at home while allowing their opponents to score 63.1 points per game. The Crusaders also shoot 38.2 percent on the road while they shoot over 40 percent, 42.7, at home. So far the team has lost at Yale, UConn, Central Connecticut, Boston College, Miami and Lehigh and won at New Hampshire, Harvard and Navy.

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. Brown will be the fourth and final Ivy League opponent the team will face this season as the team is now 2-1 against all Ivy League opponents, topping Dartmouth and Harvard and losing to Yale. Harvard and Yale have been the most frequent Ivy League teams on the Holy Cross schedule, competing against the Crusaders a combined 26 times. Dartmouth faced Holy Cross for the ninth time this season and controls the all-time series 6-3. 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 14-12 against Yale and Harvard, including the loss to Yale and win over Harvard earlier this season.

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 17 games of action. Lepley now leads the team with 13.2 points per game while Smith follows close behind with 12.6 points per game. Lepley ranks third in the league in scoring while Smith ranks fourth. Jhazmine Lynch of Colgate leads the league with 14.6 points per game. Combined, the two have led the team in scoring in 13 of the team's 17 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 160 of the squad's 291 assists (55 percent) and account only for 106 of the total 284 turnovers. Through the 17 games, Smith leads the Patriot League with a 1.6 assist/turnover ratio (94 assists, 58 turnovers) while Malone is second with a 1.4 ratio (66 assists, 48 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 three games into conference action. When playing non-conference opponents, the Crusaders average 63.7 points per game, while they score an average of 57.7 points against conference foes. The team continues to lead the league by averaging 62.6 points per game, totaling 1,065 points in 17 contests. The second-highest scoring team in the Patriot League is Lehigh, who averages 58.9 points per game, a difference of 3.7 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 393 of their 979 shot attempts. Overall, the team is 6-1 when playing in games where they've scored over 60 points and 7-2 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 32 minutes, 7.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Her playing time has increased dramatically during her senior season as she averaged 21.3 minutes over her first three years. She currently ranks sixth amongst Patriot League players in average minutes played. Her point and rebound averages have also improved as she is scoring three more points and bringing down 3.2 more rebounds than her career averages (4.1 points, 1.9 rebounds). She currently ranks 22nd in scoring amongst Patriot League leaders. 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 480 points, recorded 235 rebounds and 205 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 seven games on the season. 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 nine games and has 12 double-digit affairs on the season. Her double-figure 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 88 total assists on the season, leading the team and Patriot League with 5.5 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 14 contests, including the last 10 games, and averages 2.7 three-pointers per game, at total of 46 threes, leading the league. She now has 36 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 535 points, 167 rebounds and 192 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 third in the Patriot League in scoring average, putting up 13.2 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 four of the last five 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 ninth in the league in rebounding, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game. She has led the team in rebounding in three of the last five 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 720 points, recorded 390 rebounds and 144 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 led the team with 15 points the last time out against American and recorded a season-high 20-points against Quinnipiac, leading the team. She has five double-figure outings in the last nine games, notching 15 points vs. American, 12 points at Navy, 10 points at UNH, 13 points against Northeastern and 11 points over Bryant. She has 137 points on the season, an average of 9.1 points per game. She ranks fourth on the team and 13th 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 now averages 5.5 boards per game, second highest on the team after leading the team in rebounding the past two games (12 rebounds at Navy, nine rebounds versus American). She is also the team's top shot-blocker as she notched a season-high four blocks against the Midshipmen and two versus the Eagles. She has posted a total of 20 blocks on the season, an average of 1.3 blocks per game and ranks sixth amongst Patriot League players. She has registered six 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 17 games this season. Malone is producing some of the team's top offense as she has now tallied 10 double-digit scoring affairs in the last 13 games. She hit a season-high 15 points against New Hampshire on Dec. 13 and scores 9.8 points per game overall. Her scoring average ranks third on the team and 13th amongst Patriot League players. She has scored double-figures against American (12), 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 97 of her 166 total points in the second half of games (58 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 4.6 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 358 points, brought down 156 rebounds and dished out 123 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 5.2 rebounds per game, third on the team and 14th amongst league foes. She also makes 77.6 percent of her free throws (45 of 58) which ranks third 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 is averaging seven rebounds per game against Patriot League opponents, second highest on the team. She added eight rebounds against Navy and American and has had at least two rebounds in the last five 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 291 assists on the season, an average of 17.1 assists per game. American ranks second in the league with 13.0 assists per game, a difference of 4.3 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 5.5 assists per game, also leading the Patriot League. Holy Cross tallied another league-high, earning 27 assists over the Bryant Bulldogs on Dec. 21. Sophomore Brisje Malone also adds 3.6 assists per game, second in the league and on the team.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the 17 games, Crusader starters have posted 863 of the team's 1,065 points (81 percent). They have combined for 2,583 of the 3,425 minutes played (75.4 percent) and are shooting a combined 41.7 percent from the floor (321 of 769). They have also sported 397 rebounds, 253 assists and 99 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 10 of its 17 opponents thus far (American, Navy, Morgan State, Yale, Fordham, UMass, UNH, Northeastern, Boston College and Bryant). The team boasts a 6-4 record when outrebounding its opponent. Highlighting the teams rebounding efforts was a 52-33 margin against Bryant, a difference of 19 boards, a +13 difference against Navy (46-33) and a 43-29 advantage against American (+14). The 52 rebounds against Bryant 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 22 more rebounds than its opponents, a 659-637 difference. The Crusaders have also stepped up their defense on another level, obtaining more blocks than opponents in six of the 17 games (3-0 versus American, 4-2 at Navy, 4-1 versus Quinnipiac, 3-1 at Harvard, 3-2 at UNH, 4-1 versus Bryant). Emily Parker has collected 20 of the team's 33 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 eighth round of the NCAA Division I rankings was released on Jan. 13. Currently, the Crusaders rank 15th in assists per game (17.3), 17th in assist/turnover ratio (1.04) 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). Smith also ranks in the top-50 with her 2.8 three-pointers made per game, currently ranking 24th. She ranks within the top-100 in assist/turnover ratio, sitting in 73rd (1.61). Amy Lepley ranks 51st nationally with her 50.8 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 BILLGIBBONS:27th Season: Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons began the season with 496 career wins and now boasts a career record of 505-294 as head coach (63.3 winning percentage), including a 9-8 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.

NEXTUP FOR THE CRUSADERS: Holy Cross returns to the road for a mid-week conference battle at Lafayette. The squad travels to Easton, Pa. to face off against the Leopards at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

SCOUTING BROWN: Brown enters the game with an overall record of 9-5 on the season, including four wins and three losses at home. The Bears are 4-1 in their last five contests, including a 75-65 loss against Yale the last time out. Junior guard Sheila Dixon leads the team offensively and defensively with an average of 13.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Senior guard Hannah Passafuime also averages double-figures, scoring 13.1 points per game. Brown is led by head coach Jean Marie Burr who is in her 24th season at the helm of the Bears program. She owns a career record of 279-312.