Women's Basketball Returns To Action Sunday At Bryant

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The Teams: Holy Cross (4-5, 0-0 PL) vs. Bryant (2-7, 0-1 Northeast)
Date: December 19, 2010
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Place: Chace Athletic Center (2,600)

Holy Cross Radio: Stretch Internet Radio; Jeremy Lechan, play-by-play; Listen here
Unofficial Live Statistics: Prestosports
Series Record:
Holy Cross leads, 4-0
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 57, Bryant 45 (November 18, 2009, Smithfield, R.I.) 

THE SERIES WITH BRYANT: Bryant reentered the Holy Cross women's basketball schedule after becoming a Division I institution in the 2008-2009 season. Sunday's match-up will be just the fifth meeting between the two squads, with the Crusaders coming away victorious in the previous four contests. Holy Cross has played the Bulldogs in its last two seasons, defeating them 73-54 on Jan. 7, 2009 and again last year, notching a 57-45 victory on the road. Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons and Bryant head coach Mary Burke met in competition for the second time last year in their combined 44 years of coaching, with Gibbons earning his second career win against the Bulldogs. The teams first played each other as Division II institutions dating back to the 1976-1977 season. Under the guidance of head coach Pat Corcoran, the Crusaders topped the Bulldogs 72-26, the largest margin of victory for Holy Cross. The teams then matched up again in 1981, with Holy Cross earning a 94-64 win. Holy Cross also earned its first win at Bryant's Chace Athletic Center last season, which was built in 2001.

PLAYING THE BULLDOGS: The nickname Bulldogs is used by a total of 38 collegiate institutions, including Bryant. Throughout program history, the Crusaders have played against three of those institutions; Bryant, Louisiana Tech and Yale. After already facing Yale this season, Holy Cross has combined for a record of 10-8 all-time versus Bulldogs opponents.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE NORTHEAST CONFERENCE: In program history, Holy Cross has played against six of the 11 teams that make up the Northeast conference. Bryant, who will be instated in to the conference in 2012-2013, is the final Northeast Conference opponent Holy Cross will face this season, as they have already taken on Quinnipiac and Central Connecticut. The Crusaders have played in a total of 25 games against Northeast foes, including the win against Quinnipiac and the loss against Central Connecticut this season. In all, the team has won 19 games (76.0 percent). Holy Cross boasts a winning percentage in series against Bryant (4-0), Central Connecticut (8-2), Long Island (3-1), Mount St. Mary's (2-0), Quinnipiac (3-2), Sacred Heart (1-0) and Wagner (2-1). They do not post a losing record against any NEC member and have not played against Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Robert Morris or St. Francis (N.Y. and Pa.).

ALL-AROUND AMY: Sophomore starting forward Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) is continuing to show off her full strength and versatility on all sides of the basketball court this season. Through the nine games played, Lepley is averaging 10.0 points, a team-best 6.3 rebounds per game and is shooting 42.0 percent (37-for-88). She also leads the team with 32 assists and 17 steals. She has already recorded two double-doubles this season, an 18-point, 11-rebound outing against Yale and a 13-point, 12-rebound effort in the team's first win against Quinnipiac. Her 12 rebounds against Quinnipiac were a career-high while her 17 field goal attempts against Yale were also a career-best. She tied her career-high with nine made field-goals against the Bulldogs as well. Lepley has six double-digit scoring outings this season, including the last three games (13 points against Central Connecticut, 10 points against Maine and 10 points against Boston College) and has led or tied the team-high in rebounding in six out of the nine games. She has also led the team in points once (against Yale), in steals three times and in assists three times. Amongst Patriot League leaders, Lepley ranks third in assists (3.6), fourth in steals (1.9), eighth in rebounds and 15th in scoring. She has also played in an average of 27.7 minutes per game. Lepley was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team last season after playing a full season of basketball for the first time since her junior year in high school, averaging 23.7 minutes, 6.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Lepley also claimed six Patriot League Rookie of the Week awards. The Massachusetts native also finished the season with a 44.2 field goal percentage, a team-high, and led the team in rebounding in four contests, including a season-high 10 rebounds twice.

SMOOTH SMITH: Freshman Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) has completely emerged into her role as a starting guard for the Crusaders. On the season, Smith is averaging 11.6 points, 3.7 rebounds per game and is shooting 33.7 percent from the floor (32-for-95). Twenty-five of her field goals made have come as three-point shots, while 74 of her field goal attempts have come as three-point shots as well. Smith reached new heights in the game against Maine, as she poured in a season-best 21 points, the most points a Holy Cross player has put up so far this year. She has also posted double-figures in four out of the last five games. Smith has either led or tied for the team lead in points in three out of the nine games played thus far, marking five double-digit scoring affairs (12 vs. UConn, 16 vs. New Hampshire, 14 vs. Harvard, 15 vs. Central Connecticut and 21 vs. Maine). She has taken the reigns as the squad's top three-point shooter, sinking 25 treys on 74 tries (33.8 percent) so far this season. Smith ranks 31st in the nation and first amongst league leaders in three-pointers made per game (2.8). She is also 12th in three-point field goal percentage and 11th in scoring average amidst league leaders and has two Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors under her belt (11/29 and 12/6). She is also within the top-10 in assists (eighth), steals (ninth) and minutes played (fifth). In those categories, Smith is averaging 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 31.4 minutes. 

FREMEAU BREAKS LOOSE: Senior forward Whitney Fremeau (Manchester, N.H.) continues to be one of the team's biggest offensive threats and defensive presences so far this season. Currently, Fremeau leads the Holy Cross squad with a 12.3 point per game average, adds 3.8 rebounds per game and is making and taking the team's largest number of shots (46-for-118 from the floor). She poured in a career-high 20 points in the team's 72-60 win over Quinnipiac on Nov. 17, finishing the game making seven of her 17 field goal attempts, both season-highs. Her 20 points bested her previous career-high of 18 points, which she collected four times over her career. She has posted a total of six double-digit scoring outings this season (13 vs. Yale, 20 at Quinnipiac, 16 vs. New Hampshire, 15 vs. Harvard, 13 vs. Maine and 16 vs. Boston College). She has led or tied the team in scoring three times. Fremeau currently ranks eighth amongst Patriot League individuals with her 12.3 scoring average. She also averages 30.4 minutes per game, ranking eighth in the league and is shooting 39.0 percent from the floor (14th in league standings). Her 1.5 assist/turnover ratio leads league leaders as she has a total of 29 assists this season. She collected seven assists against Yale in the season opener, one shy of her career-high set against Bucknell on Jan. 16, 2010. Her average of 3.2 assist per game ranks fourth. 

THE FROSH IMPACT: Through the nine games played so far this season, the five-member freshman class is showing why head coach Bill Gibbons has so much faith in their immediate impact on the program. So far, the newcomers have scored 246 of the team's 574 total points, are bringing down 114 out of 322 rebounds and have added 47 of the 149 assists and 37 of the 79 total steals. Together, the five are averaging 5.8 points, 2.5 rebounds per game and have made 79 of their 224 field goal attempts (35.3 percent).

WILLFUL WARD: Junior Meredith Ward (Westerly, R.I.), who began the season as the team's sixth-man off the bench, moved in to the starting role at guard against New Hampshire on Nov. 23. After starting the last five games, Ward now averages 7.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game and is shooting 42.2 percent from the floor (19-for-45) on the entire season. In her second consecutive start against Harvard, Ward broke out for a career-best 17-point outing, sinking seven of her 11 field goal attempts. Her seven field goals made were a career-high as she also posted six assists, a season-best. Ward now has four double-digit scoring outings in nine games played (14 vs. Quinnipiac, 10 at Fordham, 11 vs. New Hampshire and 17 vs. Harvard). She is extremely calm and collected at the free throw line this season as well, as she has made 26 free throws in 27 attempts (96.3 percent) including a perfect 12-for-12 performance at Quinnipiac. Her free throw percentage is amidst the nation's best, as she ranks fifth amongst all NCAA leaders. She now ranks second amongst Patriot League leaders, with Lafayette's Lauren Jackson ranking first with a 96.8 free throw percentage. In all, Ward has led the squad in scoring twice (Fordham, Harvard) and has led or tied the team in assists three times (Harvard, Central Connecticut and Boston College). She has a total of 20 assists this season, averaging 2.2 per game.

LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING: With no player on the roster listed taller than 6-1, the Holy Cross women's basketball team knew that height may be a challenge in terms of team defense. However, the Crusaders showed that height has not been an issue in almost all of the games played thus far. They pounded Yale on the boards in the first game of the season, collecting 40 rebounds next to the Bulldogs' 28 and then picked up a 51-45 rebounding edge against Quinnipiac, who had four of its five starters listed over 5-8. Its 51 rebounds were a team-high so far this season. Holy Cross also topped Harvard with a 44-34 rebound advantage and then out-rebounded Central Connecticut 45-41. To date, the team has 322 rebounds, including 116 offensive and 206 defensive boards. As a team, Holy Cross ranks third amongst Patriot League leaders with its total of 137 offensive boards. Lepley leads all rebounders with 57 rebounds (41 defensive) while the team as a whole has 39 rebounds. Opponents have tallied 349 rebounds, including 121 offensive and 228 defensive. The squad has been out-rebounded by Connecticut (48-16), Fordham (45-29), New Hampshire (39-36), Maine (33-32) and Boston College (36-29). Senior Alyssa May (Oradell, N.J.) leads the team with 18 offensive rebounds, an average of 2.0 per game. Her average is 10th-best amongst league players.  

GOOD GRABS BY GANSER: Freshman Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.) is emerging as a great force underneath the basket for the Crusaders this season. Currently, Ganser is averaging 5.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and is sinking 46.4 percent of her shots (13-for-28). She has played in all nine games thus far, tying or leading the team in rebounding twice (8 vs. Fordham, 5 vs. Maine) and has collected a season-high of eight rebounds three times this season against the Rams, New Hampshire and Harvard. She also tallied a season-best 10 points against Central Connecticut including seven points in the paint and her first career three-point shot. She followed with nine points against Maine, notching season-highs with three field goals made in five attempts. Because of her defensive efforts, Ganser now ranks second on the team with 44 total rebounds. She has also made her way up on the list of Patriot League bests, as she ranks 16th in rebounding average (4.9) and 11th in defensive rebounds (3.9 per-game). 

STANDOUT PERFORMANCES: So far this season, a number of Holy Cross team and player performances have been at the top of the league's individual player and team game-highs. Lepley's nine field goals made against Yale rank first, as does Meredith Ward's 12-for-12 free throw performance against Quinnipiac is a individual best, while Alex Smith's 14 three-point shot attempts against Maine are also a high. Lepley's nine field goals made against Yale rank second, as does Smith's five three-point field goals made against Central Connecticut and Maine. She has also tallied the second-highest number of steals (five against New Hampshire). As a squad, the Crusaders have collected team-highs with 26 total assists versus Maine and 16 steals against New Hampshire. They rank second in conference team-highs with their 31 field goals made against Yale, a 50.9 field goal percentage versus Harvard and 28 free throws made against New Hampshire.

HEAD COACH BILL GIBBONS: 26th SEASON: Bill Gibbons is in his 26th season at the helm of the Holy Cross women's basketball program and 30th as a member of the Holy Cross basketball family in 2010-2011. He has compiled a 480-250 record as head coach, including a 4-5 record at the helm this season. Her ranks 28th on the active Division I win leaders list as well. His quarter-century pledge to the team has made a major impact on all aspects of the women's basketball world and especially in the surrounding community. He has led the Crusaders to nine Patriot League Championships in the last 15 years. He has also made 12 postseason appearances (11 NCAA Tournaments and one WNIT) in his 24 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 450 wins under his belt, Gibbons is the second-winningest coach in Holy Cross Athletics history, behind legendary baseball coach Jack Barry, who totaled 616 wins from 1921-1960.

CRUSADERS PICKED FIFTH IN PRESEASON POLL: Holy Cross was picked to finish fifth in the 2010-2011 Patriot League preseason poll, receiving 42 votes. American was chosen to finish first, receiving nine first-place votes as senior forward Michelle Kirk was also voted Preseason Player of the Year. The Eagles earned a league-high 93 points and was followed closely behind by reigning Patriot League Champion, Lehigh, who received seven first place votes and 91 points. Navy was picked third with 70 points, while Army (59 points) and Holy Cross (42) were selected fourth and fifth respectively. Colgate and Lafayette tied for sixth place with 40 votes and Bucknell wrapped up the standings in eighth place with 31 points. 

FREMEAU, MAY AND WARD NAMED 2010-2011 TEAM CAPTAINS: Fremeau, May and Ward were named captains for the 2010-2011 season. Fremeau topped the team in rebounding last year, ranking 10th in the league as well with an average of 5.4 rebounds per game. She is also a threat not only on defense but on offense as well as she also posted a 12.3 scoring average, ranking seventh amongst league individuals and third on the team last season. She was named to the second team All-Patriot League for her efforts. May is the veteran starting in the backcourt, as she returns as the team's best defensive player. As a junior, she averaged 22.1 minutes, 3.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Her 4.1 rebound average was second highest on the team. Ward is also listed among the veterans in the backcourt, as she moves from the point guard position to the shooting guard in her junior season. Ward saw action in all 31 games last season, averaging 26.8 minutes, 5.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. She ranked second on the team and ninth in the Patriot League with 72 assists, averaging 2.3 assists per game. Combined, the three scored 661 out of the 899 points posted by the team's returning letterwinners. They also pulled down 348 out of the 502 rebounds collected by this year's returners. Through the first nine games of action, the captains have put up 223 points, 98 rebounds and 63 assists.

WELCOME TO WORCESTER: There are two new faces handling front office duties for the 2010-2011 Crusader basketball squad, assistant coaches Chante Bonds and Kristin Drabyn. Bonds spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach for the Fairleigh Dickinson University women's basketball team. In addition to her assistant coaching responsibilities at FDU, Bonds scheduled the team's travel arrangements, worked with the strength and conditioning program and recruited on the east coast and Canada. She was a four-year letter winner on the Bentley women's basketball team, graduating in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in Informational Design and Corporate Communication. Drabyn spent the previous two seasons as a graduate assistant coach for the women's basketball team at Texas Tech. While at Texas Tech, Drabyn assisted in the everyday operations of the women's basketball program, including serving as the video coordinator. Drabyn was also a four-year member of the University of Maryland Baltimore County women's basketball team. She graduated as the school's all-time record holder in free throw percentage (90%) and in made three pointers (169). She co-captained the squad as a senior and was an All-Conference selection in 2008. In 2007, UMBC was the America East Tournament champions, earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Drabyn was also named the America East Sportsmanship winner in 2007. A 2008 graduate of UMBC with a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Communications and Exercise Physiology, Drabyn earned her Master's degree in Sports Management from Texas Tech in 2010. 

RETURNING TO GLORY: The 2010-2011 season is the first 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 at the end of 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.

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 237 league victories and just 63 losses. It has made 20 appearances in the Patriot League Tournament, boasting 11 championships and a 38-9 all-time record. The team was seeded fifth in the tournament last season, a program low, but proved that it could not be counted out, topping Army, 57-53 in the quarterfinal round before falling to the 2010 champion, Lehigh, in the semifinals. The Crusaders are most successful against Colgate as they have mounted a 41-3 all-time record against the Raiders. The team also boasts a 43-8 record against Lafayette. Army and American have given Holy Cross the most trouble, as the two have combined for 24 of the 63 wins against the Crusaders. Lehigh has put up 11 wins against Holy Cross as well.

RENEWING OLD RIVALRIES: Fordham, a former Patriot League foe, Massachusetts, an in-state rival, and Quinnipiac reenter the Crusaders' slate this season. The Crusaders and Rams have played in a total 38 contests, dating back to the 1983 season. Holy Cross holds the 31-7 all-time edge over Fordham, falling to the Rams on Nov. 20. Massachusetts and Holy Cross have faced off 16 times in program history and will vie for the lead in the all-time series as it is tied at 8-8. The Minutewomen own a three game win-streak against Holy Cross, however, winning the last meeting 77-46 in 2007. The Crusaders also topped Quinnipiac on Nov. 17, taking a 3-2 edge in the all-time series.

AND STARTING NEW ONES: Holy Cross will also face two brand new opponents this season, East Tennessee State and North Carolina A&T. The Crusaders will play these two teams in its only tournament of the season, the Marriott Cavalier Classic, hosted by Virginia. The two teams will definitely present a challenge for Holy Cross, as ETSU boasted an overall record of 23-9 last season and an 18-2 Atlantic Sun record. North Carolina A&T went 23-11 overall, but was also dominant in their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, finishing with a 14-2 league record. 

HOLY CROSS AMONGST THE NATION'S BEST: Holy Cross has gained recognition with many of the nation's top teams and players after the second round of the NCAA Division I rankings was released this week. Currently, the Crusaders rank 29th in assists per game, 73rd in assist/turnover ratio and 174th in scoring offense. Alex Smith remains a top the nation's three-point performers as she ranks 31st in three-point shots made per game (2.8) and 147th in three-point percentage (33.8). Lastly, Meredith Ward ranks fifth on the national scene with her 96.3 free throw percentage.

NEXT UP FOR THE CRUSADERS: Holy Cross heads into the city of Boston to play against Northeastern on Tuesday, Dec. 21. The game will be held at Solomon Court starting at 12:00 p.m. The Crusaders look to avenge their double overtime loss to the Huskies at home last season as the Boston-based squad sits at 4-4 currently on the season. They will play Miami (OH) on Dec. 19 before hosting Holy Cross.    

Record: 2-7 Affiliation: Northeast Conference

HEAD COACH: Mary Burke is in her 20th season at the helm of the Bryant women's basketball program. In her career, she has coached her squads to 272 wins and 275 losses, including the 2-7 record her team owns this season. Her squad is in its third season as a Division I program and second in the Northeast Conference. Under Burke's tutelage, the Bulldogs have made it to the NCAA Tournament seven times, including back-to-back appearances in 2004 and 2005, as well as their final appearance in the Division II Tournament in 2008. She was promoted to head coach of the program on August 1, 1991, becoming only the fourth women's basketball head coach in Bryant history.

2010-2011 SQUAD: The Bulldogs stand at 2-7 so far this year, topping Air Force (79-74) and most recently Colgate (77-70), another Patriot League opponent. The team has lost to Penn (70-59), Lafayette (84-80), Maine (74-66), Brown (57-49), Dartmouth (75-72), Weber State (51-49) and Fairleigh Dickinson (58-48). They are 1-2 when playing on their home hardwood so far this season. Sophomore guard Meredith Soper leads the team with 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, and has hit 30.8 percent (32-for-104) of her field goals and 68.6 percent (24 of 35) of her free throw attempts. Fellow sophomore guard Danielle Douglas has averaged 11.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, while senior forward Siamone Bennett also posts a 10.6 scoring average and a team-leading 7.9 rebounds per game. Bryant is coming off a 2009-2010 season in which it posted an overall record of 13-16.