Women's Basketball Completes Non-Conference Slate At UMass

Meredith Ward

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Game Day Quick Facts
The Teams: Holy Cross (4-10, 0-0 PL) vs. Massachusetts (3-11, 0-0 Atlantic 10)
Date: January 5, 2011
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Curry Hicks Cage (4,000)

Holy Cross Radio: Stretch Internet Radio, www.goholycross.com; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play
UMass Radio: 91.1 FM WMUA; John Windheim and Matt Lopes
Unofficial Live Statistics: www.umassathletics.com
UMass Television: CBS3 Now
UMass All-Access Video: www.umassathletics.com/allaccess

Series Record: Tied, 8-8
Last Meeting: UMass 77, Holy Cross 46 (January 3, 2007, Worcester, Mass.)

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST MASSACHUSETTS: Wednesday's match-up marks the 17th meeting all-time between Holy Cross and Massachusetts. The winner of the contest will earn the series edge as it currently stands at 8-8. Massachusetts owns a three-game win streak heading into Wednesday, earning a 77-46 win at the Hart Center the last time out (Jan. 3, 2007). Holy Cross received its last win on Nov. 23, 2003, winning out 68-63 in Amherst, Mass. Crusaders head coach Bill Gibbons picked up his fifth win in that game as he stands at 5-8 when playing the Minutewomen. UMass' first year head coach Sharon Dawley faces Holy Cross for the first time as head coach with the Minutewomen, but owns a 4-0 record over Holy Cross teams, stemming from her previous tenure at Vermont. The series first took root on Nov. 23, 1982 as the Crusaders won the first four meetings, outscoring UMass 338-276. Coach Gibbons' first win against the Minutewomen came in grand fashion, as his Crusaders topped their opponent 102-87 on Dec. 8, 1987. When playing in Amherst, UMass holds a 4-3 edge, last winning 64-55 on their home court on Nov. 20, 2005. This will be just the third time the Crusaders and Minutewomen have faced off in the Curry Hicks Cage as Holy Cross won both meetings back in the 1980's.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE ATLANTIC 10: In program history, Holy Cross has played against 11 of the 14 teams that compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference. This season, the squad faced Fordham and plays at Massachusetts for their only A-10 competitions. Holy Cross is 0-1 on the season against A-10 opponents after falling at Fordham, 67-36. Combined, Holy Cross has registered an all-time 39-15 record against the Rams and Minutewomen. Against the other nine conference teams, the Crusaders have notched 23 wins and 15 losses throughout program history. The team boasts winning records against Dayton (1-0), La Salle (11-8), Rhode Island (7-3), Richmond (1-0) Saint Louis (1-0) and Xavier (2-0) while posting losing records against George Washington (0-2), and Temple (0-1). The squad has never played Charlotte, Duquesne or St. Bonaventure.

PLAYING THE MINUTEMEN/WOMEN: In all of collegiate athletics, there are just two teams with the nickname Minutemen/women. Wednesday's game against the UMass Minutewomen will mark the one and only time the Holy Cross Crusaders meet up with a Minutemen/women team this season. The Crusaders have only played against one Minutemen/women squad all-time as Heritage College in Toppenish, Wash. also bears the same nickname. The Crusaders and Minutemen/women are knotted at 8-8 in the all-time series as well.

ROAD SERIES: Wednesday's game is part of a seven-game road series that started in Smithfield, R.I. against Bryant on Dec. 19. After falling to the Bulldogs and Northeastern, dropping both decisions in the Cavalier Classic and losing to Dartmouth the last time out, the squad travels west to play at in-state rival UMass on Jan. 5, wrapping up non-conference action. The seventh and final game in the road series sends the Crusaders to Easton, Pa., for their first Patriot League match-up against Lafayette, held on Jan. 8. On the season, Holy Cross stands at 1-7 when traveling and is averaging 52.3 points per road game. Home teams average 74.2 points and are knocking down 45.5 percent of their baskets, while the Crusaders shoot 32.5 percent as the visitors. On a neutral floor, as in the Cavalier Classic, Holy Cross posted 65.0 points per game and allowed an average of 82.5 points to be scored. The squad is also being outrebounded on the road by an average of 9.7 rebounds per game.

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 14 games played, Lepley is averaging 10.2 points, a team-best 5.6 rebounds per game and is shooting 41.9 percent (57-for-136) from the floor. She also leads the team with 44 assists and ranks second on the team with 24 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 recorded nine double-digit scoring outings this season, including two in the last four games. Her double-digit performances include; 13 points against Central Connecticut, 10 points against Maine, 10 points against Boston College, 12 points against Bryant, 13 points against East Tennessee State and 14 points against North Carolina A&T. She has led or tied the team-high in rebounding in seven out of the 13 games as well. She has also led the team in points twice (against Yale and North Carolina A&T), in steals three times and in assists three times. Amongst Patriot League leaders, Lepley ranks third in assists (3.1), sixth in steals (1.7), 11th in rebounds and 15th in scoring. She has also played in an average of 28.1 minutes per game after playing 29 minutes in the last game against Dartmouth, where she also scored eight points and nabbed seven rebounds. 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 ties the team-high with 12.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game and shoots 35.8 percent from the floor (57 of 159). Forty-four of her field goals made have come as three-point shots, which is nine away from breaking into the top-10 of the Holy Cross single season record for three-pointers made in a season. One hundred-twenty one of her field goal attempts have come as three-point shots as well, as she is sinking 36.4 percent of her three-point tries. Smith reached new heights in the game against Northeastern, as she poured in a season-best 22 points, the most points a Holy Cross player has put up so far this year. She also marked season-bests with eight field goals made, including six treys, which ranks third amongst the program's single-game records. She has also posted double-figures in the last five games, including 10 points against Dartmouth the last time out. Smith has either led or tied for the team lead in points in six out of the 14 games played thus far. She has notched 10 double-digit scoring affairs in all (12 vs. UConn, 16 vs. New Hampshire, 14 vs. Harvard, 15 vs. Central Connecticut, 21 vs. Maine, 14 vs. Bryant and 22 vs. Northeastern, 16 vs. East Tennessee State, 10 vs. North Carolina A&T and 10 at Dartmouth). According to this week's rankings, Smith ranks 13th in the nation in three-pointers made per game, which is now 3.1. She is first amongst league leaders in that category as well. She is also ninth in three-point field goal percentage and sixth in scoring average amidst league leaders. She also has two Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors under her belt (11/29 and 12/6), was named AT&T Crusader of the Week on Dec. 20 and to the Cavalier Classic's All-Tournament Team. Smith showed off her versatility against Dartmouth as led the team in rebounding for the first time this season, marking a season-high, while also collecting six steals, another season-high  In the league, she ranks within the top-10 in assists (fourth), steals (third) and minutes played (fifth). In those categories, Smith is averaging 2.8 assists, 2.1 steals and 31.8 minutes. Her 29 total steals are a team-high. 

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 ties for the team-high with 12.4 points per game average, adds 3.7 rebounds per game and is making and taking the team's largest number of shots (72-for-186 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. Fremeau has attempted a season-high of 17 field goal attempts in the last two games, making five against North Carolina A&T and six against Dartmouth the last time out. She has posted a total of 10 double-digit scoring outings this season, including the last four games. Her double-digit outings comprise of; 13 vs. Yale, 20 at Quinnipiac, 16 vs. New Hampshire, 15 vs. Harvard, 13 vs. Maine, 16 vs. Boston College, 19 vs. Northeastern, 10 vs. East Tennessee State, 10 vs. North Carolina A&T and 15 at Dartmouth. She has led or tied the team in scoring four times after leading the team with 15 points against the Big Green. Fremeau currently ranks ninth amongst Patriot League individuals with her 12.4 scoring average after combining for 35 points in the last three games. She also averages 30.2 minutes per game (eighth in the league) and is shooting 38.7 percent from the floor (13th in the league). Her 2.8 assists per game ranks fourth in the league as she has a total of 39 assists thus far. She collected seven assists against Yale in the season opener, one shy of her career-high set against Bucknell on Jan. 16, 2010.

THE FROSH IMPACT: Through the 14 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 365 of the team's 873 total points, are bringing down 161 out of 486 rebounds and have added 71 of the 228 assists and 61 of the 130 total steals. Together, the five are averaging 5.2 points, 2.3 rebounds per game and have made 118 of their 340 field goal attempts (34.7 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. Ward is now the team's third starting guard, averaging 6.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 33.8 percent from the floor (27-for-80) on the season. She currently doubles her career average of 3.4 points and 1.5 rebounds as well. 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 five double-digit scoring outings in 14 games played (14 vs. Quinnipiac, 10 at Fordham, 11 vs. New Hampshire, 17 vs. Harvard and 12 vs. East Tennessee State). In the first day of action at the Cavalier Classic, Ward attempted a season and career-high with 12 field goal attempts against East Tennessee State, making four of them. She is extremely calm and collected at the free throw line this season as well, as she has made 37 free throws in 39 attempts (94.9 percent) including a perfect 12-for-12 performance at Quinnipiac. The 12 free throws attempted and made set a new single-game record for the program. Her free throw percentage is amidst the nation's best, as she ranks fifth amongst all NCAA leaders as Jan. 2. She also ranks first amongst Patriot League leaders. In all, Ward has led the squad in scoring twice (Fordham, Harvard) and has led or tied the team in assists six times (Harvard, Central Connecticut, Boston College, Bryant, Northeastern and North Carolina A&T). She has a total of 37 assists this season, averaging 2.6 per game, which also ranks ninth amongst Patriot League leaders.

DEFENSE MAY'S WAY: Senior Alyssa May (Oradell, N.J.), who is listed as a 6-0 forward/guard, leads the team with 24 offensive rebounds and eight blocks so far this season. She recorded a career-best four blocks against East Tennessee State on Dec. 28 and ranks 14th amongst Patriot League players with 0.6 blocks-per-game. She tops the team with eight blocks on the season, which ties her career-high as she now has 20 blocks in her career. A starting senior, May is also averaging 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds, third-highest on the team. She scored a career-high 12 points against Boston College on Dec. 8 and has also recorded a career-high two three-point shots made in seven contests this season. She is quick with her hands too as she averages 1.5 steals per game (10th amongst top league performers), collecting a total of 21 steals thus far.

I'LL TAKE THAT: The Holy Cross squad averages 9.3 steals per game through 14 games this season. That average ranks first amongst Patriot League teams as they have totaled 130 steals this season. Lehigh comes in second, averaging 8.3 steals. Alex Smith is the team's top thief, recording 29 steals in all after notching a single game-high with six steals against Dartmouth. The team topped out with 16 steals against New Hampshire on Nov. 23 as well.

HELPING HANDS: Holy Cross also ranks first amongst Patriot League teams in the assists category. Through 14 games, Holy Cross averages 16.3 assists per game (228 total) as Amy Lepley leads the way with 44 assists. The squad's assist/turnover ratio is a league-best as well, as the team averages 16.3 assists to 19.4 turnovers (0.8 ratio). Lepley is third in the league with a 1.1 assist/turnover ratio, as she has collected 44 assists and 39 turnovers so far. The team recorded a season-best 26 assists versus Maine on Dec. 4 and also had 24 assists against Harvard on Nov. 28 Amy Lepley and Whitney Fremeau have both recorded seven assists, a single game-high for the Crusaders as well. Lepely recorded seven assists against New Hampshire while Fremeau recorded her seven in the season-opener against Yale.

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. Meredith Ward's 12-for-12 free throw performance against Quinnipiac is an individual best, while Alex Smith's 14 three-point shot attempts against Maine and six three-pointers made against Northeastern are also a high. Smith has also tallied the second-highest number of steals (six against Dartmouth). As a squad, the Crusaders have collected team-highs with 26 total assists versus Maine and rank second with 16 steals against New Hampshire. They rank second in conference team-highs with 28 free throws made against New Hampshire and 11 three-point field goals made against Northeastern as well.

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 480-256 record as head coach (.654 winning percentage), including a 4-9 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: Whitney Fremeau, Alyssa May and MeredithWard 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 14 games of action, the captains have put up 337 points, 151 rebounds and 103 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.

 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 last week. Currently, the Crusaders rank 35th in assists per game (16.4), 90th in assist/turnover ratio (0.84) and 197th in scoring offense (62.4). Alex Smith remains a top the nation's three-point performers as she ranks 13th in three-point shots made per game (3.1) and 102nd in three-point percentage (36.5). Lastly, Meredith Ward ranks fifth on the national scene with her 94.9 free throw percentage. 

NEXTUP FOR THE CRUSADERS: Holy Cross opens up Patriot League action next with a trip to Easton, Pa. on Saturday, Jan. 8 against Lafayette. Tip off is set for 1:00 p.m. at the Kirby Sports Center. The Leopards round out their non-conference schedule on Wednesday, Jan. 5 at Columbia and are currently 6-8 on the season. The two teams split the series last season, as Lafayette won at the Hart Center before Holy Cross avenged the defeat with a win in Easton.

3-11 (0-0 Atlantic 10)

HEAD COACH: Sharon Dawley was named head coach of the UMass women's basketball program on April 6, 2010 after serving seven seasons as the head coach at Vermont. In her career, Dawley has registered a record of 268-160, including her 3-11 record on the 2010-2011 season. In seven seasons at Vermont, Dawley posted a mark of 128-86 (.598). She became the winningest coach in Vermont women's basketball history when the Catamounts upset No. 7-seed Wisconsin in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on March 21, 2010, the program's first NCAA tournament victory. During Dawley's stint on the Vermont sidelines, 23 of the 28 players that took the floor for Dawley earned either academic and/or athletic accolades from America East. She coached an America East Player of the Year, a Defensive Player of the Year, a Rookie of the Year, a two-time Scholar-Athlete and a two-time Most Outstanding Player at the America East Tournament. Under Dawley's direction, the Catamounts earned six all-conference selections, four all-rookie nods and two all-academic team honors.

2010-2011 SQUAD: The Minutewomen stand at 3-11 so far this year and are coming into Wednesday's contest on a two-game slide, falling to Maine (66-62) and Harvard (83-70) the last time out. The squad went 0-6 to begin the season, dropping decisions to George Mason (60-55), Providence (71-48), Louisiana State (63-51), Seton Hall (61-58), Maryland (82-50) and East Carolina (97-83). After topping Brown, 78-55, for its first win of the season, UMass then lost three straight to Boston College (93-80), Boston University (66-49) and Binghamton (58-52). The Minutewomen then won two straight to get to their three wins, beating Wagner (72-69) and Miami (Ohio) (78-72). Senior guard Megan Zullo leads the team with 13.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, while hitting 44.9 percent (66 of 147) of her field goals and 94.4 percent (17 of 18) of her free throws. Fellow senior guard Cerie Mosgrove follows with an average of 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Two other players average in double-figures as sophomore forward Shakia Robinson boasts 11.8 points per game in 10 starts while sophomore center jasmine Watson adds 11.3 points per game. UMass is coming off a 2009-2010 season in which it posted an overall record of 11-19, tying for ninth in the Atlantic 10 with a 5-9 mark in league games.