Crusaders Meet Up With Central Connecticut On Wednesday Night

Kelly Hamner

Complete Central Connecticut Game Notes In PDF Format

Game Day Quick Facts:
The Teams: Holy Cross (3-3, 0-0 Patriot League) vs. Central Connecticut (3-1, 0-0 NEC)
Date: November 30, 2011
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Detrick Gymnasium (2,645), New Britain, Conn.
Holy Cross Radio: Stretch Internet Radio, Bob Fouracre; play-by-play; Listen here
Unofficial Live Stats: Click here
Blue Devils Video: Click Here
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 8-2
Last Meeting: Cental Connecticut 68, Holy Cross 65 (OT) (December 1, 2010; Worcester, Mass.)

THE SERIES WITH CENTRAL CONNECTICUT: This will be the 11th meeting between the Crusaders and Blue Devils. Holy Cross holds an 8-2 advantage in the all-time series and has won four of the last five contests after losing to the Blue Devils in overtime last season. The teams are playing for the third consecutive season, with Holy Cross taking a 55-50 win on the road back in 2009. The last meeting prior to the 2009-2010 season was the 1999-2000 season, when Holy Cross topped Central Connecticut at home, 73-47. The teams first played in 1991 and competed against each other over the following six seasons. The Crusaders won the first three match-ups, winning by at least 10 points in each contest. The Blue Devils broke their losing streak on Feb. 28, 1994, when they earned a 65-60 victory at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass. Head coach Bill Gibbons has led his team to the 8-2 series lead, winning the last five meetings by a margin of 362-269. This will be Central Connecticut head coach Beryl Piper's third meeting against Holy Cross as she is now 1-1 against the Crusaders. Holy Cross stands at a perfect 5-0 when playing on the Detrcik Gymnasium hardwood.

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. This season, Holy Cross has already topped one NEC opponent, Quinnipiac and will also face Bryant on Dec. 21. The Crusaders have played in a total of 27 games against Northeast foes, winning 20 in all (.741 percent). Holy Cross boasts a winning percentage in series against Bryant (4-1), Central Connecticut (8-2), Long Island (3-1), Mount St. Mary's (2-0), Quinnipiac (4-2), Sacred Heart (1-0) and Wagner (2-1). They do not post a losing record against any NEC member. The squad has not played against Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Robert Morris and St. Francis (N.Y. and Pa.).

PLAYING THE BLUE DEVILS: In all of collegiate athletics, there are six teams with the nickname Blue Devils. Wednesday's game against the Central Connecticut Blue Devils will mark the one and only time the Holy Cross Crusaders meet up with a Blue Devils team this season. The Crusaders have played against a total of two schools out of the six that bear the nickname, including Duke and Central Connecticut. All together, the Crusaders hold an 8-6 record against those teams. The team holds its 8-2 record over Central Connecticut and has fallen in all four games against the Duke Blue Devils.

499 AND COUNTING: Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons will be vying for his 500th career-win on Wednesday. Gibbons began the season with 496 career wins and boasts a career record of 499-289 record as head coach (.633 winning percentage), including a 3-3 record at the helm this season. 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.

WARD AIMS HIGH: 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 six games this season, averaging 33.2 minutes and 10.3 points per game. 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. Ward also scored a season-high 15 points against Quinnipiac and followed with 12 points against Fordham. She now has 13 career games where she's posted double-figures. She currently leads the team and Patriot League in and free throw percentage (92.3) after hitting all six of her free throw attempts against UMass. On the season, Ward has hit 12 of her 13 free throw attempts. As a junior, Ward registered a Holy Cross single-season 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 424 points, recorded 194 rebounds and 177 assists.

SMOOTH SMITH: Sophomore guard Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) was chosen to the preseason All-League Team after being named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team last season. Her numbers continue to improve as she has averaged 18 points per game last week, highlighted by a 22-point outburst at Harvard the last time out. Smith also topped out in the assists category, collecting 11 against the Crimson, notching a career-high and recording her first-ever double-double. She scored 14 points in the win over UMass the game prior, hitting six field goals, including two three point shots. She currently ranks second on the team with an average of 12.7 points per game while adding 4.8 rebounds and a team-high 5.5 assists per game. She has totaled four double-digit scoring outings, also recording 14 points versus Quinnipiac and 11 points in the season opener at Yale. She has hit multiple three-pointers in four contests this season and has 26 games in her career where she's made at least two three-pointers. She has a total of 33 assists thus far, not only leading the team, but the Patriot League as well. She also leads the team in three-point shots made per game (2.2) and steals per game (2.0). 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.

LEAPS FOR LEPLEY: Junior forward Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) returns for her third-straight season as one of the team's starting forwards. She is at full strength after recovering from a tweaked knee late last season as she currently leads the team with 12.8 points per game. Lepley's numbers continue to impress as she has notched four-straight double-figure outings, topping out with a season-high 15 points in wins over Harvard and UMass. She has led the team in scoring in two of the last four games as she also scored 14 points against Fordham and 13 points versus Quinnipiac. She scored 12 points, brought down five rebounds and tallied five assists in her 2011-2012 season debut against Yale. Lepley has also been a factor on the boards, averaging 5.5 rebounds per game, including a season-high seven rebounds versus UMass. She has made 50.8 percent of her field goal attempts (33 of 65), ranking first on the team and amongst Patriot League players. 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 573 points, recorded 326 rebounds and 123 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 became 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 followed a break in action with a 20-point, eight rebound performance in the 80-70 win over Quinnipiac, leading the team in points and tying the team-high in rebounds. Despite limited playing time in the last three games, Parker maintains a double-figure scoring average (12.0) and leads the team in rebounding (5.8). She also has a team-high field goal percentage (54.3) which ranks second amongst Patriot League players. 

COMEBACK MALONE: Sophomore guard Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.), 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 six games this season. Malone has tallied two straight double-digit scoring affairs against UMass (10 points) and Harvard (13). Malone hits her stride in the clutch, notching eight second half points against UMass and then nine second half points against Harvard. Through all six games, Malone has scored 37 of her 54 total points in the second half of games (69 percent). She shined in her season debut at Yale, playing 34 minutes and scoring 13 points on a 4-for-9 shooting effort. Against UConn, Malone made it to the free throw line eight times, tying her career-high with six free throws made. Malone also earned a career-high six assists against Quinnipiac on Nov. 16. After the six games, Malone averages nine points and 3.5 assists per game, ranking 13th and third respectively in Patriot League standings. She leads Patriot League performers with a 1.6 assist/turnover ratio. As a freshman, she averaged 26.1 minutes and 7.1 points per game, while adding 29 steals.

GAINS FOR GANSER: The third sophomore to earn a starting role for the 2011-2012 season is Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.). The 6-1 forward stepped up big in the team's win over Harvard, notching a season-high 14 points, one shy of her career-high and playing in a career-high of 35 minutes. She hit four of her five field goals in the game, helping the Crusaders solidify the victory. She also scored 10 points against UMass on Nov. 22, going a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line. She was also perfect on the line versus the Crimson and has now hit 20 of her 23 free throw attempts On the season, Ganser averages 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 59 minutes played. Ganser appeared in all 30 games in her freshman campaign. She ranked fourth on the team in rebounding, averaging 3.8 rebounds per game and was solid from the free throw line, making 74.7 percent of her free throws.

LEAGUE HIGHS: The Crusaders have won three of their last four games and the numbers prove why they've hit their stride. Out of 19 total categories, Holy Cross ranks first amongst Patriot League opponents in five categories. The Crusaders rank as the league best with 63.3 points, 17.3 assists, 1.0 a/t ratio, 41.2 field goal percentage and a 75.8 free throw percentage. Holy Cross' 80 points versus Quinnipiac are the most points scored by a Patriot League team this far, as is the 29 field goals made and the 53.7 field goal percentage tallied against the Bobcats.

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 104 assists on the season, an average of 17.3 assists per game. American ranks second in the league with 14.0 assists per game, a difference of 3.3 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 5.5 assists per game, Brisje Malone follows closely behind, ranking third with 3.6 assists per game.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the six games, Crusader starters have posted 319 of the team's 380 points. They have combined for 931 of the 1,200 minutes played and are shooting a combined 43.5 percent from the floor (117 of 269). They have also sported 136 rebounds, 91 assists and 36 steals. Emily Parker, who started her first career game against Quinnipiac, posted a team-high 20 points as the other four starters finished with 50 total points in the contest. Against Fordham, the team's starters scored 37 of the team's 43 points while they followed with 62 of the team's 76 points versus UMass (82 percent). In the last game against Harvard, the starters boasted 71 of 73 points and combined for 177 of the 200 minutes played. Four of the five regular starters are averaging in double-figures (Amy Lepley, Parker, Alex Smith and Meredith Ward).

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. Despite the loss in the season opener, the team did step up the defense, outrebounding Yale 43-33. The Crusaders also posted a 38-35 rebounding edge against Fordham and a +14 rebounding advantage against UMass, 44-31. The squad is now 1-2 in games when they outrebound their opponent and is averaging just under one rebound per game versus all opponents. The Crusaders have also stepped up their defense on another level, obtaining more blocks than opponents in two of the six games (4-1 versus Quinnipiac and 3-1 at Harvard0. Last season, the team was outrebounded by a margin of 1,186-1,023, a 123 rebound difference and finished last in the Patriot League in blocks. 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.

WELCOME TO WORCESTER: There will be one new face handling front office duties for the 2011-2012 Crusader basketball squad, assistant coach Sahar Nusseibeh. Nusseibeh was a former player for American, a Patriot League opponent, and was part of two squads that won the conference's regular season championship. Nusseibeh joins the Crusaders' hoops staff after spending the last two years as a graduate assistant at Cincinnati. While there, she provided on-road recruiting, video coordinating, served as the team's post coach and was the academic liaison between the players, academics department and coaches.

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.

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 243 league victories and just 71 losses. It has made 20 appearances in the Patriot League Tournament, boasting 11 championships and a 38-10 all-time record. The team was seeded sixth in the tournament last season, a program low and lost to American in the quarterfinals. 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 28 of the 71 wins against the Crusaders. Lehigh has put up 13 wins against Holy Cross as well.

RETURNING TO GLORY: The 2011-2012 season is the second 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 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.

HEAD COACH BILL GIBBONS: 27th SEASON: Head coach Bill Gibbons' 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 16 years. He has also made 12 postseason appearances (11 NCAA Tournaments and one WNIT) in his 26 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 495 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: The Crusaders finish the three-game road series at New Hampshire on Saturday, Dec. 3. Tip time is set for 2:00 p.m. in Durham, N.H. and will serve as the 21st meeting all-time between the two programs.

SCOUTING CENTRAL CONNECTICUT
Record: 3-1 Affiliation: NEC
HEAD COACH: Beryl Piper has posted a career record of 54-68 over the last four plus seasons. After a disappointing first season, Piper retooled her team and posted the best turn around in the NCAA going from 4-25 to 18-14 and earning a spot in the Women's National Invitational Tournament. Piper is 50-43 over the last three plus seasons.

2011-2012 SQUAD: The Central Connecticut women's basketball team stands at 3-1 on the 2011-2012 season, winning against common opponents UMass (58-55) and New Hampshire (83-44) as well as Maine (53-48). The only loss was at Hartford (65-56). The Blue Devils return just one starter from the 2010-2011 season. Junior center Kirsten Daamen currently leads the squad with 15.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while juniors Brooke Bailey and Jaclyn Babe also average in double figures, posting 14 and 13.8 points per game respectively.