Crusaders Look To Continue Success Versus Northeastern On Wednesday Night

Kaitlin Cole

Click here for the full Northeastern game notes in PDF format

The Teams:
Holy Cross (4-4, 0-0 PL) vs. Northeastern (1-7, 0-1 CAA)
Date: December 7, 2011
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
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Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 13-4
Last Meeting: Northeastern 76, Holy Cross 65; Dec. 21, 2010; Boston, Mass.

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST NORTHEASTERN: Wednesday's competition between Holy Cross and Northeastern marks the 18th time in program history that the two teams have matched up, as the squads have faced each other seven times in the last 11 seasons. The Crusaders hold an all-time 13-4 advantage over the Huskies, with Northeastern taking the last three victories, including an 11-point win (76-65) last season in Boston. The teams have played seven times in the last 11 years. The teams first met in 1983 when they were both members of the EAIAW conference. The Crusaders won that first match-up in high fashion, topping the Huskies 54-50 on their way to earning the EAIAW championship crown. Head coach Bill Gibbons faced Northeastern for the first time on Dec. 21, 1988, overwhelming the Huskies for a 21-point victory, 78-56. He currently owns an 11-4 record in his 15 meetings against Northeastern. Holy Cross suffered its first loss in program history to Northeastern on Dec. 20, 2004 as the Huskies earned a 68-64 road victory that year. Northeastern head coach Daynia La-Force Mann is a perfect 3-0 when facing Holy Cross, as she won her first meeting with the Crusaders in the 2008-2009 season, topping Holy Cross 66-47. The Crusaders are also 6-2 when playing on the Hart Center hardwood.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST THE COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION: In program history, Holy Cross has played against six of the 12 teams that compete in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). In all, the Crusaders have won 23 of the 29 match-ups against CAA opponents (79.3 percent). Holy Cross may have the chance to face two CAA opponents this season, as they will compete in the Miami Holiday Classic along with Virginia Commonwealth. Northeastern and Hofstra have been the most frequent CAA teams on the Holy Cross schedule, competing against the Crusaders a combined 24 times. Against all CAA teams, Holy Cross has never lost to Drexel (1-0), North Carolina-Wilmington (1-0) and Towson (1-0). Holy Cross has won the most games against Northeastern (13) and only holds a losing record against Old Dominion (0-1). The squad has never faced Delaware, George Mason, Georgia State, James Madison, Virginia Commonwealth or William and Mary.

PLAYING THE HUSKIES: The Crusaders look to break into the wins column against their second opponent who carries the Husky nickname on Wednesday. The team played the nationally-ranked Connecticut Huskies on Nov. 13, falling 77-37 in Storrs, Conn. There are a total of nine collegiate institutions that bear the Husky nickname. Of those nine, Holy Cross has played against three Husky opponents, Connecticut, Northeastern and Northern Illinois. The Huskies have taken the all-time series advantage over the Crusaders, winning 22 of 40 contests (55 percent).

HOME IS WHERE THE HART IS: Holy Cross, who is now 2-1 at the Hart Center this season, will play in 10 more home games. The squad has topped Quinnipiac and Northeastern and lost to Fordham. The Crusaders currently have a 77.1 home victory percentage since becoming a Division I program as the 2011-2012 season marks the 38th season of women's basketball competition at the Hart Center. The program holds an all-time 336-113 advantage at home and has posted 29 winning records at home and six losing seasons, including last year's 6-7 record. A total of 47 teams have never won at the Hart Center. Combined, the Crusaders have won 156 of 190 meetings against this year's home opponents.

500 MILESTONE: On Saturday, head coach Bill Gibbons won his 500th career game with a 61-50 victory over New Hampshire. With the win, Gibbons is now the 24th active Division I coach to record 500 victories. Here is a look at his other milestones:

Win # 100: The Crusaders top Fordham, 89-81, on Feb. 27, 1990. Gibbons becomes the second Holy Cross women's basketball coach to record 100 wins.

Win #200: Holy Cross blows out Bucknell, 62-39, in the Patriot League semifinals on March 5, 1995. The squad went on to win the Patriot League championship, earning its fifth bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Win #300: The Crusaders earn a 41-point win (95-54) over Lafayette in Jan. 18, 2000. The squad goes on to record a 23-7 record, the sixth 20-win season in a row for the program.

Win #400: Holy Cross defeats Army at the Hart Center, 70-53, on January 12, 2005. The squad goes on to win its 10th Patriot League championship.

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 eight games this season, averaging 33.5 minutes and 9.8 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. Ward is also emerging as a big presence on the boards for the team, as she ranks second with an average of five rebounds per game. On the season, Ward has collected 15 offensive and 25 defensive rebounds. 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 440 points, recorded 205 rebounds and 181 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 led the team in scoring in two of the last three games, highlighted by a 22-point outburst at Harvard and followed by 15 points at Central Connecticut. Smith also topped out in the assists category, collecting 11 against the Crimson, notching a career-high and recording her first-ever double-double. Her other double-figure outings include 14 points versus UMass, 14 points versus Quinnipiac and 11 points at Yale. She currently ranks second on the team and fifth in the Patriot League in scoring average, putting up 12.3 scores per game. She also adds a team-high 5.5 assists per game as she has led the team in that category in a total of six contests and has 44 on the season. She has hit multiple three-pointers in five contests, including a season-high of four three pointers against Harvard. She now has 27 career games where she's made at least two three-pointers. She also leads the team in three-point shots made per game (2.0) and minutes played (36.1). 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 ranks first on the team and fourth in the Patriot League in scoring average, putting up 13 points per game. Lepley's numbers continue to impress as she has notched five double-figure outings in the last six games, highlighted by a season-high 20-point outburst in the win over New Hampshire this past Saturday. She also hit a season-high five free throws against the Wildcats, making it to the line a career-best eight times. She has she also notched double-figures against UMass (15), Harvard (15), Fordham (14), Quinnipiac (13) and Yale (12). Lepley also leads the team in rebounding, averaging 5.1 rebounds per game, including a season-high seven rebounds versus UMass. She has made 50.6 percent of her field goal attempts (42 of 83), ranking first on the team and third 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 600 points, recorded 334 rebounds and 125 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. She notched her third double-figure scoring game of the season at New Hampshire, scoring 10 points of 4-of-8 shooting. She also recorded a team and career-high three blocks in the contest and currently leads the squad with six total blocks. On the season, Parker maintains a double-figure scoring average (10.2) and averages 4.3 rebounds per game.

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 eight games this season. Malone has now tallied four straight double-digit scoring affairs, five in all, including a season-high 15 points at New Hampshire. She also scored double-figures against UMass (10 points), Harvard (13), Central Connecticut (11) and Yale (13). Malone hits her stride in the clutch, notching 32 second half points over the last four games. Through all eight games, Malone has scored 52 of her 80 total points in the second half of games (65 percent). Malone is the fourth player on the team to average in double-figures as she averages 10.0 points per game. She also provides 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. As a freshman, she averaged 26.1 minutes and 7.1 points per game, while adding 29 steals.

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 128 assists on the season, an average of 16 assists per game. Navy ranks second in the league with 13.6 assists per game, a difference of 2.4 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 5.5 assists per game.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the eight games, Crusader starters have posted 423 of the team's 495 points (85.5 percent). They have combined for 1,233 of the 1,600 minutes played and are shooting a combined 42.6 percent from the floor (153 of 359). They have also sported 174 rebounds, 111 assists and 46 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. 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 as well. Four of the five regular starters are averaging in double-figures (Amy Lepley, Parker, Alex Smith and Brisje Malone).

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 a total of four opponents thus far (Yale, Fordham, UMass and UNH) and is now 2-2 in games when they outrebound their opponent. The Crusaders have also stepped up their defense on another level, obtaining more blocks than opponents in three of the eight games (4-1 versus Quinnipiac, 3-1 at Harvard, 3-2 at UNH). 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: Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons began the season with 496 career wins and now boasts a career record of 500-290 as head coach (.633 winning percentage), including a 4-4 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. He has led the Crusaders to nine Patriot League Championships in the last 16 years. He has also made 12 postseason appearances (11 NCAA Tournaments and one WNIT) in his 26 years as head coach. He holds sixteen 20-win seasons under his belt and is the sixth coach of the women's program at Holy Cross, enjoying the longest tenure in the position. He has led the Holy Cross women's basketball program to more victories than any other coach, and is the winningest coach in Holy Cross basketball history. With his 358th victory, he surpassed George Blaney (357 wins as head coach of the Holy Cross men's basketball program), who had hired him to be his assistant coach in 1981. Now with 500 wins, Gibbons is the second-winningest coach in Holy Cross Athletics history, behind legendary baseball coach Jack Barry, who totaled 616 wins from 1921-1960.

NEXT UP FOR THE CRUSADERS: The Crusaders will break for finals and return to action on Sunday, Dec. 18 at Boston College. Game time is set for 2:00 p.m. at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass.  

Record: 1-7 Affiliation: CAA
HEAD COACH: Northeastern head coach Daynia LaForce-Mann is currently in her seventh season at the helm of the Northeastern women's basketball program. She holds a career record of 75-108 and led her team to a 8-22 record last season. Prior to coming to Northeastern in the spring of 2006, La-Force Mann spent a highly successful 2005-2006 season at New Haven, where she was named the New York Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.

2011-2012 SQUAD: The Northeastern women's basketball team stands at 1-7 on the season. The squad opened the season with six straight losses, losing to Eastern Michigan, Temple, Kentucky, Boston University, Nevada-Las Vegas and Georgia. They beat Vermont for their first victory of the season on Dec. 1 and most recently lost their first game of conference play against Virginia Commonwealth. Junior forward Jewel Tunstull leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 13.6 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. Junior guard Deanna Kerkhof also averaged in double-figures, posting 11.5 points per game.