Crusaders Start New Year With Home Bout Against Dartmouth On Tuesday

Christine Ganser

Click here for the full Dartmouth game notes

The Teams: Holy Cross (7-6, 0-0 PL) vs. Dartmouth (2-10, 0-0 Ivy)
Date: January 3, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
Worcester Television: Charter TV3- Kevin Shea and Kevin Wells
Holy Cross Video Streaming: Click here
Holy Cross Radio: Dick Lutsk, play-by-play; Click Here to Listen
Unofficial Live Statistics: Click Here
Series Record: Dartmouth leads, 6-2
Last Meeting: Dartmouth 66, Holy Cross 53, Hanover, N.H., January 2, 2011

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST DARTMOUTH: Tuesay's match-up marks the ninth meeting all-time between Holy Cross and Dartmouth, with the Big Green owning an overall 6-2 all-time record over the Crusaders. The series became an annual event starting with the 2006-2007 season, as Dartmouth holds a 3-2 edge over the last five contests. The teams played twice over the 1978-1979 season with Dartmouth taking the first two series victories. No games were played again until Nov. 22, 2005 when Dartmouth took a 68-44 road win from the Crusaders. Dartmouth's head coach Chris Wielgus is 4-2 against Holy Cross in her 27 years of coaching while Crusader head coach Bill Gibbons is 2-4 in his 26 years at the helm. Dartmouth has won the last two match-ups, including a 66-57 win in Hanover, N.H. The Crusaders are looking for their second win over the Big Green at the Hart Center, as Dartmouth owns a 3-1 record when playing as the road team. Currently, Dartmouth is 0-5 on the road while Holy Cross is 4-1 at home.  

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. Dartmouth will be the third of four Ivy League opponents the team will face this season as the team opened up against Yale on Nov. 11 and then played at Harvard at on Nov. 27. The team is now 1-1 against Ivy League squads and will also play at Brown (Jan. 16). 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 will face Holy Cross for the ninth time this season while controlling the all-time series 6-2. 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.

HOME IS WHERE THE HART IS: Holy Cross, who is now 4-1 at the Hart Center this season, will play in eight more home games. The squad has topped Quinnipiac, UMass, Northeastern and Bryant 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 338-113 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 158 of 192 meetings against this year's home opponents.

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 13 games of action. Smith leads the team with 13.5 points per game while Lepley follows close behind with 12.8 points per game. Smith ranks first in the league in scoring while Lepley ranks third, separated only by Army's Jen Hazlett, who averages 13.2 points per game. The two topped out with a team-high 19 points in the overtime victory against Morgan State and have combined to lead the team in scoring in 11 of the squad's 13 contests.

OFFENSE ON TOP: The Holy Cross women's basketball team continues to show off its offensive prowess with one game left before Patriot League competition begins. The Crusaders, who scored just 49 points against nationally-ranked Miami on Dec. 28, returned to form to post 73 points in an overtime win against Morgan State in the consolation round of the Miami Holiday Classic. After the tournament action, the team continues to lead the league by averaging 63.6 points per game, totaling 827 points in 13 contests. The second-highest scoring team in the Patriot League is Army, who averages 57.3 points per game, a difference of 6.3 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 also has three members averaging double-figures, the most of any other team in the conference.

SMITH NAMED TO MIAMI HOLIDAY CLASSIC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Sophomore Alex Smith, who was the only Crusader to notch double-figures in both games of the Miami Holiday Classic, picked up her second career All-Tournament honor. The Crusaders went 1-1 in the tournament and were led by Smith who averaged 15 points and 3.5 rebounds over the two contests. Smith hit 50 percent of her field goals in the tournament (11 of 22), including seven three-pointers made, two against Miami and five against Morgan State.

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 13 games this season, averaging 32.9 minutes, 7.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. She played in a career-high 38 minutes in the win over Bryant on Dec. 21, missing just two minutes of action. Her playing time has increased dramatically during her senior season as she averaged 21.3 minutes over her first three years. Her point and rebound averages have also improved, as she is scoring 3.7 points more and bringing down 3.6 more rebounds than her career averages (4.1 points, 1.9 rebounds). 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). Against Boston College, Ward tallied a season-high six assists and has a total of 33 dishes on the season, third highest on the team. Ward is also emerging as a big presence on the boards, as she ranks fourth on the squad in that category. On the season, Ward has collected 19 offensive and 40 defensive rebounds. Her free throw shooting remains strong as well, as she hits 81.5 percent (22 of 27) 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 463 points, recorded 225 rebounds and 197 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 the Patriot League Player of the Week for the first time in her career on Dec. 12. Her numbers are impressive, as she has led the team in scoring in five of the last six games. Highlighting her scoring efforts was a 22-point outburst at Harvard, tying her career-high. She scored in double-figures in both games of the Miami Holiday Classic, extending her double-digit scoring streak to five games. Smith has notched 10 double-digit scoring affairs in all including 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 70 total assists on the season, leading the team and Patriot League with 5.4 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, coming against Northeastern, Boston College and Morgan State. She has hit multiple three-pointers in 10 contests, including the last six games, and averages 2.8 three-pointers per game, leading the league. She now has 32 career games where she's made at least two three-pointers and has a total of 36 three-pointers made this season. 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 497 points, 157 rebounds and 168 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 second on the team and third in the Patriot League in scoring average, putting up 12.8 points per game. Lepley's numbers continue to impress as she has notched nine double-figure outings this season, highlighted by a season-high 20-point outburst in the win over New Hampshire on Dec. 3. She has also recorded double-figures against 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 six total games, including the 18 points put up against the Bryant Bulldogs. For her performance against Bryant, she was named the Patriot League Player of the Week for the first time in her career on Dec. 27. Lepley is the team's best shooter, making 51.5 percent of her field goal attempts (69 of 134), which also ranks second amongst Patriot League players. She is a true double-threat, as she ranks leads the team and ranks 11th in the league in rebounding, averaging 5.3 rebounds per game. 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 663 points, recorded 362 rebounds and 136 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 scored a season-high 20-points and brought down eight rebounds against Quinnipiac, leading the team in points and tying the team-high in rebounds. She now has three double-figure outings in the last five games, notching 10 points at UNH, 13 points against Northeastern and 11 points over Bryant. She has 102 points on the season, an average of 9.3 points per game. She ranks fourth on the team and 16th in the Patriot League in the scoring category. She continues to be one of the team's top rebounders as she tied her season-high with 10 rebounds against Boston College on Dec. 18. She averages 5.0 boards per game, second highest on the team. She is also the team's top shot-blocker as she tied her season-high with three blocks against Bryant. She has posted a total of 11 blocks on the season and has registered three games with multiple blocks, the only Crusader to do so.

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 13 games this season. Malone is producing some of the team's top offense as she has now tallied eight double-digit scoring affairs in the last nine games. She hit a season-high 15 points against New Hampshire on Dec. 13 and scores 10.2 points per game overall. Her scoring average ranks third on the team and 12th amongst Patriot League players. She has also scored double-figures against 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 73 of her 133 total points in the second half of games (55 percent). Malone notched two season-highs in the last 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 against the Bears, as her 11 assists were a career-best. She provides 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game, ranking 18th, third and fifth respectively in conference standings. As a freshman, she averaged 26.1 minutes and 7.1 points per game. In her career she has scored 325 points, brought down 142 rebounds and dished out 103 assists.  

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 225 assists on the season, an average of 17.3 assists per game. Lafayette ranks second in the league with 13.1 assists per game, a difference of 4.2 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 5.4 assists per game, also leading the Patriot League. Holy Cross tallied another league-high, earning 27 assists over the Bryant Bulldogs on Dec. 21. There are a total of three Crusaders that rank within the top-10 conference assists leaders, the most of any other team in the conference. Sophomore Brisje Malone and senior Meredith Ward rank in the top-10 along with Smith.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the 13 games, Crusader starters have posted 681 of the team's 827 points (82.3 percent). They have combined for 1,960 of the 2,625 minutes played (74.7 percent) and are shooting a combined 42 percent from the floor (248 of 590). They have also sported 303 rebounds, 191 assists and 72 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 as well. Three of the five regular starters are averaging in double-figures (Amy Lepley, Alex Smith and Brisje Malone), the most of any team in the Patriot League.

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 eight of its 13 opponents thus far (Morgan State, Yale, Fordham, UMass, UNH, Northeastern, Boston College and Bryant). The team boasts a 5-3 record when outrebounding its opponent. Highlighting the teams rebounding efforts was a 52-33 margin against Bryant, a difference of 19 boards. The 52 rebounds were a single-game high and tied the most rebounds tallied by any Patriot League team so far this season. In all, the squad has notched six more rebounds than their opponents, collecting a 505-499 edge. The Crusaders have also stepped up their defense on another level, obtaining more blocks than opponents in four of the 11 games (4-1 versus Quinnipiac, 3-1 at Harvard, 3-2 at UNH, 4-1 versus Bryant). Emily Parker has collected 11 of the team's 19 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 fifth round of the NCAA Division I rankings was released on Jan. 1. Currently, the Crusaders rank 20th in assists per game (17.3), 31st in assist/turnover ratio (1.0) and 150th in scoring offense (63.6). Alex Smith ranks within the top-50 in the nation with her 5.4 assists per game (27th). Her 11 assists versus Harvard rank 22nd in individual game-highs as does Brisje Malone's 11 dishes against Morgan State. Smith also ranks in the top-50 with her 2.8 three-pointers made per game, currently ranking 25th. Amy Lepley ranks 51st nationally with her 51.5 field goal percentage.

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.

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 503-292 as head coach (63.3 winning percentage), including a 7-6 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.

NEXT UP FOR THE CRUSADERS: Holy Cross starts Patriot League competition this weekend, traveling to Lehigh on Jan. 7. Game time is set for 2:00 p.m. at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pa.

SCOUTING DARTMOUTH: Dartmouth enters the game with an overall record of 2-10 on the season. The Big Green have lost eight straight and are coming off a 77-38 defeat to the hands of Georgetown. Junior guard Faziah Steen leads the team offensively with an average of 14.4 points per game. Freshman center Tia Dawson is off to a strong start for Dartmouth as she leads the team with 6.3 rebounds per game, also adding 6.3 points. The squad averages 46.7 points as a whole and commits an average of 23.5 turnovers per game. Dartmouth is led by head coach Chris Wielgus, who owns an overall record of 420-329 in 27 seasons with the Big Green.