Crusaders Travel To Lehigh Valley For Wednesday Night Match-Up At Lafayette

Kelly Hamner

Click here for the full Lafayette game notes

Game Day Quick Facts
The Teams: Holy Cross (10-8, 1-2 PL) vs. Lafayette (7-11, 1-2 PL)
Date: January 18, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Kirby Sports Center (3,500), Easton, Pa.
Lafayette Television: Lafayette Sports Network
Live Video Streaming: Patriot League All-Access
Holy Cross Radio: Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; Click Here to Listen
Unofficial Live Stats: Click Here
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 45-8
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 83, Lafayette 46, Worcester, Mass., February 2, 2011

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST LAFAYETTE: Wednesday's match-up marks the 54th meeting all-time between Holy Cross and Lafayette, with the Crusaders owning a 45-8 advantage over the Leopards. The teams first met as non-Patriot League opponents during the 1986-1987 season at the Rhode Island Tournament. It was in that game that head coach Bill Gibbons earned his first of 45 victories against the Leopards, winning by a score of 73-67. Both teams became members of the Patriot League during the 1990-1991 season and have met at least two times annually since then. Holy Cross took the first Patriot League win over Lafayette, 92-68, on Jan. 10, 1991. The Crusaders earned 11 consecutive victories over the Leopards from the 1992-1993 season until March 2, 1997, when the Leopards upset No.1-seeded Holy Cross in the semifinal round of the Patriot League Tournament, 76-60. Holy Cross then went on to win 19 successive contests from 1999-2000 until the 2006-2007 season. The Leopards clawed back for two back-to-back series victories on Feb. 4, 2006 and Jan. 6, 2007. Holy Cross held the upper hand until the Jan. 9, 2010 game, having collected a six-game win streak dating back to Feb. 3, 2007. The Leopards, who had never won at the Hart Center in 21 straight contests, topped the Crusaders by the final score of 43-39. The Crusaders have rallied back, however, winning the three meetings, including both match-ups in 2011. When playing in Easton Holy Cross has just four losses in the 22 total match-ups. This will also be the 26th time Lafayette's first-year head coach Dianne Nolan has faced the Crusaders, as she is 9-17 against Holy Cross all-time.

PLAYING THE LEOPARDS: There are only three colleges with the nickname Leopards. Wentworth Institute in Boston, Mass. and LaVerne in LaVerne, Calif. are the two other schools that bear the Leopards mascot. Lafayette is the only school Holy Cross has faced out of the three with a Leopards nickname. All together, the Crusaders hold a 45-8 record against a Leopards squad.

HOLY CROSS AGAINST CONFERENCE FOES: The 2011-2012 season marks the 23rd year of Patriot League competition for the Crusaders. Over the last 22 seasons, the Crusaders have competed in a total of 331 league match-ups, winning 250and dropping 81 games total for a 75.5 winning percentage, including a 1-2 record so far this season. The team was seeded sixth in the tournament last season, its lowest ever, and lost in the quarterfinals against American. The squad has now recorded two consecutive losing seasons for the first time ever in program history, going 5-9 in 2009-2010 and 6-8 last season. Holy Cross possesses two unblemished Patriot League seasons, going 12-0 in 1990-1991, and doing it again in 1996-1997. Head coach Bill Gibbons has been along for the entire ride and is responsible for the 250-81 league record. In all, Holy Cross has made 21 appearances in the Patriot League Tournament, boasting 11 championships and a 38-10 all-time record. 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 27 of the 81 wins against the Crusaders. Lehigh has put up 15 wins against Holy Cross as well, including eight in a row, while the squad just broke a four-game slide against Navy on Jan. 11.

ROADWARRIORS: Holy Cross is starting to find its groove on the road as the squad holds a 4-6 record as the travel team, winning two of its last three away games. The Crusaders broke a three-game slide on the road at Navy on Jan. 11, and beat out Brown in Providence the last time out. The squad's 81-74 victory over the Bears was its best performance on the road thus far as the team shot a season-best 59.3 percent from the floor and tallying a season-best 32 field goals. Altogether, the team averages 59.9 points per game as the road team while allowing 67.7 points. Comparatively, the Crusaders post 67.7 points per game at home while allowing their opponents to score 63.1 points per game. The Crusaders also shoot 40.2 percent on the road while they shoot over 42 percent, 42.7, at home. So far the team has lost at Yale, UConn, Central Connecticut, Boston College, Miami and Lehigh and won at New Hampshire, Harvard, Navy and brown.

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 18 games of action. Lepley now leads the team with 13.2 points per game while Smith follows close behind with 12.7 points per game. Lepley ranks third in the league in scoring while Smith ranks fourth. Jhazmine Lynch of Colgate leads the league with 14.6 points per game. Combined, the two have led the team in scoring in 13 of the team's 18 games.

TURNOVER TENACITY: Sophomores Alex Smith and Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.) are showing off their seasoned skills, leading the team not only with their scoring capabilities, but also their ability to create shots for their teammates. The two have combined for 173 of the squad's 315 assists (55 percent) and account only for 116 of the total 305 turnovers. Through the 18 games, Smith leads the Patriot League with a 1.6 assist/turnover ratio (102 assists, 62 turnovers) while Malone is second with a 1.3 ratio (71 assists, 54 turnovers). The two have also tallied 11 assists in one game, Smith doing so against Harvard and Malone against Morgan State. Their output ranks in a tie for fifth in Holy Cross single-game records. Combined, the two have led the team in assists in all 18 games.

OFFENSEONTOP: The Holy Cross women's basketball team continues to keep up the offensive tempo three games into conference action. When playing non-conference opponents, the Crusaders average 64.9 points per game, while they score an average of 57.7 points against conference foes. The team continues to lead the league by averaging 63.7 points per game, totaling 1,146 points in 18 contests. The second-highest scoring team in the Patriot League is Lehigh, who averages 58.9 points per game, a difference of 4.8 points. The squad's outburst of 82 points against Bryant was a season-high. The Crusaders also hit a season-best 32 field goals against Brown, the most field goals made by any Patriot League team this season. The team's field goal percentage, 41.1, is also a league best as they've combined to make 425 of their 1,033 shot attempts. Overall, the team is 7-1 when playing in games where they've scored over 60 points and 8-2 when shooting better than 40 percent.

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 18 games this season, averaging 31.7 minutes, 7.6 points, four rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Her playing time has increased dramatically during her senior season as she averaged 21.3 minutes over her first three years. She currently ranks seventh amongst Patriot League players in average minutes played. Her point and rebound averages have also improved as she is scoring 3.5 more points and bringing down 3.1 more rebounds than her career averages (4.1 points, 1.9 rebounds). She currently ranks 22nd in scoring amongst Patriot League leaders. Ward has notched four 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. Against Brown the last time out, Ward led the squad with 16 points, knocking down a season-high seven field goals. Her other double-figure games include Quinnipiac (15 points) and Fordham (12). Her free throw shooting remains strong as well, as she hits 80 percent (24 of 30) 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 496 points, recorded 238 rebounds and 205 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 to the Miami Classic All-Tournament team and the Patriot League Player of the Week on Dec. 12. Her numbers are impressive, as she has led the team in scoring in seven games on the season. Highlighting her scoring efforts was a 22-point outburst at Harvard, tying her career-high. She has scored in double-figures in eight of the last 10 games and has 13 double-digit outings on the season. Her double-figure games include 15 points at Brown, 11 points at Lehigh, 10 points vs. Dartmouth, 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 102 total assists on the season, notching a season-high and leads the team and Patriot League with 5.7 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 so far (vs. Northeastern, Boston College and Morgan State). She has hit multiple three-pointers in 15 contests, including the last 11 games, and averages 2.7 three-pointers per game, at total of 49 threes, leading the league. She now has 37 career games where she's made at least two three-pointers. 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 550 points, 171 rebounds and 200 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 first on the team and third in the Patriot League in scoring average, putting up 13.2 points per game. Lepley's numbers continue to impress as she has notched 13 double-figure outings this season, highlighted by a season and career-high 22 point outburst against Lehigh on Jan. 7. She hit nine field goals, including three three-point shots against the Mountain Hawks, also tying career-highs. Lepley has hit double figures in five of the last six games, including a team-high 14 points at Navy and 14 points against Brown the last time out. She has also recorded double-figures against Dartmouth (13) 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 seven total games. Lepley is the team and league's best shooter, making 51.3 percent of her field goal attempts (97 of 187). She is a true double-threat, as she leads the team and ranks ninth in the league in rebounding, averaging 5.8 rebounds per game. She has led the team in rebounding in four of the last six contests. 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 734 points, recorded 398 rebounds and 149 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. Parker led the team with 15 points against American and has recorded three straight double-figure outings. She registered a season and team-high 20-points against Quinnipiac, and has led the team in scoring three times this season. She has six double-figure outings in the last 10 games, notching 10 points at Brown, 15 points vs. American, 12 points at Navy, 10 points at UNH, 13 points against Northeastern and 11 points over Bryant. She has 147 points on the season, an average of 9.2 points per game. She ranks fourth on the team and 15th in the Patriot League in the scoring category. She also continues to be one of the team's top rebounders as she earned her second double-double with 12 rebounds along with the 12 points at Navy, leading the team in rebounding. She averages 5.6 boards per game, second highest on the team. She is also the team's top shot-blocker as she notched a season-high four blocks against the Midshipmen and three rejections at Brown. She has posted a total of 23 blocks on the season, an average of 1.4 blocks per game, and ranks sixth amongst Patriot League players. She has registered seven games with multiple blocks, the most by any other Crusader this season.

COMEBACK MALONE: Sophomore guard Brisje Malone, 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 18 games this season. Malone is producing some of the team's top offense as she has tallied 10 double-digit scoring affairs in the last 14 games. She hit a season-high 15 points against New Hampshire on Dec. 13 and scores 9.6 points per game overall. Her scoring average ranks third on the team and 14th amongst Patriot League players. She has also scored double-figures against American (12), Dartmouth (11), 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 97 of her 172 total points in the second half of games (56 percent). Malone notched two season-highs in the 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 this season, as her 11 assists were a career-best. Her versatility stretches to the defensive side of the ball as well as she ranks fourth on the team with a 4.4 rebounding average. She led the team in rebounding against New Hampshire and Miami. She is also second on the team with 3.6 assists per game. As a freshman, she averaged 26.1 minutes and 7.1 points per game. In her career she has scored 364 points, brought down 157 rebounds and dished out 128 assists.  

GAINS FOR GANSER: Sophomore Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.), who has been a solid presence off the bench for Holy Cross this season, broke out for a career-best 21-point, four steal performance in the team's win over Dartmouth. Ganser, whose previous high was 15 points, made 11 free throws and five field goals made. Ganser is also a big addition for the Crusaders' defense as she posts five rebounds per game, third on the team and 15th amongst league foes. She also makes 78.3 percent of her free throws (47 of 60) which ranks third amongst league players. Ganser is averaging seven rebounds per game against Patriot League opponents, second highest on the team. She added eight rebounds against Navy and American and has had at least two rebounds in the last sixcontests. Ganser played in all 30 games as a freshman, averaging 4.8 points and 3.8 rebounds.

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 315 assists on the season, an average of 17.5 assists per game. American ranks second in the league with 13.0 assists per game, a difference of 4.5 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 5.7 assists per game, also leading the Patriot League. Holy Cross tallied another league-high, earning 27 assists over the Bryant Bulldogs on Dec. 21. Sophomore Brisje Malone also adds 3.6 assists per game, second in the league and on the team.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the 18 games, Crusader starters have posted 924 of the team's 1,146 points (81 percent). They have combined for 2,685 of the 3,625 minutes played (74.1 percent) and are shooting a combined 42.7 percent from the floor (345 of 808). They have also sported 419 rebounds, 272 assists and 109 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. Fifty of the squad's 60 points were scored by starters in the Patriot League opener at Lehigh while 46 of the 55 points were posted by starters at Navy.

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 11 of its 18 opponents thus far (Brown, American, Navy, Morgan State, Yale, Fordham, UMass, UNH, Northeastern, Boston College and Bryant). The team boasts a 7-4 record when outrebounding its opponent. Highlighting the teams rebounding efforts was a 52-33 margin against Bryant, a difference of 19 boards, a +13 difference against Navy (46-33) and a 43-29 advantage against American (+14). The 52 rebounds against Bryant were a single-game high and tied the most rebounds tallied by any Patriot League team so far this season. In all, Holy Cross posts 23 more rebounds than its opponents, a 694-671 difference. The Crusaders have also stepped up their defense on another level, obtaining more blocks than opponents in seven of the 18 games (5-3 at Brown, 3-0 versus American, 4-2 at Navy, 4-1 versus Quinnipiac, 3-1 at Harvard, 3-2 at UNH, 4-1 versus Bryant). Emily Parker has collected 23 of the team's 38 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 ninth round of the NCAA Division I rankings was released on Jan. 16. Currently, the Crusaders rank 17th in assists per game (17.1), 18th in assist/turnover ratio (1.02), 107th in field goal percentage (40.1) and 155th in scoring offense (62.6). Alex Smith ranks within the top-50 in the nation with her 5.5 assists per game (25th). Smith also ranks in the top-50 with her 2.7 three-pointers made per game, currently ranking 27th. She ranks within the top-100 in assist/turnover ratio, sitting in 73rd (1.62). Amy Lepley ranks 56th nationally with her 50.3 field goal percentage.

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.

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 506-294 as head coach (63.3 winning percentage), including a 10-8 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 hosts Patriot League opponent Bucknell on Saturday, Jan. 21. The game will serve as the 51st meeting between the two teams and begins at 1:00 p.m. at the Hart Center in Worcester. A postgame autograph session with the team will be held that day along with the celebration of National Women in Sports Day.

SCOUTING LAFAYETTE: Lafayette enters the game with an overall record of 7-11 on the season, including three wins and three losses at home. The Leopards are 2-3 in their last five contests, including a 49-45 win against Bucknell the last time out. Sophomore center Danielle Fiacco leads the team offensively and defensively with an average of 11.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. She recently broke the Lafayette single-season record in blocks and has 77 on the season. Freshman forward Emily Homan also averages double-figures, scoring 10.9 points per game. Lafayette is led by head coach Dianne Nolan who is in her second season at the helm of the Leopards program. She owns a career record of 528-435 in 34 total years of coaching.