Women's Basketball Heads To First-Place American For Saturday Showdown

Christine Ganser

Click here for the full American game notes in PDF format

Game Day Quick Facts
The Teams:
Holy Cross (13-11, 4-5 PL) vs. American (17-6, 9-0 PL)
Date: February 11, 2012
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Place: Bender Arena (3,044), Washington, D.C.
Live Video Streaming: Patriot League All-Access
Holy Cross Radio: Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; Click Here to Listen
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 14-11
Last Meeting: American 61, Holy Cross 58 (Worcester, Mass.; January 14, 2012)

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST AMERICAN: Saturday's match-up will be the 26th meeting between Holy Cross and American. The Eagles became the most recent member of the Patriot League during the 2001-2002 season and have been an annual competitor for Holy Cross since Jan. 26, 2002. The teams first met on Dec. 3, 2000 in the St. Joseph's Classic championship game. The Crusaders topped the Eagles, 67-62, to earn the championship title. Holy Cross then went on to win the following five meetings with its Patriot League opponent, scoring at least 60 points in every triumph. The Eagles broke the six-game slide on Feb. 20, 2004 in Washington, D.C. by a score of 81-65. The Crusaders then put together another five-game win streak, including a 57-49 victory over the Eagles in the 2006 Patriot League Tournament. The Crusaders have lost the last six games to American, including the 61-58 loss earlier this season as head coach Bill Gibbons is responsible for the all-time 14-11 record. American head coach, Matt Corkery, stands at 7-1 all-time against the Crusaders, as his Eagles have taken seven of the 12 total meetings at Bender Arena, including both match-ups during the 2010-2011 season.

PLAYING THE EAGLES: The nickname Eagles is the most frequently used name of four-year college mascots, with a total of 76 institutions holding the title. Holy Cross has played both teams with the Eagles mascot this season, Boston College and American. Out of the other 74 colleges, the Crusaders have played against four schools with the Eagles mascot. Boston College and American have been annual competitors for Holy Cross while two other Eagles opponents, Coppin State and Eastern Michigan, have been on the Holy Cross schedule. The Crusaders traveled to play the Eagles of Eastern Michigan in the first game of head coach Bill Gibbons' career on Nov. 23, 1985, winning 90-58, and then played against the Coppin State Eagles on Dec. 29, 1991 at the St. John's Classic. In all, Holy Cross has collected a 24-38 all-time record against Eagles opponents.

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 337 league match-ups, winning 253 and dropping 85 games total for a 75.0 winning percentage, including a 4-5 record so far this season. The team has lost three-straight league matchups, falling against Navy the last time out. The 4-5 record puts Holy Cross in fifth place, falling behind first-place American (9-0), and a three-way tie between Lehigh (6-3) Army (6-3) and Navy (6-3). The team was seeded sixth in the tournament last season, its lowest ever, and lost in the quarterfinals against American. The squad 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 253-81 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 43-4 all-time record against the Raiders, with a 10-game win-streak snapped on Jan. 28. The team also boasts a 46-8 record against Lafayette, winning the last four meetings. Army and American have given Holy Cross the most trouble, as the two have combined for 27 of the 85 wins against the Crusaders. Lehigh has put up 15 wins against Holy Cross, including nine in a row, while the squad 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 5-7 record as the travel team, winning three of its last five away games. The Crusaders broke a three-game slide on the road at Navy on Jan. 11, and beat out Lafayette in Easton before losing at Colgate the last time out. The squad's 84-71 victory at Brown on Jan. 16 was its best performance on the road thus far as the team shot a season-best 59.3 percent from the floor and tallied a season-best 32 field goals. Altogether, the team averages 61.9 points per game as the road team while allowing 67.7 points. Comparatively, the Crusaders post 66.8 points per game at home while allowing their opponents to score 63.8 points per game. The Crusaders also shoot 40.7 percent on the road while they shoot over 43 percent, 43.8, at home. So far the team has lost at Yale, UConn, Central Connecticut, Boston College, Miami, Lehigh and Colgate and won at New Hampshire, Harvard, Navy, Brown and Lafayette.

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 24 games of action. Lepley currently leads the team with 13.8 points per game while Smith follows close behind with 13 points per game. Lepley ranks third in the league in scoring while Smith sits in fifth place. Jhazmine Lynch of Colgate and Anna Simmers of Army leads the league with 14.2 points per game Army's Jen Hazlett separates Lepley and Smith, ranking fourth in the league with 14 and 13.3 points per game. Combined, the two have led the team in scoring in 19 of the team's 24 games, including eight of the nine conference games. Lepley leads the team in scoring against Patriot League opponents, averaging 15.2 points. 

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 221 of the squad's 425 assists (52 percent) and account for only 149 of the total 399 turnovers. Through the 24 games, Smith leads the Patriot League with a 1.7 assist/turnover ratio (134 assists, 81 turnovers) while Malone is second with a 1.3 ratio (87 assists, 68 turnovers). Both 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 the assist category in 23 of the 24 total games thus far.

SPREAD THE WEALTH: One of the biggest reasons for Holy Cross' success this season is its ability to spread out the offense. Through the 24 total games, seven of the 11 players on the roster have scored in double-figures. Alex Smith and Amy Lepley lead the pack with a combined 35 double-figure outings. All five of the team's regular starters have hit the double-figure mark at least once while sophomore Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.) adds three double-figure outings. Freshman Ashley Cooper (Colts Neck, N.J.) became the seventh player to hit the mark with an 11-point outing against Navy on Feb. 8. Six different players have led the team in scoring this season as well.

OFFENSE ON TOP: The Holy Cross women's basketball team continues to keep up the offensive tempo nine games into conference action, leading the league with a combined averaged of 64.6 points per game. When playing non-conference opponents, the Crusaders averaged 64.4 points per game and currently average 64.2 points per game against league foes. In all, the team has put up 1,551 points in 24 contests. The second-highest scoring team in the Patriot League through all games is Lehigh, which averages 59.2 points per game, a difference of 5.4 points. The squad's outburst of 82 points against Bryant was a season-high while a season-best 32 field goals were made against Brown, the second most field goals made by a Patriot League team this season. The team's overall field goal percentage, 42.0, is a league best as it has combined to make 582 of the 1,385 shot attempts. The team is averaging just over 24 field goals made per game. Against league opponents, the Crusaders hit 42.9 percent of their field goals (226 of 527). Altogether, the team is 10-3 when playing in games where it's scored over 60 points and 11-3 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 24 games this season, averaging 30.7 minutes, 7.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 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 10th amongst Patriot League players in average minutes played. Her point and rebound averages have also improved as she is scoring three more points and bringing down 1.9 more rebounds than her career averages (4.1 points, 1.9 rebounds). She currently ranks 23rd 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, Ward led the squad with 16 points, knocking down a season-high seven field goals. She followed with a career-high eight assists against Lafayette, leading the team. Her other double-figure games include Quinnipiac (15 points) and Fordham (12). Against Lehigh on Feb. 4, Ward tied the team-high with eight rebounds, recording the second game this season where she's topped out in the rebounding category. Her free throw shooting remains strong as well, as she hits 78.8 percent (26 of 33) 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 531 points, recorded 258 rebounds and 224 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 10 games this season, putting up an average of 13 points per game. Highlighting her scoring efforts was a 26-point outburst versus Army on Jan. 25. Smith reached new heights as she sank a career-best nine field goals, five coming from three-point range. She has scored in double-figures in 12 of the last 16 games and has 17 double-digit outings on the season, a team-high. Her other double-figure games include 12 points vs. Navy, 18 points vs. Lehigh, 14 points vs. Bucknell, 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, 22 points at Harvard, 20 points vs. Northeastern, 15 points at Central Connecticut, 14 points versus UMass, 14 points versus Quinnipiac and 11 points at Yale. Smith topped out in the assists category against Harvard, collecting 11 to notch a career-high and record her first-ever double-double. She has 134 total assists on the season, notching a career-high, and leads the team and Patriot League with 5.6 assists per game. She is once again a three-point threat, sinking a season-high of five three-point shots in one game four times so far (vs. Northeastern, Boston College, Morgan State and Army). She has hit multiple three-pointers in 20 contests and returned to form against Lehigh on Feb. 4, sinking four shots from beyond the arc. Smith averages 2.7 three-pointers made per game, leading the league. She has 42 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 633 points, 181 rebounds and 232 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 13.8 points per game. Lepley's numbers continue to impress as she has notched 18 double-figure outings this season, highlighted by a season and career-high 22 point outburst against Lehigh on Feb. 4, duplicating her performance from Jan. 7. She registered her fourth 20-point effort of the season, nailing a career-best 10 field goals in 16 attempts. She added seven rebounds and five assists and was voted the Winter Homecoming Game MVP for her efforts. Lepley has hit double figures in sevenof the last eight games and has led the team in scoring 10 times. She has also recorded double-figures against Navy (10) Lafayette (21) Colgate (19), Bucknell (12), Brown (14), Dartmouth (13) Morgan State (19), Bryant (18) Boston College (11), UMass (15), Harvard (15), Fordham (14), Quinnipiac (13) and Yale (12). Lepley is the team's best shooter, making 51.3 percent of her field goal attempts (137 of 265). She is a true double-threat, as she leads the team and ranks eighth in the league in rebounding, averaging 6.3 rebounds per game. She has led the team in rebounding in seven of the last 12 contests, including a career and team-best 14 rebounds at Colgate. Against the Raiders, Lepley secured her fifth career double-double, scoring 19 points and tallying the 14 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 827 points, recorded 443 rebounds and 170 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 picked up her fourth Patriot League Rookie of the Week honor on Feb. 6 after her 19-point performance at Colgate on Jan. 28. Parker has recorded double-figure outings in seven of the last nine games. She registered a season and team-high 20-points against Quinnipiac and has led the team in scoring four times this season. Her 10 double-figure outing include, 15 points vs. Lehigh, 19 points at Colgate, 15 points vs. Army, 10 points at Lafayette, 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 averages a total of 9.6 points per game, ranking third on the team and 13th in the Patriot League in the scoring category. She 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, and has led the squad in rebounding in seven games this season, including her eight rebounds against Lehigh on Feb. 4. She is the team's top shot-blocker as she notched a season-high four blocks against the Midshipmen on Jan. 11. She has posted a total of 28 blocks on the season, an average of 1.3 blocks per game, ranking sixth amongst Patriot League players. She has registered eight 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 23 of the 24 games this season. Malone is aiding the team's top offense as she has tallied 12 double-digit scoring affairs and averages 8.8 points per game. She has hit a season-high of 15 points twice, coming at Lafayette on Jan. 18 and at UNH. Against the Leopards, Malone went to the free throw line a career-best 10 times, sinking seven free throws. She ranks fourth on the team and 18th amongst Patriot League players in scoring. She has also scored double-figures against Bucknell (10), 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 122 of her 210 total points in the second half of games (58.1 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 she ranks fourth on the team with 4.3 rebounds per game, leading the team in rebounding in two games so far (UNH, Miami). She tied her season-high with eight rebounds at Colgate. 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 402 points, brought down 176 rebounds and dished out 144 assists.  

GAINS FOR GANSER: Sophomore Christine Ganser, 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. Ganser is a big addition for the Crusaders' defense as she posts 4.8 rebounds per game, third on the team and 18th amongst league foes. Ganser is averaging 5.1 rebounds per game against Patriot League opponents, third highest on the team. She tied the team-high with six rebounds versus Army on Jan. 25 and has had at least two rebounds in 10 the last 12 contests. She also makes 72.2 percent of her free throws (57 of 79), ranking sixth amongst league players. 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 425 assists on the season, an average of 17.7 assists per game. Navy and American tie for second in the league with 13.3 assists per game, a difference of 4.4 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 5.6 assists per game, also leading the Patriot League. Holy Cross' 27 assists over Bryant tallied a league-high on the season. Sophomore Brisje Malone adds 3.6 assists per game, third in the league and second on the team while Amy Lepley averages 2.7 assists, ranking 10th in the league.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the 24 games, Crusader starters have posted 1,234 of the team's 1,551 points (79.6 percent). They have combined for 3,534 of the 4,825 minutes played (73.2 percent) and are shooting a combined 43.4 percent from the floor (468 of 1,078). They have also sported 546 rebounds, 359 assists and 142 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. The starting five posted 68 of the Crusaders' 73 points in the outing versus Lehigh on Feb. 4.

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 14 of its 24 opponents thus far (Lehigh, Bucknell, Lafayette, Brown, American, Navy, Morgan State, Yale, Fordham, UMass, UNH, Northeastern, Boston College and Bryant) and boasts a 9-5 record when outrebounding its opponent. When outrebounded, the team drops to a 4-6 record. Highlighting the teams rebounding efforts was a 52-33 margin against Bryant, a difference of 19 boards, a +13 difference at Navy (46-33) and a 43-29 advantage against American (+14). The 52 rebounds against Bryant were a single-game high. In all, Holy Cross posts 22 more rebounds than its opponents, a 911-889 difference. The Crusaders have also stepped up their defense on another level, obtaining more blocks than opponents in 10 of the 24 games (3-1 vs. Lehigh, 2-1 vs. Bucknell, 2-1 at Lafayette, 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 28 of the team's 51 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 seventh round of the NCAA Division I rankings was released on Jan. 9. Currently, the Crusaders rank 14th in assists per game (17.6), 18th in assist/turnover ratio (1.05) and 145th in scoring offense (63.5). Alex Smith ranks within the top-50 in the nation with her 5.6 assists per game (21st). 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 2.7 three-pointers made per game, currently ranking 24th. Amy Lepley ranks 55th nationally with her 50.6 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 in Boston, Mass. 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 509-297 as head coach (63.2 winning percentage), including a 13-11 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 tries to go 2-0 this season against Lafayette on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass. The Crusaders won the first meeting 75-61.

SCOUTING AMERICAN: American enters the game with an overall record of 17-6 on the season. The Eagles are 5-0 in their last five contests, and have won 10-straight for a perfect 9-0 record in conference action. Senior Lisa Strack leads the team offensively and defensively with an average of 11.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Sophomore Alexis Dobbs adds 10.4 points per game. American is led by head coach Matt Corkery, who is in his fourth season at the helm of the Eagles program. He owns a 63-31 record after three years of coaching in D.C.