Crusaders Welcome Lafayette For Wednesday Night Game Action

Meredith Ward

Click here for the full Lafayette game notes in PDF format

Game Day Quick Facts
The Teams:
Holy Cross (13-12, 4-6 PL) vs. Lafayette (8-17, 2-8 PL)
Date: February 15, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Hart Center (3,600), Worcester, Mass.
Worcester TV: Charter-TV3; Kevin Shea and Amy O'Brien Davagian
Live Video Streaming: Patriot League All-Access
Holy Cross Radio: Dick Lutsk play-by-play; Click Here to Listen
Unofficial Live Stats: Click Here
Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 46-8
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 75, Lafayette 61, Easton, Pa., January 18, 2012

SERIES HISTORY AGAINST LAFAYETTE: Wednesday's match-up marks the 56th meeting all-time between Holy Cross and Lafayette, with the Crusaders owning a 46-8 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 46 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 the 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 last four meetings, including both match-ups in 2011 and a 75-61 win earlier this season. When playing in Worcester, Holy Cross has just four losses in the 31 total match-ups. This will also be the 27th time Lafayette's second-year head coach Dianne Nolan has faced the Crusaders, as she is 9-18 against Holy Cross all-time.

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 338 league match-ups, winning 253 and dropping 86 games total for a 74.9 winning percentage, including a 4-6 record so far this season. The team has lost four-straight league matchups, falling against American the last time out. The 4-6 record puts Holy Cross in fifth place, falling behind first-place American (10-0), second place Navy (7-3) and a two-way tie for third between Lehigh (6-4) Army (6-4). 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 28 of the 86 wins against the Crusaders. Lehigh has put up 15 wins against Holy Cross, including nine in a row, while American won its seventh straight over the Crusaders on Feb. 11.

HOME IS WHERE THE HART IS: Holy Cross, who is now 7-4 at the Hart Center this season, will play in two more home games. The squad has topped Army, Bucknell, Dartmouth, Quinnipiac, UMass, Northeastern and Bryant and lost to Fordham, American, Lehigh and Navy. The Crusaders currently have a 77 home victory percentage (302 wins, 91 losses) 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 win over Dartmouth on Jan. 3 was the program's 300th win as a Division I squad. The program holds an all-time 341-116 advantage in Worcester and has posted 29 winning records 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 161 of 198 meetings (81.3 percent) 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 25 games of action. Lepley currently leads the team with 13.6 points per game while Smith follows close behind with 12.9 points per game. Lepley ranks third in the league in scoring while Smith sits in fifth place. Anna Simmers of Army leads the league with 14.5 points per game while Colgate's Jhazmine Lynch ranks second with 14.1 points per game. Army's Jen Hazlett separates Lepley and Smith, ranking fourth in the league with 13 points per game. Combined, the two have led the team in scoring in 19 of the team's 25 games, including eight of the 10 conference games. Lepley leads the team in scoring against Patriot League opponents, averaging 14.1points. 

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 229 of the squad's 437 assists (52.4 percent) and account for only 159 of the total 419 turnovers. Through the 25 games, Smith leads the Patriot League with a 1.6 assist/turnover ratio (138 assists, 86 turnovers) while Malone is third with a 1.2 ratio (91 assists, 73 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 24 of the 25 total games thus far as they both led the team with four assists at American the last time out.

SPREAD THE WEALTH: One of the biggest reasons for Holy Cross' success this season is its ability to spread out the offense. Through the 25 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 36 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: Despite a four game slide, the Holy Cross women's basketball team continues to hang onto its offensive tempo 10 games into conference action, leading the league with a combined averaged of 63.9 points per game. When playing non-conference opponents, the Crusaders averaged 64.4 points per game and currently average 62.5 points per game against league foes. In all, the team has put up 1,598 points in 25 contests. The second-highest scoring team in the Patriot League through all games is Lehigh, which averages 59.7 points per game, a difference of 4.2 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, 41.7, is a league best as it has combined to make 602 of the 1,442 shot attempts. The team is averaging just over 24 field goals made per game. Against league opponents, the Crusaders hit 42.1 percent of their field goals (246 of 584). 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. When scoring under 60 points, the team is 1-8.

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 25 games this season, averaging 30.6 minutes, 6.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 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 2.8 more points and bringing down 1.9 more rebounds than her career averages (4.1 points, 1.9 rebounds). She currently ranks 25th 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 74.3 percent (26 of 35) 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 535 points, recorded 261 rebounds and 225 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 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 12.9 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 13 of the last 17 games and has 18 double-digit outings on the season, a team-high. Her other double-figure games include 10 points at American, 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 138 total assists on the season, notching a career-high, and leads the team and Patriot League with 5.5 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 21 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 43 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 643 points, 188 rebounds and 236 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 13.6 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, sinking 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 seven of the last nine 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 50.4 percent of her field goal attempts (139 of 274). Her field goal percentage ranks second amongst league players as well. She is a true double-threat as she leads the team and ranks ninth in the league in rebounding, averaging 6.1 rebounds per game. She has led the team in rebounding in seven of the last 13 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 831 points, recorded 446 rebounds and 171 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 eight of the last 10 games, including a game-high 17 points against American the last time out. She registered a season and team-high 20-points against Quinnipiac and has led the team in scoring five times this season. Her other 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 10 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 1.2 blocks per game, ranking seventh 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 24 of the 25 games this season. Malone is aiding the team's top offense as she has tallied 12 double-digit scoring affairs and averages 8.6 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 125 of her 216 total points in the second half of games (57.9 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 4.2 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 408 points, brought down 180 rebounds and dished out 148 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 4.7 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 13 contests. She also makes 72.2 percent of her free throws (57 of 79), ranking seventh 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 437 assists on the season, an average of 17.5 assists per game. American ranks second in the league with 13.4 assists per game, a difference of 4.1 assists. Sophomore Alex Smith is once again the team's leader in the assists category, as she averages 5.5 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.

STARTERS SHINE: The starting five for Holy Cross this season have earned their roles for a reason. Through the 25 games, Crusader starters have posted 1,273 of the team's 1,598 points (79.7 percent). They have combined for 3,681 of the 5,025 minutes played (73.3 percent) and are shooting a combined 43.0 percent from the floor (484 of 1,126). They have also sported 568 rebounds, 369 assists and 145 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 and 39 of the 47 points scored at American on Feb. 11.

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 25 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 4-7 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 18 more rebounds than its opponents, a 944-926 difference. The Crusaders have also stepped up their defense on another level, obtaining more blocks than opponents in 10 of the 25 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 53 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 17th round of the NCAA Division I rankings was released on Feb. 13. Currently, the Crusaders rank ninth in assists per game (17.5), 17th in assist/turnover ratio (1.04), 62nd in field goal percentage (41.7) and 135th in scoring offense (63.9). Alex Smith ranks within the top-50 in the nation with her 5.5 assists per game (20th). Smith also ranks in the top-50 with her 2.7 three-pointers made per game, currently ranking 21st. She ranks within the top-100 in assist/turnover ratio, sitting in 57th (1.60). Amy Lepley ranks 47th nationally with her 50.4 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 509-298 as head coach (63.1 winning percentage), including a 13-12 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 begins a two-game road trip on Saturday, Feb. 18 when it travels to Bucknell. The Crusaders will take on the Bison for a 7:00 p.m. night cap at the Sojka Pavilion in Lewisburg, Pa.  

SCOUTING LAFAYETTE: Lafayette enters the game with an overall record of 8-17 on the season, including a 3-10 record on the road. The Leopards are 2-8 in conference play, losing to Bucknell 65-54 the last time out. Freshman forward Emily Homan averages a team-leading 11.6 points per game and adds 6.6 rebounds per game. Sophomore center Danielle Fiacco leads the team defensively, posting eight rebounds per game. She has also recorded 95 blocks on the season. 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 529-440 in 34 total years of coaching.