HC women get road sweep

Special to The Telegram-Gazette

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Starting fast each half, and playing tough defense even when its shots refused to fall, the Holy Cross women’s basketball team completed a sweep of its two-game weekend road trip with a 67-48 win over American.

Lisa Andrews led the way, posting her second double-double of the season with a 17-points, 13-rebounds effort. Maggie Fontana, coming off a season high 18-points at Navy Friday, added 14 points for the Crusaders, who are off to a 5-0 start in Patriot League play after going 5-8 in non-conference play against a schedule just slightly less brutal than the weekend’s weather.

Right now, the 5-0 league record is only good for a tie with Lehigh for first place in the conference standings. It might, though, be an omen of good things to come for the Crusaders in March. Since joining the Patriot League in 1990, HC has won five straight to start conference play five other times. Each time they went on to win the regular season title; four out of the five they went on to the tournament crown and an NCAA bid.

To be certain, Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons will have nothing to do with title talk this early in the season. Especially not with Lehigh coming to the Hart Center for what could be a showdown for the league lead next Sunday.

Gibbons won’t even look that far ahead. Nor will he have any talk of running the Patriot League table the way the Crusaders did in 1997. Especially not with Lafayette coming to town Friday. Lafayette might be 3-14, 1-4 in the league. But when Gibbons reminds his team in practice of its goal of going 1-0 each game, he undoubtedly will remind them that Lafayette is the team that upset 12-0 Holy Cross in the first round of the tournament that year.

Nonetheless, he was awfully happy with the way his team played on the road trip, especially on defense.

“We kept another team under 50,” said Gibbons. “And we made hoops when we had to.”

The emphasis would be on the “when we had to.” To be certain, Holy Cross team did not look like an offensive juggernaut on this trip. Each game they had a tendency to an offensive funk for extended periods of time. At Navy Friday night, they had two first-half stretches of more than five minutes without a score. Yesterday at American, that trend continued.

Holy Cross jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead to start the game, 4 of the 6 coming from Andrews in the paint, then went almost six minutes without putting another point on the board.

At the start of the second half, the same thing happened, The Crusaders opened the half with a 6-0 run, all 6 coming from Andrews. But after Maggie Fontana made it 38-25 with a bucket at the 17:36 mark, the HC side of the scoreboard didn’t change until Jessica Conte’s backdoor layup off a nifty feed from Andrews with 11:54 showing on the clock.

Each cold spell coincided with stretches were Andrews hardly touched the ball on the offensive end. When she started to go off on American at the beginning of each half, AU quickly abandoned its man-to-man defense for a 2-3 zone that was packed tight around Andrews, daring HC to beat them from the perimieter.

“We were getting open shots,” said Gibbons. “We just weren’t hitting them.”

Remarkably, during each draught, the Crusaders didn’t surrender the lead. American did manage to tie the game four times in the first half, and even took a brief 1-point lead. But with Holy Cross’ defense holding them to an 19-for-58 (33 percent) showing from the field, and just one made three-pointer on 11 tries, American was never able to gain an upper hand.

“Our defense is what won us the game,” said Andrews. “Our offense was on and off, but the defense was on the whole game.”

American’s numbers would have looked even worse if not for the play of Joanna Barnes, who scored 12 points in the first half to keep AU in the game.

After the break, though, Gibbons switched Holy Cross’ defense to a diamond-and-one, with Conte hounding Barnes all over the floor, holding Barnes to 7 garbage-time points in the second half, all of which came after the Crusaders had built an 18-point lead.

NOTES: After being outrebounded in its last two games, Holy Cross dominated the boards in this one, pulling down 50 caroms, including 17 on the offensive glass, to 38 for AU … Holy Cross has 22 turnovers to American’s 20, but held a 24-16 edge in points scored off those turnovers … American showed why it ranks dead last in the league in free throw shooting, going 0-for-8 in the first half, 9-for-23 for the game … HC was 17-of-21 at the stripe.
Box score

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