HC clinches 1st, Navy claims 6th

(Last updated: 8:17 a.m.)

Holy Cross 69, Bucknell 54: There will most likely be ample opportunity to debate the meaning of this game two weeks from now, when we expect a rubber match for the tournament title. For now, though, the Crusaders have removed any doubts there might have been lingering because of their early loss at Bucknell.

It is no surpirse that Holy Cross won this game, especially at home. But the manner in which they won it says a lot about where this team is right now.

Some had speculated the Crusaders were likely to win this one because they would get a kind whistle from the officials. But that was not the case. In fact, Holy Cross actually was called for one more foul and went to the line five less times than the Bison.

That didn't matter. Not the way the Crusaders locked down on defense, especially in the second half when they held Bucknell to 7-of-21 (33 percent) from the field. At the same time, Holy Cross picked it up on the offensive end, shooting 11-for-24 (46 percent) after the break.

HC coach Ralph Willard told Jen Toland of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:
"We moved the ball better in the second half and got some inside touches. We didn?t throw inside enough in the first half, and doing a better job of that in the second half really opened things up for us."
Take a look at the box score. It was not Kevin Hamilton's 16 or Keith Simmons 14 that killed Bucknell. Torey Thomas' 12-points and 7-assists, all while shutting down Bucknell's Abe Badmus, was certainly a plus. But what drove the proverbial nail in Bucknell's coffin was John Hurley's 11 points and Greg Kinsey's 10. The Crusaders dominated inside, outscoring the Bison 26-14 and outrebounding Bucknell 39-28, including 16 offensive rebounds. Holy Cross had 8 second-chance points; Bucknell had just 2.

Almost all Bucknell's scoring came from its guards. Chris McNaughton, the league's top post player, had only 8 points. The Patriot field goal percentage leader was 2-for-6 from the floor and had just 3 boards. Bucknell's other frontcourt starter, freshman Darren Mastropaolo, was a non-factor, 4 points, 3 rebounds and 3 personal fouls in just 12 minutes of play.

Special props to Nate Lufkin, who although he scored only 4 points in his duel with McNaughton, stayed out of foul trouble, grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots.

Ralph Willard is not one to let his team rest on its laurels, but he has to feel awful good about where his team is right now. It is obvious they are playing much better than they were when they lost at Bucknell last month.

Pat Flannery, on the other hand, has some figuring out to do. Coaches always talk about wanting their teams to get better throughout the season. But it is far from certain that that has been the case for the Bison. Since the win over Holy Cross, Flannery has tinkered with his starting lineup and his rotation. So far none of the changes seems to have produced the kind of results he got back in early January.

It would be easy for Bucknell fans to point at last season, when the two split on their home floors in the regular season, then Bucknell won the first round tournament matchup. But last year it was Bucknell who seemed to get better throughout the conference season, and that tournament game was played on a neutral floor.

This year, it is clear Bucknell has its work cut out for it over the next two weeks if they expect to fulfill the lofty expectations they set in January.
Box score | AP wrap | Bucknell recap | HC recap | Boston Herald story | Milford Daily News

Navy 76, Lafayette 57: Taj Mathews' mom got there late and missed the pregame senior day festivities. Unfortunately for Lafayette, Mathews was not riding in his mom's car. Mathews scored 12 of his 24 points on four treys in the first five minutes, leading the Midshipmen in a home win that clinched the No. 6 seed for the tournament. That means Navy will face either Lehigh, American or Colgate on a neutral floor in the first round while Lafayette will open tournament play against Bucknell in Lewisburg.
Box score | AP wrap | Lafayette recap | Navy recap

American 65, Lehigh 61: The suddenly mediocre middle of the league pack became even more muddled with American's win at Lehigh. With Andre Ingram slowed by the flu, Jason Thomas lit the Mountain Hawks up, scoring 27 points.

Corky Blake explains the 3-4-5 scenarios in hisExpress-Times game story:
The Mountain Hawks enter Saturday afternoon's regular-season finale at Lafayette at .500 overall and tied with American and Colgate for third place at 7-6.

Colgate has the toughest challenge Saturday. The Raiders play at second place Bucknell.

American hosts red-hot Navy. If American and Lehigh both win, the Eagles would gain the third seed over Lehigh based on sweeping Navy.

If all three lose, Colgate would be the third seed because it swept Lafayette and the other two split with the Leopards. If Lehigh and Colgate were tied for third, an RPI rating would break the tie.
Lehigh could have saved Corky the trouble by simply making a few free throws. The Hawks were 12-for-21 (57 percent) from the stripe, 8-for-17 in the second half.
Box score | AP wrap | Lehigh recap | Washington Post |No AU recap posted

Colgate 66, Army 59: The Raiders jumped to a 31-13 lin the first half and coasted from there, keeping their hopes alive for a third seed in the tournament whil Amry lost for the 16th time in 17 games.
Box score | AP wrap | Colgate recap | Army recap | Times Herald-Record

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