Hoop Time notebook

A few small items that couldn't fit into the game story from yesterday's Holy Cross win at American:

NO T.O., NO WALLY PIPP EITHER: We got an update on Holy Cross center Nate Lufkin early yesterday. After parking on the fourth floor of the garage outside Bender Arena, the elevator stopped at the third level on the way down, and on got a host of H.C. players, coaches and support staffers, including Lufkin, who was off the crutches he used to leave Navy's Alumni Hall Friday night and walking with no noticeable limp.

But when we asked him how the injured left ankle was, he just shook his head "no."

"I wanted to do a T.O., but they won't let me," said Lufkin. "If the game was tomorrow instead of today, I probably would be able to play."

After the game, we encountered Lufkin again, outside the H.C. locker room, just after finishing a postgame interview with freshman Tim Clifford, who had a monster game off the bench, filling minutes that usually go to Lufkin.

We jokingly asked him if he was familiar with Wally Pipp. He wasn't (kids these days), but he was full of praise for Clifford.

"I can't wait to play with both of us on the floor at the same time," said Lufkin.

When asked if that meant he might spend some time at the four down the stretch, Lufkin said, "I can play the four." adding, with a laugh, "I can play the three, too."

MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY: Clifford said with Lufkin out and Greg Kinsey hobbled, he knew he was going to see more minutes at AU. He said he was not worried about playing an increased role in such a big game because of the confidence he has gained from practicing against Lufkin every day.

"If I can do it against him, I can do it against AU, too. I just had to do what I do in practice every day," Clifford said.

CONFIDENT COACH: Early in the overtime, with the game on the line, Ralph Willard called Clifford's number two straight trips down the floor, running a simple pick-and-roll, with Clifford coming up to the top of the key to set a ball screen for a guard, then diving towards the hole his defender stepped out to hedge on the screen.

Each time the play worked chalkboard perfect, or at least close enough. The first time, Clifford missed his first shot, going to the hole after getting the pass. But he got his own rebound and put it back. The second time, Clifford pulled up short for a 12-foot jumper that was nothing but net.

Clifford, who had not shown much offensive touch the times we'd seen him previously, said after, "I've always liked to shoot it a bit, but nothing beyond that (12 feet)."

Willard, though, said the 6-10 freshman was being too modest. Willard said Clifford shows three-point range in practice and does a nice job stepping away from the basket to shoot for a big man.

"Calling his number, I wanted him to know I had confidence in him," said Willard.

It was a simple, yet well designed play. Bringing Clifford out high drew American's 6-9 Matt Cresnik out of the paint, opening things up inside. With Clifford's wide body setting the pick, Cresnik had to step out to hedge to give the AU guard defending the ball a chance to catch up coming around the screen, leaving an open lane for Clifford. The alternative for AU would have been to allow the Holy Cross guard with the ball easy dribble penetration.

"It made Cresnik make a decision, and it worked out," said Willard.

TOREY, TOREY, TOREY: It was almost ironic, that in a game where a freshman filling in for an injured starter played a key role, that a former starter, who lost his job to a freshman after suffering an injury, came off the bench to also play a big role.

Torey Thomas, who was the Crusaders point guard until he suffered a separated shoulder in the Jan. 15 win over Colgate, played most of the second half and all of the overtime, finishing with 15 points and 6 rebounds, including 10 points in OT, when he was went 8-for-10 at the foul line.

Thomas' 24 minutes were his most playing time since being replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Pat Doherty.

Doherty, who hit two big three-pointers late in the win at Navy Friday night, struggled at American, especially on defense, where he seemed a step slow against AU's lightning quick guards Andre Ingram and Jason Thomas. Doherty's small stature (5-11) also seemed to be a problem against AU. Ingram and Jason Thomas are both 6-3 with good springs, and seemed to be able to shoot over the smaller Doherty at will in the first half.

Torey Thomas is also 5-11. But he is quicker and more athletic, with better hops than Doherty. His defensive efforts had a lot to do with Jason Thomas being limited to one bucket after halftime. His offense in overtime was a bonus.

Willard said he thought Doherty was a little heavy legged after logging a lot of minutes (32) against Navy. He also sensed the freshman might was struggling a little.

"I saw it in Pat's eyes; the crowd and the noise. He played a lot of minutes the other night at Navy. It was a very physical basketball game and he's not a very physical player," said Willard.

"I figured Torey would be fresher. Torey and I had a nice talk this weekend after the Navy game. I told him to be ready, he was going to get his opportunity again. I just looked at his eyes and he was ready. I went with the gut feeling."

THIS 'N THAT: Holy Cross' 9-game win streak is its longest since the 2002-2003 team won 12 in a row before losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament . . . Thomas' double-double was just the second dub-dub of the season for Holy Cross . . . The other was John Hurley's 10-points, 10-boards showing in the loss to Vermont . . . HC is now 1-1 in OT this season (the loss came at No. 5 Boston College . . . with the weekend sweep, HC has moved to No. 25 in the Mid-Majors Top 25 poll . . . Bucknell has dropped to others receiving votes . . . Thomas' 10 free throw attempts ties the HC season high, also set by Thomas in the win over Fordham . . . Kevin Hamilton's 19 field goal attempts were the most by a Crusader this season . . . Clifford's 13 rebounds were also a HC season high . . the loss to HC was just American's second of the season in a game it had led at the half . . . AU is now 0-2 in OT this season.

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