HC escapes, form holds elsewhere

(Last updated: 9:01 a.m.)

Holy Cross 68, Navy 66: (full game story below) With Navy's quickness giving Holy Cross trouble on the perimeter, and Nate Lufkin on the bench with a sprained ankle, Ralph Willard went to a small lineup most of the second half. Greg Kinsey, the 6-4 wing, moved to the four, with sixth-man Keith Simmons joining Kevin Hamilton and Pat Doherty for a three-guard look in the backcourt.

That combination played just well enough to allow Holy Cross to overcome a dreadful 9-of-20 night at the foul line as they rallied from 10-points down in the second half to extend their winning streak to 8 in a row.

Navy outplayed the Crusaders much of the game, and proved last weekend's wins over Colgate and Bucknell were not flukes. In fact, Navy's first half might have been as good a half of basketball we have witnessed in league play to date. The Mids shot well, rebounded well, defended like Jack Black's band. The Midshipmen seemed to get to every loose ball and had Holy Cross on the ropes until Simmons got the Crusaders going in the second half.
Box score | AP wrap | HC recap | Navy Recap | Washington Post

Lehigh 63, Colgate 53:Trailing 50-47 late in the game, Lehigh responded with a 10-0 run and held Colgate to just a single basket-- an Andrew Zidar three-- over the final 7:48 of the game.

In Corky Blake's story in the Morning Call, Emmitt Davis was whining again about the officiating:
. . . the Mountain Hawks feasted at the foul line -- a statistic that wasn't lost on Colgate coach Emmett Davis as he made his way to the team bus idling outside Stabler Arena.

"Free throws and we didn't execute," Davis said disgustedly about the difference over the final seven minutes. "Look how many times they went to the foul line; we were 3-for-4 for the game."
When is Davis going to finally realize that jump shooters don't get to the foul line. Especially not in other people's gyms. This kind of thing has been happening to Colgate all season. Sooner or later you have to realize it is not the officials (although we have to admit, four foul shots all night, against a team that plays physical D like Lehigh, is a little strange).

Box score | AP wrap | Lehigh recap | Colgate recap | Morning Call

Bucknell 89, Lafayette 69: Kevin Bettencourt missed five of his first six shots, then hit nine straight en route to a 29-point showing as coach Pat Flannery returned to the sidelines for the Bison. Chris McNaughton, Charles Lee and John Griffin each added 14 points for Bucknell, which shot a Patriot League record 20-for-20 at the foul line in breaking its two-game losing streak.

The 89 points were the most Bucknell has scored all season.
Box score | AP wrap | Lafayette recap | Bucknell recap | Daily Item | Express-Times | Morning Call

American 86, Army 58: AU shot better from outside the three-point line than it did from inside, hitting 11-of-20 (55 percent) from long range. Andre Ingram (5 treys, 23 points) and Jason Thomas (3 treys, 18 points) were a combined 8-for-11 from beyond the arc.

American, as expected, dominated in almost every category, outrebounds Army 44-21, and outscoring the undersized Black Knights 28-14 in the paint.
Box score | AP wrap | AU recap | Army recap

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Holy Cross 68, Navy 66

(Originally posted: Friday, 10:20 p.m.)

Special to The Telegram&Gazette

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A lot of people will argue Holy Cross’ Keith Simmons is the top sixth man in the Patriot League. Those folks got more ammunition to bolster that argument last night.

With his team trailing by 10 points early in the second half, Simmons took matters into his own hands, scoring 14 second-half points to lift the Crusaders to a gutty 68-66 win over resurgent Navy.

“Simmons is a gamer. He came up huge in the second half,” said Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard. “He had a monster second half.”

Trailing 41-31, with 15:49 to play, things were looking bleak for Holy Cross (16-5, 7-1 Patriot League). Their top scorer was suffering through what might have been the worst offensive night of his career. Their shot-blocking center was sitting on the bench with a bag of ice taped to his sprained left ankle. They were being outrebounded, outhustled and outplayed by the same Navy team they had spanked by 33 points just a few weeks ago in Worcester.

That’s when Simmons got them started. First he stepped outside the arc and drained a three for the Crusaders’ first points of the second half. A half minute later he took the ball strong to the hole and Navy’s 10-point lead was cut in half.

That started a little 13-6 Holy Cross run that got the Crusaders within 3, 47-44, with 12 minutes to play.

Navy’s Laramie Megerson stopped the Midshipmen’s bleeding temporarily with a big slam off a fast break to build the lead back to 5. But Simmons answered with a pull-up jumper and Greg Kinsey followed that with a three-pointer that tied the game 49-49.

The Midshipmen (6-15, 2-6) went back ahead on another dunk, this one by George O’Garro, the only points of the night for Navy’s leading scorer in conference play. But that was the last the Mids would lead.

At the other end, Kevin Hamilton got an offensive rebound off a Kinsey miss, and the ball found its way to Simmons on the arc. Simmons buried the trey to give Holy Cross a 52-51 lead with 7:48 to play and the Crusaders never trailed again.

“Coach told me to be more aggressive in our offense,” Simmons said. “We were having trouble scoring.”

Simmons was not the only hero. Freshman point guard Pat Doherty, who like most of the Crusaders, struggled on offense much of the night, hit back-to-back threes to build the lead to 9 with 2:08 to play. Up to that point, Doherty had made just 1 of the first 8 shots he took.

“That kid (Doherty) has no fear, he really doesn’t,” said Willard. “Some kids would be hanging their head. But crunch time, he made the shots we needed.”

Needed is an understatement. Down 9 with less than two minutes to play, Navy never gave up. The Midshipmen took advantage of poor free throw shooting down the stretch by Holy Cross to cut the lead to 2 with eight seconds to go. But Navy’s David Rhoiney missed a 17-footer that would have tied it with four seconds left and the Mids’ Corey Johnson got called for a foul that wiped out Megerson’s offensive rebound with less than a second left.

Holy Cross’ John Hurley missed both free throws, but Johnson’s desperation, length-of-the-court was wide of the backboard at the buzzer.

“It’s a win. That’s about all you can say about it,” Willard said. “There’s no question we were fortunate to win the basketball game tonight.”

Near the end of the first half, when Navy 19-5 run to build a 10-point lead, it looked as though the Midshipmen, who had lost their first five in league play, were en route to their third straight upset win. The Mids were shooting better than any Holy Cross opponent in recent memory, hitting 14-of-29 (48 percent) in the first half, including 4-of-7 from the arc.

Navy outrebounded Holy Cross 23-15 in the first half, a margin that would have been worse if not for a brief flurry of life by the Crusaders just before the break. In retrospect, that was probably when the momentum shifted. Trailing 36-26, the Crusaders scored the last five points of the half, thanks in no small part to four offensive rebounds, including one that led to an old-fashioned three-point play by Simmons, who was fouled while putting back a missed free throw by Hamilton.

Hamilton’s missed free throw was symbolic of the kind of night the Patriot League’s leading scorer had. Coming in, the 6-4 junior was averaging nearly 16 points per game. But after that missed free throw, he had just 3 points at the half, all of which came on the one three-pointer he made out of nine first half field goal attempts. Hamilton finished with just 7 points, shooting 2-for-14 from the field.

Hurley’s abysmal 1-for-8 night at the free throw line was a glaring blemish on an otherwise strong 13-point, 9-rebound performance.

Johnson led four Midshipmen in double figures with 17 points. Greg Sprink, who hit four of the first five three-pointers he tried, finished with 14. Taj Matthews added 11 and Megerson had 10 for Navy.

Sprink’s three-point shooting was a big part of Navy’s early advantage. But after he drained one with 13:30 to go in the half, Holy Cross’ defense took the trey out of Navy’s arsenal, allowing only the Mids only two more looks from outside the arc, both of which were missed.

“Our communication was bad in the first half,” said Simmons. “I missed a couple of switches and it led to some open shots for Navy. We were looking to take away those open looks in the second half.”

The Crusaders will try to extend their winning streak to nine in a row Sunday, when they visit American. Holy Cross could be without the services of 6-11 center Lufkin for that one. Lufkin came down bad on his left ankle going after an offensive rebound with about 8 minutes to go in the first half and did not return to the game. Lufkin left Alumni Hall on crutches and Willard said he had a lot of swelling in the injured ankle, adding, “It doesn’t look good.”

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Tough first half for HC

At the half, Navy leads Holy Cross 36-31.

The Mids are for real folks, at least at home.

Navy is shooting 48 percent while holding HC to 40 percent and the Midshipmen have a 23-15 edge on the boards at the half.

Bad news for Holy Cross, center Nate Lufkin left the game with around 8 minutes to go in the half after injuring his left ankle while going after an offensive rebound. Lufkin left the arena and later returned on crutches, with an ice pack taped to the ankle. Team spokesman reports a sprained ankle. He is unlikely to return in the second half.

We will update with a full report after the game.

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Flannery back for Bison

From the Bucknell Sports Info release:

Bucknell Basketball Head Coach Pat Flannery to Return to the Bench Tonight
Bison Mentor to End Leave of Absence for Lafayette Game

LEWISBURG, Pa. - Bucknell head men's basketball coach Pat Flannery will return to the Bison sideline for tonight's Patriot League contest at Lafayette. On Jan. 23 Flannery began a temporary leave of absence, citing a series of medical developments, and he subsequently missed three games.

Throughout the leave of absence, Flannery remained active in the team's daily practices and game preparations but did not accompany the team on its road trip to American and Navy last week. Flannery has been cleared to return to the bench by his medical team and Bucknell director of athletics and recreation John Hardt.

A 1980 graduate of Bucknell and a former Bison point guard, Flannery is in his 11th season as head coach at his alma mater. He is the Patriot League's longest-tenured head coach, and his 163 victories are second-most in Bucknell annals, behind only Flannery's former coach Charlie Woollum.

Now 14-6 overall and 5-2 in Patriot League play, Bucknell this weekend visits Lafayette on Friday and Lehigh on Sunday. The Bison and American are tied for second place in the Patriot League, one game behind league-leading Holy Cross.

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In Corky Blake's column earlier this week about the problems with the Friday-Sunday scheduling in the Patriot League, he left out one of the biggest negatives of the format: Having to go all week long with no games.

Don't know about you, but for hoops junkies like us, TV games are not a fix. By lunchtime yesterday, we were actually getting excited about the kid's eighth grade girls game that afternoon (which they won by about 12 points over a team that beat them by 20 earlier in the season -- might be a lesson in there for Army as it heads to Annapolis this weekend, eh?).

Anyhow, it's finally Friday, let's turn on the lights and have some fun. We'll be in Annapolis tonight, eating crabcake sandwiches and Maryland crab soup at Chick and Ruth's (you'd think we'd rate a discount for the plugs we give those folks) and watching the Mids host league leading Holy Cross.

As always, we'll post that story before we head back up the interstate, with a full update of the rest of the action in the morning. Till then, the scoreboards below will have to do.

Patriot League scoreboards
ESPN | CBS Sportsline | PennLive.com | Yahoo!

Holy Cross at Navy, 7 p.m.: If Colgate at Lehigh is the night's best matchup, this would be a close second, at least from a curiosity standpoint. Navy sent a warning shot across the bow of the rest of the league by sweeping Colgate and Bucknell last weekend. How well they do against Holy Cross will tell us whether that was a fluke or a true signal that the Mids have completed their metamorphosis from the caterpillar that lost to D-3 Gettysburg and lowly league doormat Army into a true butterfly capable of being not just a spoiler, but a true contender come tournament time.

After the Mids knocked off Bucknell last week, it is doubtful that Holy Cross will get caught looking past Navy to Sunday's key contest at American. We would assume that unlike Colgate and Bucknell, both of whom had no tape of Navy's new 2-3 matchup to look at before the Mids sprung it on the Raiders Friday night, Holy Cross should be well-prepared for Navy's new defense. Prepared and equipped are two different things, though. The teams that have given Holy Cross the most trouble in League play this season, Bucknell and Lehigh, both had some defensive success against HC by playing a lot of matchup.

The problem for Navy will be finding a way to score enough points to win, even if they are successful at holding down Holy Cross at the defensive end. One way to do that would be to get to the foul line 15 more times than the Crusaders, like the Mids did against Bucknell.
HC notes | Navy Notes | USA Today matchup | NO HC RADIO | Navy Radio | Livestats

Colgate at Lehigh, 7 p.m.: The night's best matchup, at least on paper, features a pair of teams fighting for a spot in the upper half of the standings. A win would pull Colgate even with Lehigh for fourth place, with a tiebreaker edge by virtue of a sweep of the Mountain Hawks.

It is a must win for the defending champs from Lehigh, who left themselves with no margin for error after losing three of their last four in the first half of conference play, including a loss at Colgate. Lose this one and the Mountain Hawks' hopes of even getting to host in the first two rounds of the tournament, let alone defending their regular season title, are pretty much gone.

Colgate seems to live and die by the three-pointer, and if its shooters are on, they will once again pose problems for Lehigh's defense.
Colgate notes | Lehigh notes | USA Today matchup | Gametracker | 'Gate radio

Bucknell at Lafayette, 7 p.m.: Despite being swept on the road last weekend, Bucknell has proven it can win away from Sojka. While the loss to Navy shows upsets definitely can happen, it is hard to imagine one occurring in this one. Lafayette simply does not take care of the ball well enough to stand up to Bucknell's defensive pressure. Defensively, the 'Pards aren't quick enough on the perimeter, or talented enough inside, to keep Bucknell away from the hole.

Then again, if the Bison start settling for jump shots against the zone, and if those jumpers are not falling, who knows what could happen.

Look for Bucknell to use this game to make a statement. Expect them to come out focused and intense and to play that way throughout, sending a message to the rest of the league that last weekend was a fluke, not a fold.
Lafayette notes | Bucknell notes | USA Today matchup | Gametracker | Bucknell radio

Army at American, 7 p.m.: Yawn. A scheduling break for AU, which gets a breather before Sunday's key meeting with Holy Cross.
AU notes | Army notes (pdf) | USA Today matchup

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Can't beat 'em, join 'em

In his in the Lehigh Valley, preview of a busy hoops weekend Corky Blake of the Express-Times says Lehigh has come up with a promotion to try to draw fans in Eagles country on Super Bowl Sunday:
The first 1,000 fans to the Lehigh-Bucknell game Sunday will receive Philadelphia Eagles team posters.

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Put on your high heeled sneakers

Forget those fancy Italian loafers like Sal Mentesana and Dino Gaudio used to wear. Coaches around the league are wearing sneakers this weekend to call awareness to the NABC's Coaches vs. Cancer efforts.

Fans are encouraged to pull their Nikes out of the closet to show their support, too.

The version of the release posted on American's Web site says coaches will auction off the shoes later to raise money for their cancer-fighting efforts.

This year the coaches are focusing their efforts on colon cancer.

Show your support, or we will post a detailed account of our recent colonoscopy.

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Bubble Watch

ESPN.com's Andy Glockner lists Holy Cross as an at-large contender in his Who's on the early bubble? column. But Glockner seems to think the Crusaders bubble might already be burst, saying:
Holy Cross (15-5 (6-1), RPI: 47, SOS: 116) No wins of note, lost to Princeton and weak schedule. Better handle Bucknell and others in Patriot tourney.

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Ladies day

The Boston Globe, which has mysteriously been pretty much ignoring both the men and women from Holy Cross most of the season, has a good story today about the Crusaders' womens' team, centering (pardon the pun) on 6-3 senior Lisa Andrews and a couple others who are Boston-area natives.

The Lehigh women picked up a verbal from a 6-2 local star yesterday. Melissa Rich, the star of Parkland's 20-2 team used football signing day to announce her decision to stay close to home.

The American University women stepped out of conference to meet Maryland-Eastern Shore last night. The Eagles survived regulation when a UMES layup rolled off the rim at the buzzer. But they couldn't survive Ashley Chase's three-pointer with 21 seconds to go in overtime, losing 62-59.

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Overcoming the punch

In a story from the New York Times, via the Arizona Republic, American's most famous, and infamous, basketball alum, Kermit Washington talks about why he has worked so hard to get a chance to coach in the National Basketball Developmental League after being blacklisted by the NBA for the past 27 years because of the punch he laid on Rudy Tomjanovich:
"I'm not doing it for the change of perception. I love working with players. More than anything else, I enjoy working with athletes who want to get better. I'm certainly not doing it for the money. I could make more cleaning streets," he added with a laugh, estimating his gross pay for the remaining two months of the season to be about $12,000.
Washington admits, though, he hopes this is a step to getting back to the NBA as a coach.

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A fix for Bucknell recritnix

An update on Bucknell recruit Jason Vegotsky's latest heroics from phillyburbs.com:
Vegotsky hit a fall-away 3-pointer off an inbounds pass from Wes Emme as time expired to give the Falcons a somewhat improbable 41-38 road win over Abington on Tuesday night.
For the whole game story, just click here.

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Another bracket forecast

This just in from the folks at Bracketography.com: Resident bracketeer Andy Force looks into his crystal orb and sees Holy Cross as a 13 seed, meeting mid-major matinee idol Gonzaga (4) in Charlotte. Andy's scenario has the winner playing the Michigan State-LSU winner for a trip to Albuquerque.

Now, of course, this is all so damned speculative, we almost hate to even discuss it. But should that scenario unfold, you might want to go out on a limb and take the 'Saders as an upset special the first two rounds in the office pool.

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Where are they now (Holy Cross edition)

Got a tip from a friend that there was a piece a few weeks ago in The Pottsville Republican about former Holy Cross guard Dave Holland.

Holland, who lettered for the Crusaders in 1973, 1974 and 1975, is back at it again, coaching high school ball in the Schuylkill League, a half decent little league of mostly smaller schools in the anthracite Coal Region of Pennsylvania.

The Holland family is a hoops legend in those parts. Dave's brother Mickey coaches at Mahanoy Area, a year-in, year-out contender in the league that has turned out some pretty fair small college players in recent years.

A nephew, Mike Rhoades, was the D-3 player of the year when he led a Pat Flannery coached Lebanon Valley team to an NCAA D-3 championship in 1994. Rhoades is now a very successful college coach at D-3 Randolph Macon. Rhoades coaching career started as an assistant to Uncle Mickey at Mahanoy Area, before he moved to Randolph Macon.

An interesting sidenote: Flannery assistant Nathan Davis, who has been running the Bison during games while Flannery has been on medical leave, graduated from Randolph Macon, where after lettering for four years, he served as a student assistant coach in the 1996-97 season, Rhoades' first year on the staff of the Yellow Jackets then head coach Hal Nunnally.

Another fun twist: Randolph Macon's swim coach is a guy named Dave Holland.

Didn't Will Smith and Donald Sutherland make a movie about this?

Jazz fans (the music, not the team) should know, neither Dave Holland the basketball coach or Dave Holland the swim guy is related to Dave Holland, the bassist.

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The wheels on the bus

Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard waxes philosophical about riding, and driving, the bus in his latest team report post on Coach Ralph.com.

Looking ahead to the stretch run, Willard writes, "We have once again assumed the role of hunted rather than hunter. Believe me the former is much easier and more fun . . . these last seven games will be 'grinders.'"

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Fear the 'Saders

Sports Washington, a of those Scout.com sites devoted to Washington State, figures their Huskies have a shot at a 4 or 5 seed and offers an early scouting report on some possible first round opponents that might fall in the 13-14 range, including:
Holy Cross (6-1 Patriot League, 15-5 overall): A three-point loss at Boston College and a five-point loss at Vermont help keep these guys under the radar. They like to keep it slow ala Washington State.

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Another bracketeer

Add Dick "Hoops" Weiss of the New York Daily News to the list of bracketeers still predicting Bucknell as the Patriot League's representative in the NCAA Tournament. Weiss' brackets were in a piece printed in Monday's Daily News.

He might be right, but we have to wonder if some of these guys wrote these pieces before the Bison were roadkill over the weekend.

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What if they served beer at Stabler?

Why does Lehigh draw so poorly at home? The school's paper seems to think it is because the student body is too busy getting hammered.

Maybe so, though at many schools getting drunk is part of the preparations for attending a game.

We can't help but wonder if the remote location of Stabler (as well as the football stadium) doesn't play at least a small part in keeping students from turning out.

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Maybe it is true

Maybe what they said in that article above about drinking being a big problem at Lehigh is true. Or maybe the kid who wrote this story in the Brown and White just doesn't know hoops.

The headline: Men's Basketball loses; title hopes dashed.

According to the story, which recaps Sunday's Holy Cross game:
The defeat practically dashes Lehigh’s hopes of a repeat Patriot League regular season championship because they sit fourth in the Patriot League standings with a 4-3 league record.
While the Mountain Hawks do face an uphill battle, it seems a little drastic to write them off completely when they are just two games back at the halfway point. With American, Bucknell and Colgate all due to visit Stabler in the second half, it is not that much of a stretch to think they could run the table from here out.

The writer might also need reminded that last season the Mountain Hawks earned the top seed despite four losses in league play. League history shows that six different seasons teams with three or more losses have claimed or shared the regular season crown, including two of the last three years.

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Brackets busted?

When we first posed the idea of the Patriot League getting to bids to the Big Dance, we did it to make a case, not because we actually thought anyone in Big Time Media of on the committee would consider the idea.

But Joe Lunardi's latest Bracketology piece on ESPN.com seems to validate our contention. Lunardi has Holy Cross in the tournament as a 13 seed, replacing Bucknell. But he listed Bucknell, along with Temple, Princeton as among the last eight left out.

He also projects St. Joe's and George Washington both getting bids out of the A-10, which makes us a little skeptical, since it looks like GW's stock has fallen more than that the last few weeks.

Still, it makes us wonder, had Bucknell not stumbled twice last weekend, was our two-bid scenario a possibility? And could it still happen if Holy Cross wins out, then loses to Bucknell or American (or even Lehigh) in the conference final?

At the very least, it would seem like Bucknell or Holy Cross, should they lose in the conference final, ought to have a shot at an NIT bid, which would be a big step forward for this league.

By the way, we should also point out that Lunardi is not the only one who projects brackets. Over at Bracketology 101, they are still picking Bucknell as the Patriot League's representative. We mention that only becausethose guys have had a better record picking the field than any of the Big Time Media folks.

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You're in the Army now

In a nice piece in his hometown paper, the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Army plebe Grant Carter explains one of the challenge the Cadets face in their first season:
"The biggest adjustment has been the physicalness of the game," said Carter, who lost 21 pounds from his 210-pound frame during basic training. "I've been getting thrown around playing the (strong forward) position. I didn't even play that position in high school. Now, I'm playing against guys who are 6-8 and 6-9."
Forget the part about a 6-3 kid playing the four. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt since Hassan Booker proved years ago it can be done if the player has the right mentality.

We also figure that Jim Crews will move him when some reinforcements with some bigger frames arrive from USMAPS next season.

The bigger challenge is getting players built back up to strength after the grind of Beast Barracks.

Feinstein wrote about that in "A Civil War" from a football perspective. It happens to basketball players, too.

The fact that Carter skipped his expected year at USMAPS and is seeing significant minutes for Army also tells us that this might not be the roster Crews was hoping to play with this season. Maybe he was brought in early after the Cadets lost 6-8 recruit Landon Adler, who, as we mentioned before, for some reason never made the roster.

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Corky is right

In his column Monday, Corky Blake argues the Friday-Sunday scheduling format used this season and last simply does not work.

It's a compelling argument, based on team preparation, attendance, media coverage and academics; and Corky is on the money on each factor.

Yes there are arguments for the setup. The best one is probably not even on the radar screen of the people who made the decision, though. By playing on those two days, when the schedule is light elsewhere, the Patriot League is able to attract better referees for some of its games.

But there are reasons the schedule is light on those days, most of them the same ones Corky makes against this setup.

Sure the Ivy League has used this schedule for years. That doesn't make it right, though. The league has already learned the hard way that the non-scholarship model of the Ivies didn't work for the Patriot League either.

The travel partners setup is a good idea, especially for Holy Cross; particularly when the trip is to Lehigh and Lafayette or Navy and American. Maybe what is needed is a system that doesn't have all the league teams playing the same nights.

It will be a tougher challenge for the schedule makers. But with a little creativity, it can be done.

We know all about the argument about missed class time. We aren't buying it for a moment.

If Duke, Stanford and Michigan kids can handle playing midweek and missing some classes, certainly the kids in a league that prides itself on having some of the best and brightest student athletes in the country can do it too.

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This week's polls

(Originally posted: Monday, 10:21 p.m.)

Surprisingly, despite its lost weekend, Bucknell did not fall out of College Insider's Mid-Major Top 25. The Bison fell three spots to No. 17, with 206 points, in the latest rankings. Holy Cross garned 55 points, making them an unofficial 29th.

Bucknell, as expected, has been vanquished from the AP Poll's also receiving votes category. Holy Cross did get one vote, though.

Thanks, John.

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Genuine official league stuff

(Originally posted: Monday, 10:19 p.m.)

Notes from this week's report (pdf) from the home office in the little town of Bethlehem:

Hamilton picks up his first Player of the Week award of the season after averaging 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.3 steals per game in wins over American, Lafayette and Lehigh that vaulted the Crusaders into first place at the halfway point. Hamilton, a junior guard from Queens Village, N.Y., led Holy Cross in scoring in each of those games, topping the 20-point mark against the Eagles and Leopards. For the week, he shot 55.0 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from 3-point range. At 15.8 points per game, Hamilton has taken over the League scoring lead, and he continues to check in among the top five nationally in steals per contest. Of the 11 Players of the Week in the PL this season, nine have now been guards.

For the second straight week, Doherty is the League’s top rookie, giving Holy Cross a sweep of the weekly honors. The freshman guard from Scranton, Pa., averaged 11.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals in the Crusaders’ three victories last week. Included was a 15-point effort against American along with a careerhigh
tying five steals, and a 14-point outing against Lehigh. Versus the Mountain Hawks, Doherty hit a pair of free throws with 1:32 remaining to break a 54-54 tie and give HC the lead for good. He was perfect from the line on the week, and also shot 47.8 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from 3-point range. The Crusaders are 5-0
since Doherty broke into the starting lineup on Jan. 18 versus Iona.

BITERSWEET MILESTONE: Bucknell junior guard Kevin Bettencourt became the 47th player in PL history to reach the 1,000-point milestone. In the loss to Navy, Bettencourt scored a season-high 27 points to place him in a tie for 27th on BU’s all-time scoring list with 1,020 points. Bettencourt is the 30th player in Bucknell history to clear 1,000 points. He currently ranks 46th in Patriot League history with 1,020 points.

MOVING ON UP: The Patriot League has moved up to a No. 23 ranking among the 31 Division I conferences according to the latest Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) report. The League’s top two representatives are Holy Cross (No. 46) and Bucknell (No. 78). The ACC is the top conference in the computerized ranking system, and Kansas is the No. 1 team.

LEADER BOARD: Head coach Ralph Willard’s Holy Cross club leads the League in several categories, including scoring defense, scoring margin, rebounding defense, rebounding margin, blocked shots, assists, steals, turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio.

MIDDLE MAN: Head coach Jeff Jones now has 71 wins at AU, one more than Jim Lynam and one behind Gary Williams.

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At the turn . . .

(last updated: 8:02 a.m.)

Sunday afternoon's results:

Navy 66, Bucknell 62: According to the story in the Baltimore Sun:
. . . the Midshipmen won the game on defense, diving after balls, sticking hands into passing lanes and holding Bucknell to 36 percent from the field.
According to the Box score, Navy won the game at the foul line, getting to the stripe 15 times more than Bucknell. The Midshipmen were 24-for-35 at the line; Bucknell 14-for-20. As the Talking Heads once sang, "Do I smell? I smell home cooking."

Or was it only the river? Because while normally we would think that was the case, especially in Annapolis, where Chick and Ruth's is not the only place a Midshipman gets special treatment over the years, we do notice that Bucknell took 23 three-pointers and Chris McNaughton had only 8 shots. Bettencourt usually gets to the line more than 5 times in a game where he takes 19 shots, but 14 of his attempts were outside the arc.

In other words, while it is customary for Navy to get away with extremely physical play in Alumni Hall, there's reason plenty to think the disparity was actually because Bucknell turned into a jump-shooting team against that new Navy zone, instead of attacking the rim.

Meanwhile, the question being asked all over the league (or at least a topic of conversation at the HC-Lehigh game): How much does Bucknell miss head coach Pat Flannery, who is on medical leave. In this case, it would seem like it might have been a significant factor since Navy unveiled the matchup zone Friday night against Colgate. That meant Bucknell had one day, most likely with no film, to prepare for that. Taking nothing away from Nathan Davis and the other Bucknell assistants, obviously having a basketball mind as sharp as Flannery's to help dissect it would have helped.
Box score | Navy recap | BU recap | AP wrap

American 78, Colgate 59: From the Washington Post story:
American had its best shooting performance in 12 games, making 56 percent from the floor. The Eagles did a nice job sharing the load -- 16 of their 29 field goals came off an assist -- and taking smart shots.
With Patrick Okpwae serving a suspension for missing curfew after the win over Bucknell, Raimondas Petrauskas made the most of more minutes by scoring 22 points and grabbing 7 rebounds.
Box score | AU recap | Colgate recap | AP wrap

Holy Cross 58, Lehigh 56: (See our game story below.
Our pal Corky Blake of the Express-Times writes:
Holy Cross' weekend from New England was as profitable as a big night at the tables in Atlantic City.
With a favorable second-half schedule (Bucknell and Lehigh both have to visit Worcester), the Crusaders are in the drivers' seat.
Box score | Lehigh recap | HC recap | AP wrap | Morning Call story

Lafayette 66, Army 49: Matt Betley rejoined the starting lineup for Lafayette and provided a much-needed spark for the Leopards.

From the Morning Call:
Betley, a freshman, carried Lafayette to a quick 16-8 lead with eight points and two assists in the first eight minutes. He finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals in his eighth start of the season and first since the Lehigh loss.
Box score | Lafayette recap | Army recap | AP wrap

Read more!

Defense does it for Crusaders

(Originally posted: Sunday, 5:23 p.m.)

Special to The Telegram&Gazette

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – They don’t show up in the official box score. The NCAA doesn’t track them in its weekly statistical leaders’ board. But to Holy Cross men’s basketball coach, deflections are a tell-tale indicator of how well his team is playing defense. So important that one of the Crusaders assistant coach keeps a running tab of deflections on the bench.

Willard didn’t show anybody that tally sheet after the Crusaders’ 58-56 win at Lehigh Sunday afternoon. But chances are, the last one on the list was circled in red, underlined, with a giant asterisk next to it.

It came with three second to go, with Lehigh trying to inbound the ball under its own basket after the Mountain Hawks had rallied from a 16-point second half deficit to give themselves as chance to win, or at least force overtime.

Naturally, it was Kevin Hamilton who got a hand on the pass. Hamilton, who ranks fourth in the nation in steals, deflected the ball to Keith Simmons, who lobbed it down the court and out of danger as the clock ran out on Lehigh’s hopes of pulling off an upset and into a four-way tie for first place atop the Patriot League.

The official play-by-play credited the steal to Simmons, who ended up with the loose ball. But make no mistake, it was Hamilton who made the big play.

“That deflection was huge at the end,” said Willard. “It’s something he does better than anybody I have ever coached. He has great instincts.

“It was a gutty deflection because we were dog-dead tired at the end,” added Willard.

It was also a fitting end to a defensive battle between two teams that rank among the nation’s leaders in several defensive categories. Holy Cross (15-5, 6-1 Patriot) came in having shot better than 50 percent from the field in its last six games. But against Lehigh (10-10, 4-3), it managed to connect on just 19 of the 48 shots it took (39.6 percent).

Lehigh shot slightly better, 40-percent, but between Holy Cross’ 32-28 rebounding edge and the fact the Crusaders forced two more turnovers (14) than they committed, the Crusaders had eight more tries than the Mountain Hawks, who were 16-for-40 from the floor.

It was enough of an edge to let Holy Cross outscore Lehigh by five points, 44-39, from the field, every point of that margin crucial in a game that saw Lehigh get to the foul line seven more times than the Crusaders.

It was that foul shooting, along with Lehigh’s defense, that made it close down the stretch after Holy Cross threatened to break the game open midway through the second half. After blowing a 10-point lead in the first half, then rallying for a 27-26 lead at the break, the Crusaders came out strong after the intermission, holding Lehigh to just a single bucket in the first 7:55 of the half. In the meantime, the Crusaders were busy scoring 17 points of their own to build a 44-28 lead.

Then the whistles started blowing. Without making a single field goal, Lehigh cut the margin in half while Holy Cross was busy picking up six fouls in a span of less than three minutes. When Keith Simmons picked up his third personal with 9:44 to play, it put Lehigh in the double bonus the rest of the way.

From there on out it was pretty much a free throw shooting contest. Holy Cross managed only two field goals the last 12:55 of the game. Lehigh was only slightly more effective, with four field goals in that stretch, including a pair of threes by Jose Olivero, who had five triples in the game and led all scorers with 24 points.

It was Olivero who finally got Lehigh even at 54-54 with 1:56 to play, hitting 2-of-3 at the line after Simmons fouled him as he attempted another trey. The missed free throw, one of 5 Olivero missed in 10 tries, proved to be bigger than any of the threes he made.

At the other end, HC freshman point guard Pat Doherty, who finished with 14 points, hit a pair from the stripe to give Holy Cross the lead again. And after Lehigh’s Jason Mgebross missed a 12-foot jumper that would have tied the game, Hamilton grabbed the carom with Lehigh’s Earl Nurse draped across his back in an effort to tip the ball free.

Hamilton made one of two free throws for a 57-54 lead.

Lehigh went for the tie on its next possession, but Mitch Gilfillan’s three-point try was off the mark with 1:00 left.

The Crusaders milked the clock on the ensuing possession, and had a chance to ice it when John Hurley went to the hole with the shot clock running out. But Hurley’s layup rolled off the rim, keeping Lehigh’s hopes alive.

After burning its final timeout, Lehigh was forced to settle for a Olivero layup that cut the HC lead to 57-56 with 16 seconds left after the Crusaders refused to give him an open look for a three that would have tied it.

Hamilton was immediately fouled on the inbounds play, and again he missed one of the two free throws to allow Lehigh’s hopes to stay alive. Those hopes were snuffed when Nate Lufkin came across the lane to block a shot by Gilfillan in the paint. The loose ball went out of bounds with three seconds left, setting the stage for Hamilton's deflection.

The win, coupled with Bucknell’s loss at Navy, puts the Crusaders alone atop the Patriot League standings at the end of the first half of conference play.

Holy Cross will start the second half of league play with a two-game weekend road trip at Navy and American, starting Friday in Annapolis.

Read more!
Saturday, February 05, 2005
HC escapes, form holds elsewhere

Holy Cross 68, Navy 66
Friday, February 04, 2005
Tough first half for HC

Flannery back for Bison


Can't beat 'em, join 'em

Put on your high heeled sneakers
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Bubble Watch

Ladies day

Overcoming the punch

A fix for Bucknell recritnix

Another bracket forecast
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Where are they now (Holy Cross edition)

The wheels on the bus

Fear the 'Saders

Another bracketeer

What if they served beer at Stabler?

Maybe it is true
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Brackets busted?

You're in the Army now

Corky is right

This week's polls

Genuine official league stuff
Monday, January 31, 2005
At the turn . . .

Defense does it for Crusaders

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