Friday night results

(Updated: 9:55 a.m.)

Holy Cross 81, Lafayette 60: Ten in a row for the Crusaders, behind sophomore sixth-man extraordinaire Keith Simmons and Kevin Hamilton's twin 16-points nights.

Ever read a story and wonder if the person who wrote it knows what the hell they are talking about? Maybe, if you are a Holy Cross fan, and you already read Matt Kalman's piece in the Herald about last night's Lafayette game, you know what I am talking about. Here's the lead paragraph:
Out on the fast break, where Holy Cross thrives better than Popeye on a case of spinach, Keith Simmons can provide a healthy combination of power and finesse for the Crusaders.
Holy Cross thrives on the fast break? Well maybe. But if they do, they sure have hid it well in the five games I have seen them. I pulled the box scores from the last two weekends. At Lafayette, they didn't keep track, but I promise it was no run-and-gun show for the Crusaders. At Lehigh they scored 2 points on the break. At Navy, 7; at American 8 (with the benefit of overtime). Also saw them at Bucknell, no numbers on the final box, but trust me, neither team did much running.

From the sound of things, Keith Simmons threw down a couple times in transition against Lafayette last night. But that does not make Holy Cross a team that thrives like "Popeye on a case of spinach." Matter of fact, if you look at the box score, Holy Cross had 10 fast break points out of the 81 it scored.

What Holy Cross did thrive on was what it always thrives on: Defense. Lafayette was held under 30 percent from the floor the first half, and was only slightly better (20-for-60, 33.3 percent) for the game.

I don't blame fans if they get a little excited when they see a dunk or two, but Kalman's gushing over Simmons having a pair of slams, while ignoring the real keys to Holy Cross' win, sure makes you wonder if he really understands the game.

Personally, we much prefer Jen Toland's story in the Telegram&Gazette (which apparently you can get with no subscription since they redesigned the site). Showing her knowledge of the game and the team, Toland gives context to what happened, spending morew time on how HC reacted to the injuries and illnesses that plagued them all week to avoid a letdown against Lafayette.
Box score | AP wrap | HC recap | Lafayette recap

Bucknell 65, American 52: Defense, baby, defense. BU held Andre Ingram and Jason Thomas to a combined 4-for-21 and 9 points.

We hate to say we told you so. Err ... OK, no we don't. Actually, we get a big kick out of it.

From Tom Housenick's Daily Item story on Bucknell's win over American:
Andre Ingram, the Patriot League's leading scorer, managed just four points for the second game this season against Bucknell.

In two games against the Bison, the sophomore-- last season's PL rookie of the year-- is a combined 3 of 25 shooting.

"We've pulled him from some practices because he's played a lot of minutes," Jones said. "We're trying to do some things differently to keep him fresh."
Back on Dec. 9, after AU's win over Towson, we first made the argument that depth was going to be a problem for AU down the stretch:
Late in the season, when the starters begin to get worn down from all the minutes they are playing, this could be a problem for the Eagles.
In other posts we specifically mentioned the number of minutes Ingram was piling up. AU fans jumped all over us earlier this week when we suggested he did not deserve Player of the Week honors for last week because despite nice numbers against Holy Cross, he disappeared for long stretches of the second half, missed the free throw that could have won it in regulation (drew front iron, sign of tired legs) and spent OT on the side of a milk carton.

But Jones now confirms it: Ingram's legs are weary. That is not a good sign for American.

David Jones of the Patriot-News made another visit to Sojka, and filed his usual fine report. Jones called it the "prototypical Flannery game":
Jump on the opponent from the tip, get into them on defense, remove what they want to do most. Then grind through 25-34 seconds of pattern at the other end and wait for precisely the shots they want.

Box score | AP wrap | Bucknell recap | AU recap

Colgate 72, Navy 67: Andrew Zidar's 10-point, 13-rebound double-double pulls the 'Gate within a game of American for fourth place, with the Eagles headed to Hamilton Sunday.
Box score | AP wrap | Colgate recap | Navy recap

Lehigh 69, Army 64: One Joe Knight tops five Black Knights, hitting two free throws with 2.1 to go to seal the much-closer-than-anyone-could-have-imagined win for Lehigh.
Box score | AP wrap | Army recap | Lehigh recap

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Give Paul Evans an assist

We couldn't find any game coverage of the Navy-Colgate game, but there is a great John Feinstein column in today's Washington Post about the genesis of the matchup zone that has turned a Navy team that lost to D-3 Gettysburg and lowly Army early in the season into a team to be reckoned with down the stretch.

Seems former Navy (and Pitt) coach Paul Evans still lives in Annapolis and he sat down with Billy Lange to show him how to play a little zone.

Our favorite part of the story: the meeting took place in a booth at Chick and Ruth's. If they were really smart, they ordered the crabcake sandwich and a bowl of Maryland crab soup.

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HC 68, Lafayette 62 (Women)

Special to The Telegram&Gazette

EASTON, Pa. – Close but no cigar. That was the theme Friday night when the Patriot League leading Holy Cross women took on Lafayette, the team with the worst overall record in the league.

Holy Cross senior Maggie Fontana came within one of tying the league record for consecutive free throws and her classmate Lisa Andrews came within two points of reaching 1,000 for her career.

Fortunately for the Crusaders, though they only came close to blowing a 17-point lead, holding off Lafayette’s second-half charge for a 68-62 win.

“There is no such thing as a bad win,” said Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons. “But if there were, this probably would have been it.”

Early in the game, it looked like a blowout in the making. With the score tied at 4-4, Holy Cross (15-8, 10-0) went on a 16-2 run, holding Lafayette (4-19, 2-8 Patriot League) without a field goal for nearly seven minutes. And after trading baskets most of the rest of the first half, the Crusaders pushed the margin to 17 on a pair of free throws by Fontana with less than a minute to go, before settling for a 36-21 lead at the intermission.

At that point, things were all going Holy Cross’ way. The Crusaders were shooting the ball well, hitting 14-of-30 in the half (46.7 percent), taking good care of the ball (just 6 turnovers) and playing a suffocating defense that held the Leopards to 7 first half field goals (on 22 shots, 31.8 percent) while forcing 13 turnovers.

When these same two teams met two weeks ago in Worcester, Holy Cross won by 22 points. That was the Crusaders 17th straight win over Lafayette, a streak that dates back to 1998. In those 17 games, Holy Cross has won by at least 10 points in 16. Thirteen of those wins have been by better than 20. Since Fontana and Andrews arrived on the hill, the Crusaders had beaten Lafayette nine times, with the average margin of victory just under 25 points.

With a big lead in hand, and a potential regular season title-clinching game on tap Sunday at second-place Lehigh, it is probably only natural that the Crusaders would suffer a little bit of a letdown in the second half. Which is exactly what happened.

“We got complacent. We just stayed how it was and they got more intense,” Fontana said.

“It’s human nature,” Gibbons added. “But there is still no excuse.”

Lafayette’s comeback started slowly, with the two teams trading baskets through the first seven minutes of the half. With 13:17 to play, Andrews, Holy Cross’ 6-3 center, who came into the game needing 17 points to reach 1,000 for her career, picked up her fourth personal and went to the bench. At that point, Andrews had 15 points and the Holy Cross lead was 12.

A Fontana layup made it 48-34 with 12:46 to play. Then Lafayette went on a 12-4 run, cutting the margin to 52-46 with 9:00 still on the clock. By then, 6-2 sophomore Brittany Keil, the Crusaders other starter in the frontcourt, was also on the bench with four fouls.

The Crusaders pushed the lead back to 15 with a 9-0 spurt keyed by freshman Ashley McLaughlin, who got it started with back to back buckets, the first of which she turned into an old-fashioned three-point play at the foul line. The last two points on that run came on a layup by Kiel, just after she and Andrews had returned to the floor with just under seven minutes left.

Andrews fouled out less than a minute after she returned. Kiel followed after she picked up her fifth personal with 2:54 left, sitting down with 12 points.

With the two frontcourt starters on the bench, the Crusaders struggled offensively down the stretch. After Kiel’s layup, HC managed only one more field goal the rest of the game, scoring only 7 points in the final 6:26 of the contest. Five of those seven came from Fontana, who finished with a team-high 18 points, but saw her free throw streak end at 33 when she missed the back end of a two shot opportunity with 5:28 left.

“Maggie kind of carried us on her back,” Gibbons said.

Those points, though, turned out to be enough. The Leopards made one last run, cutting the lead to 5 with 29 seconds left. But a pair of Fontana free throws and Philadelphia Eagles-style clock management by Lafayette, which ran a Princeton-style weave for over 10 second before getting off a shot, sealed the win for Holy Cross.

Fontana’s 33-straight free throws is a school record, but one shy of the League mark of 34 in a single season, set in 2003 by Bucknell’s Molly Creamer, who went on to be a No.1 pick in the WNBA. Navy’s Courtney Davidson holds the overall record with 37 in a row over the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Lindsey Myers led Lafayette with 18 points. Kara Stetler added 14 and Vanessa VanDeVenter also was in double figures with 10.

The win was Holy Cross’ 10th in a row. The Crusaders can clinch the regular season title Sunday with a win at Lehigh.

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Not just the mainstreamers

We've been noticing more and more mainstream media talk about Holy Cross deserving a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it is, in part anyhow, because those guys read some of the blogs out there, like Notes From A Basketball Junkie, who having finally gotten his computer back up and running after major Microsoft snafus, had this to say today about the mythical bubble:
"Holy Cross (17-5, 8-1, RPI: 38) ? Just like their fellow New Englanders, BU, the Crusaders are another team that would be a lock if they played in a different league. Ralph Willard's squad, who lost to the 20-1 Boston College Eagles 63-60 in an OT classic in December, have done everything that a mid-major should have to do to get an invite to the tourney if they don't win the Patriot League. Whether they do or not is another question that is no longer in the hands of the Crusaders."
We're telling ya folks, it reminds us of that Arlo Guthrie Alice's Restaurant song. It's a movement.

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Not ready for prime time

If we told you why the American at Bucknell game is being bumped to a ridiculous 5 p.m. start for College Sports TV, you would think we were trying to make a joke.

But we swear, this punchline is even better than any we'd have thought of. Take a look at tonight's CSTV schedule. The Patriot League has agreed to play at supper time because in prime time, CSTV has better things to air, like Ohio State vs. Wisconsin.

Big Time, Big Ten hoops ought to take precedence, you say? It's understandable the Patriot would be willing to take a back seat to get on the same network that shows Big Ten games, right?

Guess again. We're talking Lady Buckeyes at Lady Badgers -- in women's ice hockey.

CSTV is even replaying that game again at 11:30, in case both the parents who couldn't make it to the game were busy watching Joan of Arcadia and Jag during the live broadcast.

Interesting enough, CSTV will replay the AU-Bucknell game Saturday at noon, for those who prefer tape delay over live games like Syracuse-Villanova and Pitt-Notre Dame.

Somehow this reminds us of that old philosophy question about trees falling in the woods.

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Bison host after school special

(Originally posted: Thursday, 10:27 p.m.)

We'll skip the lengthy rant about the stupidity of playing the American at Bucknell game at 5 p.m. on a Friday just so nobody can see it on TV. We do feel compelled, though, to mention the same folks who will won't be able to get to Sojka in person at that ridiculous time will also not be able to get home to watch CSTV, assuming they are lucky enough to live in one of the half-dozen or so homes that actually get that channel.

Of course this scheduling is courtesy of the same league office that once tried to convince us that the tournament final slot at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon was good because people in the bars at happy hour would be able to watch.

At least ESPN2 is a real network, actually paying the league a rights fee.

OK, so we didn't exactly skip the rant. But it is not that lengthy.

If you are working late, or in a bar for happy hour that doesn't have CSTV, but does have internet access, you can always follow the action with the scoreboards below or on the Bison Sports Networks Webcast.

Patriot League scoreboards
ESPN | CBS Sportsline | | Yahoo!

American at Bucknell, 5 p.m.: Like we said, it's a shame this one is being played at such a dumbass time. It's the marquee matchup of the night.

Bucknell is badly in need of a win after losing three of the last four. A win over AU, one of the two teams the Bison are battling for the No. 2 seed in the tournament, and the possible pair of home games that come with it, makes it all the more important.

The good news for Bucknell is that they are finally back home in Sojka after four straight on the road. Bucknell is 7-1 at home this season, and has not lost a league game there since Abe Badmus was in high school.

Keeping that streak alive against American will not be easy. The Eagles lead the league in field goal and three-point shooting. AU won the first meeting between the two, taking a 68-59 decision in D.C. just two weeks ago.

AU's Andre Ingram, the league's top scorer, managed just 4 points on 1-for-13 shooting from the floor in that one. But AU's forwards, Raimonda Petrauskas (10),
Matej Cresnik (13) and Patrick Okpwae (8) combined for 31 points to pick up the slack. Cresnik was particularly troublesome, knocking down three three-pointers.

It's doubtful Ingram will have another night like that, but Bucknell can hope to hold Jason Thomas, who had 18 in the first game, and the forwards in check.

Offensively, Bucknell will need more from Kevin Bettencourt and Abe Badmus, who were a combined 2-for-12 the first time. And they need to get Chris McNaughton more involved in the offense than they have the last two weeks.

This is a pick 'em game, with Bucknell favored slightly because they are at home.
AU notes (will eventually be posted here) | Bucknell notes | USA Today matchup | Bucknell radio

Lafayette at Holy Cross, 7 p.m.: Ralph Willard worries about this weekend's "exhale games." This one is especially dangerous since the Crusaders are coming off three straight close, emotional road wins and facing a team they spanked two weeks ago in Easton. Adding to the concerns is the fact that Nate Lufkin and Greg Kinsey have been held out of practice all week with ankle problems.

It is hard to imagine this Lafayette team pulling off the upset in Worcester, but stranger things have happened (Army beating Navy for one). Holy Cross definitely has to guard against looking ahead to Sunday's game with Lehigh.
Lafayette notes | HC Notes | USA Today matchup | HC radio

Navy at Colgate, 7 p.m.: Navy's resurgent Midshipmen get their first road test since turning things around two weeks ago. That turnaround started with a win over Colgate in Alumni Hall, followed by a home win over Bucknell two days later.

A win here would pull the Midshipmen even with the Raiders for fifth place in the league standings.

Before they beat Colgate two weeks ago, that seemed unlikely. Now, this seems like anybody's game. Navy has won three of four and took league leading Holy Cross to the wire in the loss. If they play defense on the road the way they have been playing at home, it could be a long night for Colgate's perimeter snipers, who prefer the three-point jumper to going to the hole.

Then again, if Colgate's shooters get hot, there is not a team in the league they cannot beat.
Navy notes | Colgate notes | USA Today matchup | Gametracker | 'Gate radio | Navy Radio

Lehigh at Army, 7 p.m.: Knowing how contagious yawns can be, we wonder, if we yawn, then you yawn, then someone else yawns, and down the line, could it eventually be enough to make Lehigh fall asleep and get upset in West Point.

Nah, we didn't think so.

The Mountain Hawks will use this one to stretch their legs before climbing back on the bus for the ride to Worcester for Sunday's showdown.
Lehigh notes (pdf) | Army notes (pdf) | USA Today matchup | Gametracker

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We got yer bubble right here

In a story about how the new RPI formula might affect the NCAA Tournament, the Kansas City Star argues Vermont could be an eight seed and says Holy Cross is a bubble teams now that "wouldn't have gotten a sniff last year."

Which is nice of them to say, but begs a question: What exactly is it about Vermont that makes them a lock and an 8 seed, but Holy Cross is a bubble team, maybe? I know all about Coppenrath and Sorrentine. Two big scorers, one maybe an NBA prospect. Sorta like the 94-95 Colgate team with Adonal Foyle and Tucker Neale.

But we invite teams to the tournament, not individual players. This is not the scouting combine we are talking about.

This is not to argue against UVM. Let 'em in; seed 'em high. We're all for mid-majors getting respect.

But we look at UVM's schedule, and we have to ask: How is what they have done that much better than what Holy Cross has accomplished?

Yes, they beat the Crusaders in December. By five points in Worcester. Which might, or might not, happen again if the two teams met tomorrow. Arguably Holy Cross is much better than they were then, given the emergence of the two freshmen, Pat Doherty and Tim Clifford.

But UVM lost at American, where HC won. But certainly HC's OT loss at Boston College should count as much as UVM's 7-point loss at Kansas.

Don't get us wrong. Vermont only has three losses. But we think we could easily make the argument that the top four in the Patriot League are every bit as good as the top four in the America East. Matter of fact, once you get past Vermont and Boston College, is there a team in the America East you can argue is better than Bucknell, American and Lehigh?

Northeastern, 14-8 with losses to Harvard, Binghamton and Maine (not to mention Holy Cross)?

Albany, 11-11 with losses to Binghamton, Long Island, UMBC and Wagner (not to mention Lehigh)?

Maine, also 11-11 with losses to Morgan State, Bethune Cookman and UMBC (take away a win over Maine-Farmington and the Black Bears are below .500)?

Of course the problem for Holy Cross is the bottom half of the Patriot League. Army, Lafayette and Navy -- which sank its RPI so low early that its recent resurgence is not fairly reflected in its ranking-- pull down Holy Cross' RPI to bubble status, instead of the lock to make the tournament status we think they deserve at the moment.

All that could change of course. Even as soon as Sunday, when Lehigh comes to Worcester hell-bent on avenging a loss at the buzzer two weeks ago.

But if Holy Cross should win out, but lose in the Patriot League final, and not get a bid. Or if the Crusaders win out and get stuck with anything below a 12 or 13 seed, then folks in Worcester will certainly be justified in breaking out the old "nuts and bolts" cheer.

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We beg to differ

Hardcore college hoops fans will recognize that headline as having been borrowed from Duke's Cameron Crazies, who took to chanting that after a bad call by the officials when they had been chastised by school administration types for using simpler, more effective language, like "Bullshit."

We want to be polite about Bill Doyle's puff piece on College Sports TV in the Worcester Telegram&Gazette because, after all, the T&G does sort of help underwrite this blog in a backhanded way by paying me to cover some games for them.

But the pay is not good enough for us to check our brutal honesty at the door.

We can sum up our thoughts on CSTV by pointing to one quote by a CSTV official in the column:
"ESPN does professional sports extremely well," Bedol said, "but they're the general store. We're as different from ESPN as Starbucks is from Dunkin' Donuts. The only thing they have in common is they both serve coffee. We're very proud to be exclusively and solely in college sports."
Actually, it's more like the difference between Starbucks coffee and the stuff that has set in the pot all day at the local convenience store. No, ESPN does not show wrestling or D3 football. But ESPN does a damned fine job on D-I college hoops and football. There is really no comparison between being on Big Monday and having to move an American at Bucknell game to 5 p.m. so that somebody with a satellite dish and a subscription can see it. It might show in Worcester and Bethlehem, as Doyle claims, but it doesn't show most places. And that 10 million households figure is bullshit, too. It might well be that CSTV is available on cable systems and satellite networks that reach that many households. But that doesn't mean 10 million people are actually subscribing to it.

Look, there is nothing wrong with CSTV. But don't insult the fans intelligence by trying to pass the Patriot League's deal with CSTV as a "national television" package.

It is no ESPN. Not even close.

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From the desk(top) of Coach Willard

It is a shame Ralph Willard is the only coach in the league with his own Web site. Ralph's posts are always interesting and give a unique peek into the mind of a coach.

This week's team report lacks a little in timeliness, since it comes several days after the Navy-American road trip it talks about. But then we don't depend on Ralph for game coverage and neither should you. That is our job.

What we count on finding at is some insight that he might not share in a postgame interview. For example, in reviewing the Navy game, he says:
I realize these are the "dog days" of February and there is some mental fatigue that sets in this time of year, but now is also the time good teams get better. I told the guys the next morning that I thought we had taken a step backward despite the win.
Brutal honesty.

Better yet this week are his comments about the American game, where he addresses two things that have been kicked about on the message boards this week, the call that sent Andre Ingram to the line at the end of regulation and the AU fans.

On that call, Ralph writes:
The game was almost decided on a ref's call 40 feet from the basket on the sideline by American's bench. That would have been a travesty after the way both teams had battled.
He doesn't come right out and call it a questionable call, though I have. Of course I won't get fined for saying it.

As for the AU fans, well, while the so-called "blue shirts" are not near as clever as they seem to think they are on the message boards, and although half of them didn't even wear blue shirts, they are as spirited a bunch as you will find in the league. At least when I have been to Bender, which is usually for games against Holy Cross which have been "big games," they show up in good numbers and are loud to the end.

I missed the incident near the end of the game when one of them threw something on the floor, though again, it has been discussed elsewhere. Here's Ralph's take:
. . . we had an incident near the end of the game where a student threw a necklace of beads out on the floor right where Torrey Thomas was dribbling and Linas Lekavicious was defending him. Either or both players could have slipped on the beads and blown out a knee. The callous student who threw them out should have been ejected . You also have to question why beads are given out as part of a game promotion. It makes no sense. It's always sad when someone tries to ruin a great game and atmosphere and doesn't care whether they tarnish the reputation of what otherwise was a well orchestrated display of school spirit. I do know for the player's sake it cannot be ignored or tolerated.
Personally, I have no problem with the faux Mardi Gras beads being given out. But Ralph is absolutely right, the kid who threw them should have been ejected.

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Pitchers and catchers report

Up at West Point, they are already busy hyping Army baseball.

Who can blame them? Basketball season basically ended in December for the Black Knights.

According to this release found on
Fresh off its second Patriot League championship in five years and the second NCAA Regional appearance in school history, Army's baseball team continues preparations for the 2005 season, which now stands little more than one week away.
We are not a baseball site. We post this only to pose this question: If the Cadets can win in other sports, why do they suck so in hoops?

We're not expecting an answer. We spent two days a few weeks back trying to figure it out and couldn't. But it seems somebody at the Academy ought to take a hard look at what is wrong and make some changes, either to improve the basketball program, or to drop to D-3.

The only reason the Cadets are not last in the RPI is because Navy somehow laid an egg in West Point earlier this season. And even at No. 326, or wherever they are today (hardly worth checking), Army is a bigger anchor on the conference's RPI than the ones Navy uses on its battleships.

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Holy Cross at-large talk won't stop

Is fellow blogger Ben Miraski another Patriot League two-bid conspiracy theorist? In his Monday post about bubble teams on Sitting Courtside, Miraski talks about Boston University's chances of making the dance and points out:
Their losses have come against some good teams, including a strong Holy Cross team which is looking to make history and warrant consideration for a Patriot league team to win an at-large bid if an upset occurs.
Coming soon to the Hoop Time store: Tin foil hats.

Seriously, we got shouted down a few weeks ago when we suggested Bucknell might make the Patriot a two-bid conference if it ran the table until the conference final, then lost to Holy Cross. The Bison's skid ended that speculation, but now it seems as if the Crusaders are generating the same sort of buzz.

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Where are they now (Lafayette edition)

Longtime fans of the Patriot League might remember Pat Brogan as the guy who spent eight years sitting beside Fran O'Hanlon on the Lafayette bench before leaving Easton to become an assistant as Penn State in 2002.

In 2001, while training for a triathlon, Brogan had a bicycle accident that has changed his life dramatically. Now he is coaching high school hoops in Tamaqua, Pa.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer story:
Brogan, a 37-year-old former assistant at Lafayette and Penn State, and a volunteer assistant last season at Georgia Tech, has always been one of the most approachable guys in the college game, a coach who treats the game with reverence. He has seen his world both expand and contract because of the pain he can't ignore. Even his wife and parents thought he was crazy to take a coaching job at a small high school not far from his upstate hometown. But he knew what the game could offer.
What it offers Brogan is a form of motivational therapy as he struggles to recover from the after effects of that accident.

This is a highly recommended read that gives a new definition to the term "gamer."

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More props for the 'Saders

The Hoops Junkie takes note of Holy Cross' arrival in the latest Mid Major Top 25, saying:
I'm actually surprised that it took the Crusaders so long to crack the Top 25 and they're only ranked 25th. The Crusaders (17-5, 8-1) have reeled off nine wins in a row to stake out a two-game lead in the very competitive Patriot League.
Like we noted below, a rising tide lifts all ships.

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2-bid conspiracy theory won't die

According to columnist Pat Forde:
(Holy Cross) should win the Patriot League. If they don't, they're at least in the argument for a previously unimaginable at-large bid. Average RPI: 33.
Sure, it probably will not happen. But the more mainstream media folks talk about a team from the Patriot League deserving an at-large bid, the higher the profile of the league becomes.

In some ways, this is a residual effect of Bucknell's wins over Pitt and St. Joe's. Those wins raised awareness of the quality of the league, at least in the upper division. Even though the Bison have squandered their chance to parlay those wins into at-large consideration with their recent road swoon, people are showing the league respect it did not have before those games

Even if the selection committee doesn't pay attention to this stuff, recruits are reading it and anything that raises the image of the league's play will help raise the quality of player its teams can recruit.

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Official league stuff

(Originally posted Monday, 6:49 p.m.)

A new twist this week to our regular report on highlights from the latest Monday release from the home office in the little town of Bethlehem.

Were we found the urge to add comments to the league report too strong to resist, we have done so. You'll find our commentary in italics.

For the first time this season, the Patriot League’s Preseason Player of the Year is the Player of the Week. Ingram led all scorers in both games he played last weekend, tallying 23 in an 86-58 win over Army and 22 in a 76-67 overtime loss to first-place Holy Cross at Bender Arena. For the week, Ingram shot 56.3 percent from the field, 54.5 percent from 3-point range and 60.0 percent from the free throw line. He pulled down 12 rebounds, dished out four assists and also had one block and two steals. Ingram’s Eagles are currently in a threeway tie for second place in the League standings going into Friday’s nationally-televised contest at Bucknell. On the season, the sophomore guard from Richmond, Va., leads the PL in scoring at 15.9 ppg, and is second in League games at 15.1 ppg.

Sorry, but this is ridiculous. Nothing against Ingram, but how can you miss a game-winning free throw and be Player of the Week? This is what happens when awards are handed out based solely on offensive stats. They don't take into account defense, or the opposition or how and when the numbers are piled up. Against Holy Cross, Ingram was missing for long stretches in the second half and vanished in the overtime, when the only thing he added to his box score line were two missed shots. To be Player of the Week, you ought to do more than put up gaudy numbers. Like help your team win, for instance. Our pick: How about Lehigh's Joe Knight, who had 12 points and six assists in a win over Colgate and 24 points, including the game-winning three-pointer against Bucknell. Honorable mention to Holy Cross' John Hurley, who had 13 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots against Navy and 15 points, 6 rebounds and a block against American, both games his team won.

Sprink is the League’s Rookie of the Week for the second time this season, and his selection continues a 2004-05 trend in Patriot League Rookies of the Week: all 12 thus far have been guards. Sprink earns this week’s honor after notching back-to-back 14-point efforts in a two-point loss to Holy Cross and a 15-point victory over Army in the annual "Star Game" between the two service academies. Both contests took place at Alumni Hall. Sprink, a Cardiff, Calif., native, also averaged 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.5 steals for the week, while shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from 3-point range. He turned in his second career double-double against Army, and is averaging 7.9 ppg on the season. He is already 25th on the Mids’ all-time freshman scoring list.

We saw this driveway shooting act at Navy Friday night. He did nothing when the game was on the line. Sunday was against Army. As with Ingram above, we discount those numbers heavily. Our pick: This one is easy. Tim Clifford's 13-13 double-double with 5 blocks at American is the reason HC is alone in first place right now. We could care less he only played seven scoreless minutes Friday at Navy.

1,000 ... ERR, SORTA:Lehigh's Joe Knight went over 1,000 career points versus Bucknell, becoming the 25th player in Lehigh history to do so. Except he isn't really, since this is Knight’s first year at Lehigh after transferring from High Point. Is he a 1,000 point scorer? Yes. Is he Lehigh's 25th? Not in our book, unless he scores 1,000 in a Mountain Hawk uniform. As of now, he has scored 252 as a Hawk.

ON THE LINE: Bucknell’s Kevin Bettencourt, at 92.0 percent, is the nation’s third-best free throw shooter as of last Tuesday’s NCAA report.

NONE THAT COUNT: Head coach Jeff Jones now has 72 wins at AU, tying him with Gary Williams for fifth all-time.

YEAH, BUT . . .:Ingram needs two more 3-pointers to surpass Glenn Stokes for sixth all-time at AU. He currently has 125 through just 52 collegiate games. He only needed three to pass Stokes heading into the Holy Cross game.

THAT AND FIFTY CENTS WILL GET A CUP OF COFFEE: Colgate currently leads the Patriot League in 3-point field goals made per game at 6.9. And they are ahead of in fifth place in the standings, six games under .500 overall (D3 wins do not count)

AP POLL UPDATE: Holy Cross receives a single point again this week in the AP poll. As usual, thanks John.

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Kids these days

(Originally posted Monday, 6:22 p.m.)

Another interesting installment from Lehigh's student newspaper, the Brown and White, which argues:
The league has been inconsistent this year and at this point in the season the Patriot League title is for grabs.

No team seems has laid claim to the title just yet and the Hawks are ready to make a run and repeat as champions.
Newflash kids: Holy Cross has not lost since the first game of conference play and now holds a two-game lead over your beloved Mountain Hawks, with five games to play, four of which HC will be home for.

Since Army and Lafayette are two of those four, that is effectively a two-game lead with three to play. For lehigh to even get a share of the title, it would need to beat Holy Cross in Worcester and get some help, most likely from Bucknell. And if that were to occur, Bucknell would likely get the regular season crown by virtue of a sweep of Holy Cross (Lehigh would have a sweep of American, but that would leave AU out of the tie for first, thus Bucknell's sweep of HC would be the tiebreaker that would matter.)

Of course this is all probably worthless speculation, since it is hard to imagine Holy Cross losing two more the way they are playing right now.

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KHam earns honor

(Originally posted Monday, 6:19 p.m.)

As part of his 100 Games Project, Kyle, the humble narrator of has posted his second All-Mid-Majority Team. A quick explanation:
The rules: no repeats, and no MMBOW's. This squad is made up of players I saw with my own two eyes during games 26-50, and here's the first set. We're going with a three-guard lineup this time.
One of the three guards is Holy Cross' Kevin Hamilton, who becomes the second Patriot Leaguer to earn All Mid-Majority honors, joining Bucknell point Abe Badmus, who made the team for the first 25 games of Kyle's odyssey.

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Crusaders all alone at the top

(Updated: 8:07 a.m.)

Holy Cross' overtime win at American, combined with Lehigh's buzzer-beating win over Bucknell, leaves the Crusaders alone in first, with three schools -- Bucknell, Lehigh and American -- in a logjam for second place and a chance to host in the first two rounds of the tournament.

Don't think that homecourt edge will be important? Just look at how close most games have been between those four so far.

Here's the rundown on Sunday's action:

Holy Cross 76, American 67 (OT): (Full story below) Ever since the Bucknell game, we thought Tim Clifford should be getting more minutes. After his 13-13 lucky double-double against American, you can bet Ralph Willard will agree.

Actually, Ralph has been waiting for Clifford to have this kind of a game. In fact he showed his confidence in the freshman by calling his number two times in a row early in the overtime.

Torey Thomas, who lost his starting job to Pat Doherty after suffering a separated shoulder, also came up big for Holy Cross, scoring 15 points, including 10 in OT, mostly from the foul line (8-for-10 in OT).

Thomas also was big defensively, helping the Crusaders shut down AU's potent guard combo of Jason Thomas and Andre Ingram in the second half, after the two combined for 21 points in the first half. Ingram went scoreless for over a 10-minute stretch in the second half, before scoring 7 points in the last 4:19 of regulation to help force overtime. He missed the back end of a one-and-one with five seconds to go that might have won the game in regulation.

Thomas had just one bucket, a three-pointer with 13:11 to play in regulation, after the half.

Box score | AP wrap | Washington Post

Lehigh 57, Bucknell 54: Joe Knight's buzzer-beating three was the difference as Lehigh forces a three-way tie for second.

From the accounts of the game in the Express-Times and the Morning Call, it sounds a lot like the Holy Cross at Lehigh game, except this time Lehigh was able to score at the end.

The Hawks fell behind early, then started marching to the foul line. Against Holy Cross, Lehigh shot 26 free throws to 19 for the Crusaders. This time the edge was 28-19.

It would be interesting to look at some box scores to see what the difference is in average free throw attempts home and away for some teams. Interesting, but too time consuming for us to bother. Maybe we can get numbers cruncher extraordinaire Matt over at the Patriot League Hoops Blog to run that through his slide rule after he gets over AU's loss to HC.

For the record, we are not suggesting Lehigh didn't deserve the win. They are not the only team to benefit from playing at home. Bucknell, you might recall, had a big edge in free throws when Holy Cross visited back in week one of conference play. We just find it interesting that a team like Lehigh, with basically no inside offensive presence, can pile up that kind of an edge at the line.
Box score | AP wrap

Colgate 62, Lafayette 61: An Alvin Reed free throw with one second left gives 'gate the win.
Box score | AP wrap | Express-Times

Navy 84, Army 69: Vengeance is ours say the Mids. Taj Matthews led the way with 26 points, including six of the Midshipmen's 13 three-pointers.
Box score | AP wrap | Washington Post | Times Herald-Record > | Baltimore Sun

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Holy Cross 76, American 67

(Originally posted: Sunday, 7:48 p.m.)

Special to The Telegram&Gazette

WASHINGTON, D.C. – To folks with young children, what happened in Holy Cross’ 76-67 overtime win over American University was nothing new. Parents and children alike know when things look worrisome, Clifford will come to the rescue.

That’s exactly what happened Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital. With starting center Nate Lufkin sitting this one out with a sprained ankle and swingman Greg Kinsey slowed by ankle problems of his own, Holy Cross was needed someone to play the hero.

Sure enough, just like in those kid’s books, it was Clifford who came through. Of course unlike the books, it was not a big red dog that bailed out the Crusaders. It was Tim Clifford, the big purple freshman who came off the bench to put up a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double as Holy Cross (17-5, 8-1 Patriot League) solidified its hold on first place in the Patriot League.

The win was the Crusaders’ ninth in a row and their 11th in the past 12 games. Coupled with Bucknell’s loss at Lehigh Sunday, it gave HC a two-game lead over the three teams – Bucknell, Lehigh and American — tied for second place (all with 6-3 league records).

It probably would not have happened without the play of Clifford. The 6-10 frosh from Walpole was a defensive force, especially in the second half and overtime, when he picked up four of his five blocked shots and vacuumed up 10 of his game-high 13 boards, helping the Crusaders overcome a 36-29 halftime deficit.

“Timmy played today the way I’ve been waiting for him to play all year,” said Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard. “He gave us great rebounding, blocked some shots and took up a lot of space on the offensive end.”

Especially in the overtime, when the combination of Clifford’s all-around play and Torey Thomas’ free throw shooting was the difference in the ballgame.

Clifford lost the tip to start the extra session, out jumped by American’s Patrick Okpwae. It was the only thing that didn’t go his way in the OT, and even that turned out fine for Holy Cross when Kevin Hamilton stole the tip and fed Keith Simmons for a go-ahead layup.

Then Clifford took over. At the other end, he protected the 59-57 lead by blocking Matej Cresnik’s shot. And after American tied it with a pair of Okpwae free throws, Clifford put back his own miss to give the Crusaders back the lead.

Okpwae tied it again with a nice spin move in the paint, but at the other end, Clifford put Holy Cross in the lead to stay with a feathery 12-foot jumper off the same pick-and-roll play he had scored on the last HC possession.

It seemed to catch American (13-8, 6-3) off guard when he pulled up for the shot. All his other points had come close to the rim. But when Cresnik left him open just inside the foul line to the left of the lane, Clifford showed no hesitation.

“I’ve always liked to shoot it,” laughed Clifford when asked about his range after the game. “But nothing beyond that.”

But Willard, who said he called Clifford’s number twice in a row in that overtime, game-on-the-line situation, said he did it because he had no doubt Clifford could make that play.

“Timmy’s a very good shooter for a big guy,” Willard said. “He can step away from the basket and shoot the basketball.”

After the Clifford jumper, Torey Thomas took over the scoring chores, first on a short jumper in the paint (following an Andre Ingram miss that was rebounded by Clifford) that gave HC a 4-point lead, then from the foul line, where he hit 6-of-8 down the stretch as American fouled in vain, trying to extend the game.

Clifford didn’t go away down the stretch. After Thomas’s jumper, he stepped out and got a hand up to harass Cresnik’s three-point try, which led to a Thomas free throw at the other end. And on AU’s next trip down the floor, Clifford came up with the rebound when Cresnik missed another three.

For good measure, Clifford added two free throws and three more rebounds in the final 42 seconds, including, fittingly, the rebound of the game’s final shot, a missed three-point try by American’s Lina Lekavicius.

In addition to his overtime heroics, Clifford’s presence in the middle made a big difference defensively in the second half for Holy Cross. After American hit 15-of-28 shots in the first half, they made just 12-of-43 the rest of the way. Part of the difference was a better effort on the perimeter.

“We did a much better job stopping them from getting the ball on the move and penetrating to the rim,” said Willard.

Unsaid was the confidence having Clifford there to cover up if someone got beat gave the Crusaders’ guards.

“Timmy changed some shots, made some blocks. He was a big presence,” said Willard. “That’s what Nate usually does for us. But with Nate out today, somebody had to do it and it was Tim.”

Clifford was not the only Crusader to step up. Thomas, who ironically lost his starting job to freshman Pat Doherty after he suffered a shoulder injury, took over for Doherty much of the second half and finished with 15 points, equaling his season high. John Hurley also helped fill the Lufkin void with 15 points and 6 rebounds and Kevin Hamilton added 14 points.

Andre Ingram led American with 22 points, but he missed the back end of a potential game-winning one-and-one after a questionable foul call on Hamilton with five seconds to go in regulation. Jason Thomas added 13, but 10 came in the first half. Okpwae also reached double figures with 11 points.

The win was the Crusaders’ ninth road win of the season, and their fourth on the road in the past two weeks. Holy Cross will play four of its last five regular season games in Worcester, starting Friday when they host Lafayette at the Hart Center. (BOX SCORE)

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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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Showdown Sunday

That shindig down in Jacksonville is not the only big game on the schedule today.

In Patriot League basketball, there are two games set to tip well before the Super Bowl pregame show even starts that are well worth a fan's attention.

Holy Cross at American and Bucknell at Lehigh are super matchups in their own right, and each game could say a lot about who will end up hosting in the first two rounds of the Patriot League Tournament, which is now less than four weeks away.

We will be in our nation's capital for that HC-AU game, with plans to file a story and skidaddle back north in time to watch our beloved Iggles. How much of an update, aside from posting the HC-AU story, we do this evening will depend entirely on how far ahead or behind Philly is.

Likewise, how early Monday morning we get the full update posted will be determined entirely by what is commonly known as the hangover factor.

In the meantime, you can catch Army-Navy on CBS. Colgate-Lafayette is also on what the Patriot League continues to try to convince us is national TV (we still are not buying that) on the College Sports Network. The Bucknell-Lehigh game can be heard on the Bison Sports Network (link below).

Holy Cross at American, though, will not be on any place. With the soon-to-be-moved Worcester Ice Cats of the American Hockey League getting precedent on the station that carries the Crusaders, Holy Cross officials decided not to send Bob Fouracre on the road this weekend for what would be an Internet-only broadcast.

Never mind the fact that they sent a crew to do the women's games on the same trip for the same purpose just two weeks ago. The women's game, in Worcester, will be Webcast. Next weekend, roles will be reversed, with the men at home and on the Web and the women on the road and unheard.

Sound backwards? Yeah, we thought so too. I guess making good decisions like those are why athletic department officials make the big bucks.

You can follow the HC -AU, and the rest of the action, using the scoreboards below. All provide live updates at intervals throughout the game. Our experience says which one has the most recent score is pretty much hit or miss, so check them each to see which is the most up to date at any given moment.

Patriot League scoreboards
ESPN | CBS Sportsline | | Yahoo!

Holy Cross at American, 1 p.m.: A win in this one puts Holy Cross in the drivers seat. With four of its last five at home, and a two-game lead on whomever is in third after today, the Crusaders would be pretty much a lock for a top two finish and a homecourt edge in the first two rounds. Especially since this would give them a sweep over AU, an important tiebreaker.

It will not come easy, though. American has been playing well, winning three straight and seven of its last eight. The lone loss, an 80-56 shellacking in that snow-delayed game at Worcester, probably means nothing today, other than as a motivational factor.

It would be tough to expect HC to blow the Eagles out again. Especially not with center Nate Lufkin's status questionable after spraining an ankle at Navy Friday night. Holy Cross' offense, which rolled up six straight 50-percent shooting nights in a recent stretch has been held in check the last two games. It's also hard to imagine AU winning the game if it turns into a defensive battle. That would be playing into the Crusaders hands. Tempo will be the key for AU.
HC notes | AU Notes | USA Today matchup | No radio

Bucknell at Lehigh, 1 p.m.: Pat Flannery returned to the Bison bench Friday night and the Bison returned to form, snapping their two-game losing streak in a 20-point romp at Lafayette.

Lehigh, though, is no Lafayette. The Mountain Hawks are still smarting from a loss two weeks ago at Bucknell in a game they had plenty of chances to win.

This is pretty much a must-win for Lehigh if it wants to be at Stabler to start the tournament. Likewise, Bucknell cannot afford to stumble here if they want to win the regular season title. We like Bucknell's matchups with the Mountain Hawks. They seem to us to have an edge at four of the five positions, and the one were Lehigh holds a slight advantage, Earl Nurse over John Clark at the four, is negated by the fact that neither is a guy who is going to win a game for you. Bucknell's deeper bench is also an edge.

But Lehigh is at home, and their defense will be an equalizing factor. If Bucknell falls into its habits of last weekend, settling for jump shots instead of running its offense, the Mountain Hawks are certainly good enough to take advantage.
Bucknell notes | Lehigh notes | USA Today matchup | Bucknell radio

Colgate at Lafayette, 7 p.m.: Can Lafayette snap out of its doldrums and challenge Colgate for fifth place? Only if A) they take care of the ball for a change and B) Colgate's jumpers don't fall.
Lafayette notes | Colgate notes | USA Today matchup | Gametracker | 'Gate radio

Army at Navy, 7 p.m.: It's the Star game, which is a big deal to the academies. And it is on CBS, making it arguably the only actual national broadcast of a Patriot League game other than the tournament final.

But you'd have a hard time finding anyone outside of Annapolis and West Point who cares. How Navy lost the first time is beyond us. But right now, the Mids are by far the superior team. Only a complete letdown after the near-upset of Holy Cross Friday would give the Black Knights a chance. And with the Mids playing Army, that is not going to happen.

By the way, check the post below for a good piece on Army.
Navy notes | Army notes (pdf) | USA Today matchup | Live Stats | Navy Radio

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Woe is Army

Justin Rodriguez, of the Times Herald-Record ponders a question we asked a couple weeks back:
Can any basketball coach win at Army?

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Saturday, February 12, 2005
Friday night results

Give Paul Evans an assist
Friday, February 11, 2005
HC 68, Lafayette 62 (Women)

Not just the mainstreamers

Not ready for prime time

Bison host after school special

We got yer bubble right here
Thursday, February 10, 2005
We beg to differ

From the desk(top) of Coach Willard

Pitchers and catchers report
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Holy Cross at-large talk won't stop

Where are they now (Lafayette edition)
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
More props for the 'Saders

2-bid conspiracy theory won't die

Official league stuff

Kids these days

KHam earns honor
Monday, February 07, 2005
Crusaders all alone at the top

Holy Cross 76, American 67

Hoop Time notebook
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Showdown Sunday

Woe is Army

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