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February 25, 2008 Columns No Comments

Crusaders Continue to Bounce Back Against Huskies

by Phil Kasiecki

WORCESTER, Mass. – Holy Cross has had to do all season long what they did on Saturday. They had to gut it out through injuries and bounce back, and they did so with a 61-47 win over Northeastern that wasn’t as close as the final score suggests.

The Crusaders lost a tough game at Navy a few nights earlier, and with it any hope of finishing in second place in the Patriot League. Third place is still a possibility, although they will need some help. While Saturday’s game doesn’t directly help to that end, it still had its positives.

“It’s good to see the guys respond after a pretty heart-breaking loss at Navy,” said senior center Tim Clifford, who led the way with 26 points (13-16 shooting) and had four blocked shots. “We felt like we did a lot of good things in that game, and obviously we did some very costly things, so that was a painful one. It was good to see everyone, instead of getting down, respond positively and play focused at least defensively.”

The Crusaders dominated inside, with Clifford and Greg McCarthy (11 points on 5-7 shooting, 6 rebounds) leading the way. They had a 40-20 edge in points in the paint, although they did surrender 16 offensive rebounds. That’s where the Huskies’ athleticism inside gave them problems, but that was also the only area where that was the case.

Northeastern never got anything going offensively, struggling to score in the halfcourt. That’s happened several times against Holy Cross in recent years, as the Crusaders’ defense always seems to have the Huskies’ number. On Saturday, the Huskies shot under 29 percent from the field and had six turnovers.

The Crusaders had 19 turnovers of their own, which points to the offense being a concern. Clifford has carried the team of late, as he also had a career-high 34 points in the loss at Navy, but he can’t do it alone and someone has to get him the ball. Pat Doherty hasn’t been able to practice due to a strained Achilles’ tendon, and Ralph Willard noted the role of that in the team’s execution.

“I can’t say enough about Pat, because he’s out there on one leg, gutting his way through it,” said the Crusaders’ head coach. “It’s an amazing testament to his character and his competitiveness.”

The Crusaders were without Alex Vander Baan, whose back continues to be a problem. Willard said his play will be managed the rest of the way, as he can play but has some days where he can barely walk. Over the course of the season, they’ve had to go at times without Doherty, Vander Baan, Eric Meister, Andrew Keister (rotator cuff), Lawrence Dixon (knee) and Adam May (wrist).

All season long, the Crusaders have had to battle through injuries and adversity. They’ve responded at times, like on Saturday, and now hope to do so more in the next few weeks.

“Whenever you face adversity, you’ve got to respond to it,” said Clifford.

Other Notable Games

Tennessee 66, Memphis 62: The most highly-anticipated game in quite a while lived up to its hype, with the Volunteers pulling out the big road win.

Villanova 67, Connecticut 65: The Wildcats get a much-needed win and snap the Huskies’ 10-game winning streak.

West Virginia 80, Providence 53: The Mountaineers are still in play for an NCAA at-large bid, holding serve at home with this one.

Indiana 85, Northwestern 82: The Hoosiers win the first game in the post-Kelvin Sampson era, holding off the Wildcats.

UCLA 75, Oregon 65: This doesn’t help the Ducks, who are now 6-9 in the Pac-10.

Arizona 65, Washington State 55: A big road win for the Wildcats to move to 7-7 in the Pac-10.

Arizona State 77, Washington 63: The Sun Devils get a big road win and improve to 7-7 in the Pac-10.

Oklahoma State 61, Kansas 60: It’s been a tough season for the Cowboys, but Byron Eaton came through with 26 points to lead them to this win.

Nebraska 65, Texas A&M 59: Just call Nebraska the spoilers, as they knocked off Kansas State earlier in the week as well.

Baylor 92, Kansas State 86: The Bears try to keep their NCAA at-large hopes alive with a big win over the Wildcats despite 44 points and 13 rebounds from Michael Beasley.

Vanderbilt 86, Georgia 74: The Commodores have come alive with six straight wins after a rough stretch early in SEC play.

Kentucky 63, Arkansas 58: This was a game the Wildcats needed to have, coming at home against a team with a good chance at the NCAA Tournament.

Mississippi State 61, South Carolina 56 (OT): The Bulldogs go up two games in the SEC West, opposite Arkansas’ loss at Kentucky.

Virginia Tech 92, Georgia Tech 84: The young Hokies are trying to keep themselves in the hunt for an at-large bid, and this win certainly helps.

Miami 78, Maryland 63: The Hurricanes are doing what the Hokies are as they continue to come alive of late.

Drake 71, Butler 64: Probably the most highly-anticipated BracketBusters matchup goes to the road team. If Drake wasn’t in lock status for the NCAA Tournament before this game, they are now.

Kent State 65, Saint Mary’s 57: The biggest win of the day by a BracketBusters team, the Golden Flashes put themselves very much in the at-large discussion with this win.

New Mexico 72, Utah 71: Quietly, the Lobos have reached the 22-win mark and are in the hunt in the Mountain West with a 9-4 mark.

Creighton 65, Oral Roberts 64: One of the best BracketBusters games of the day that few, if any, will talk about.

VCU 57, Akron 52: The Rams get a key win to try to hang on to hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament should they not win the CAA.

Vermont 84, UNC Wilmington 73: This was quite the road win for the Catamounts, who had to bus all the way to Wilmington after a flight was cancelled.

Southern Illinois 74, Nevada 49: It was sure to be tough for the Wolfpack to win in Carbondale, but a blowout loss like this is a surprise.

Cornell 74, Brown 65: With this win, the Big Red all but lock up the Ivy League. They lead Brown by three games with four to play and swept the Bears.

Robert Morris 74, Wagner 52: The Colonials win a big Northeast showdown and are a game up in the standings.

IUPUI 88, IPFW 81 (OT): The Jaguars stay in the hint for the regular season Summit title, but they still need a lot of help.

Utah Valley State 76, NJIT 50: The Highlanders finish the season 0-29 despite their best efforts every night.


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