Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

For Holy Cross, the mentality makes a big difference

January 22, 2014 Columns No Comments

WORCESTER, Mass. – It’s all about the mentality at Holy Cross of late. The last week has seen two good wins and the team play good basketball to get there, and with it a commensurate confidence boost. While there’s still a hill to climb, the Crusaders look to be in a good place in terms of how they are going about everything.

Holy Cross has had to deal with injuries, and while they haven’t had to as much as some teams have, they have had to adjust a good deal along the way. They had to go without Cullen Hamilton early on due to a knee injury, and just when he appeared to be coming into his own he then came back and aggravated it. They had to shut him down for a stretch so he can heal enough to play the rest of the season.

As much as anything, this team’s press and halfcourt defensive pressure was going to be a key to success. Without Hamilton, they have used a smaller but quicker lineup and at times a more defensive-minded one with Eric Green getting more minutes alongside Malcolm Miller. They rallied from a 14-point deficit to win at Army last week, then on Saturday shut down Lehigh after the Mountain Hawks got off to a good start, holding them to 36 points in the final 36 minutes of the game.

“That was a huge shot in the arm, to be down 14 points and come back like that,” head coach Milan Brown said of the win at Army. “As the season goes, you’re always building momentum, and sometimes it gets stopped. Our momentum mainly got stopped by injuries. I think the guys have gotten accustomed to playing with the lineups the way they have.”

Brown said they have to give their pressure some time in each game. It’s not going to create a turnover or contested shot on every possession, but if they do it enough they can start to wear teams down and figure out how they are attacking it. It took a few minutes on Saturday, but Lehigh shot under 27 percent from the field in the first half and never got going in the second half.

“We made a couple of good plays, and once the ball went through the basket, we were able to set our full-court pressure up, which always helps us,” said Brown.

Besides Hamilton, junior point guard Justin Burrell has missed three games and freshman Robert Champion is currently sidelined as well. Taylor Abt has played through nagging injuries, and big man Dave Dudzinski has taken a pounding all season long but continues to compete and produce.

Miller has long been the team’s X-factor. He has the length to be a good defender, and he’s continued to do that. Offensively, when he’s aggressive he can score all day, as he’s athletic, can shoot over defenders and can create opportunities without much effort. Saturday was his fourth straight double-digit scoring game, as he scored 14 points on 5-8 shooting. It’s no accident that the Crusaders have won three of those four games.

“The coaches have been telling me to attack a lot more,” said Miller. “I’ve been trying to get an aggressive mindset and find shots for myself and find shots for my teammates.”

It goes along with what the team has been trying to do. With freshman Anthony Thompson joining Burrell in the starting lineup of late, the Crusaders are very small in the backcourt but also very quick. They have to make up for their size with how they play, and they have to be aggressive with their pressure. They wanted to press coming into the season, and now there’s more urgency for that.

Thompson and Malachi Alexander have helped pick up the slack with Hamilton out. In between the injuries, Hamilton has blossomed after a freshman year where he showed promise but didn’t shoot as well as he’s capable of. Thompson has emerged with a bigger role, and Alexander is one of the best freshmen in the Patriot League. Alexander had a stretch where he struggled, but appears to be playing through that and is being more effective again. The staff has worked with him on having ways to score that he can go to all the time, and that along with realizing he has to play through the long season has made a difference. He had 13 points on 5-7 shooting on Saturday, along with four rebounds, two assists and no turnovers.

“The second game of his college career, he had 23 points and ten rebounds, so he probably thought college is easy, and it’s not,” Brown said of Alexander. “It’s good to see him step up and make plays and play the way he’s capable of playing, and I also think it helps that his buddy Anthony has played well, too. Both of those guys have done a good job.”

Holy Cross started league play at Boston University, then played American at home. Those two schools are tied atop the league. Road games at Bucknell and Army are never easy, but they won the latter and are now 3-3 in league play heading into a trip to Lafayette on Wednesday night. The Crusaders appear to know what they have in terms of personnel and how to play with it, and if they get Hamilton back and maintain the mentality they have now, they could certainly be a factor in the league race come late February.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, the business of college sports, as well as that of sports media, takes center stage. We talk about the layoffs at ESPN, college basketball’s opening night, and Wichita State’s departure from the Missouri Valley Conference. We close with thoughts on a departed friend of the media business as well.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 11, 2017

April 11, 2017 by

In our first off-season edition, we look back on the season that just ended, including redemption for one team and a big development for a conference that has had more questions than success on the hardwood. We also look at players coming and going, as well as big coaching news on a day where there was a lot of it.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 3, 2017

April 4, 2017 by

We look back at Monday’s national championship game, which was not a thing of beauty but had plenty of drama. Along the way we share some post-game quotes from both coaches.

College Basketball Tonight – April 2, 2017

April 3, 2017 by

In our Final Four special edition, three head coaches join us to offer their insights on the Final Four, as well as their own programs.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 2, 2017

April 2, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about the national semifinal contests and then look ahead to an intriguing matchup for the national championship that is ahead of us on Monday night.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale preview

June 24, 2016 by

We look ahead to the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, held at a familiar location in Boston.

At the 2016 Boston Shootout, host BABC has a big day

June 8, 2016 by

Sunday was a big day for the host program at the 44th Boston Shootout