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Holy Cross Trendspotting

13 December, 2006

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The numbers: 6-3, 37th RPI, 95th Sagarin, 124th Pomeroy
The recent results: lost 57-45 at Duke (12/06)
The upcoming schedule: at Providence (12/19), George Mason (12/21)

Simmons leading the way
He was expected to pick up the slack for the departed Kevin Hamilton, and so far Keith Simmons has not disappointed. He’s averaging 17.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game, number’s very close to Hamilton’s averages of 17.6, 6.3 and 3.3 last year. Simmons is taking 28.3 percent of Holy Cross’s shots, again very close to Hamilton’s number of 28.6 percent last year. Simmons has been able to take Hamilton’s role of go-to scorer and defensive stopper without suffering any loss of production.

Swarming ‘Saders
As always, Ralph Willard’s team is playing excellent defense. Opponents are shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 34.2 percent on three-pointers. The Crusaders are averaging 9.2 steals and 4.2 blocks per game. Just as fans have come to expect, Holy Cross’s tough defense should keep them in every game this year.

Meisterville, USA
Eric Meister continues to be the only freshman Crusader to get regular playing time, drawing 15.0 minutes per game and playing in every Holy Cross game so far. Meister has been effective from the floor, bulling his way to 55.6 percent field goal shooting, mostly in the post. He’s also shown some defensive usefulness, totalling 28 points, 6 blocks and 7 steals in his 9 games played. With Greg McCarthy having a less effective start to the season (35.3 field goal percentage), Meister should continue to establish himself as the first frontcourt player off the bench.

Long range blues
After shooting 36.6 percent for three last year, the Crusaders have dropped to 31.3 percent from the arc this year. Simmons played the role of sharpshooter second option last year (47.6 percent from the arc), and Holy Cross has no one to do that this year. Simmons, while focusing on his driving shots, is 30.8 percent for three; Pat Doherty is 34.4 percent and Torey Thomas 34.8 percent. Colin Cunningham and Lawrence Dixon are candidates to fill the spot of long-range threat off the bench, but neither one has gotten enough minutes to find out if they can do that.

Clifford walks the line
Through nine games, center Tim Clifford is 20-for-21 from the free throw line. It’s not a shock that Clifford is better than most centers from the line (76.2 percent last season), but if he keeps hitting free throws at his current rate he will be incredibly difficult to stop in Patriot League play. Because Clifford is so big and powerful, for some teams fouling him is the only way to stop him. If he keeps hitting his free throws, Holy Cross can put other teams in foul trouble without giving up points at the line.

Imbalanced schedule
Holy Cross played four of its first five games at the Hart Center. Since then, they’ve hit the road four times and play six more non-conference games away from campus. (The George Mason game is considered a home game, taking place at the DCU Center.) In the days before New Year’s, the Crusaders head to Philadelphia for the Explorer Classic hosted by LaSalle. The road schedule is rough, but for a team with legitimate NCAA/NIT aspirations, the RPI bump makes it worth it.

Injury report
Doherty fractured his hand in practice, according to coach Willard, and will be out 4 to 6 weeks. Willard said he will look at Vander Baan at the 3 and using the freshmen more often in the frontcourt. Dixon has nagging pain stemming from his knee surgery in the offseason, and Simmons suffered a knee sprain at Duke last week. It’s not expected that these two injuries will have long-term implications for the team.

Statistical odds and ends
– Andrew Keister got his first significant action at Duke, getting 4 points and 3 rebounds in 12 minutes, while committing 3 personal fouls. He will see increased playing time with Pat Doherty’s injury.

– Torey Thomas continues to fill up the stat book as he did last year. He’s averaging 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game.

– After getting 11 minutes per game in the first four games of the year, McCarthy has played sparingly since. The tallest player on Holy Cross, McCarthy averaged 2.5 points and 1.3 rebounds per game in those first four games.

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