Chief Sports Editor
The Holy Cross men’s basketball team (1-2) fell to reigning National Champion runner-up #16 Michigan last Saturday night in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Crusaders entered the showdown, part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, coming off a season-opening 93-81 convincing victory over Sacred Heart. The Wolverines (2-0) came into the game on the heels of a 63-44 home win over Norfolk State. Despite racing out to a halftime lead, Holy Cross was overpowered by Michigan in the second half and fell 56-37.
After Michigan opened up an early 9-5 lead on their home floor in the opening minutes, Holy Cross answered with a 13-5 run, powered by a pair of threes from sophomore forward Connor Niego. The Wolverines responded with a 7-0 run of their own, but the Crusaders finished out the half strong to take a 24-18 advantage into halftime.
After Holy Cross managed to hang around with its Big Ten foe for the first half, Michigan opened the game up in the first ten minutes of the second half. The Wolverines hit on their first seven shots out of the break and outscored the Crusaders 24-6 to establish a 20 point lead midway through the second period. First-year forward Ignas Bradzeikis, who finished with a career-high 19 points, scored 15 of those in the first five minutes of the second half to power Michigan’s onslaught. Holy Cross managed to cut the lead to ten at one point, but the Wolverines pulled away and cruised to a 19 point win on their home floor.
The Wolverine defense overwhelmed the Crusaders at times last Saturday night. Holy Cross committed 16 turnovers to Michigan’s nine, many of them coming on shot-clock violations on possessions in which the Crusaders could not get a shot off. For the game, Holy Cross shot 31% from the field (29% from three-point range) and managed to earn just three free throw attempts, only making one of them. Niego led the Crusaders with 13 points off the bench, while sophomore guard Jacob Grandison was the only other double-digit scorer with 12. Michigan was led by Bradzeikis and senior guard Charles Matthews, who poured in 20 points.
This weekend, the Crusaders square off against Stony Point on Friday night in Uncasville, Conn., and then take on either Norfolk State or Siena the following night to cap off the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.