Billy Fitzpatrick ’20
Chief Sports Editor
The Holy Cross men’s basketball team (6-3) has gotten off to a strong start this season while playing a challenging non-conference schedule. The Crusaders traveled to and held halftime leads at both Michigan (undefeated and now ranked #5 in the country) and Providence (a game that was up for grabs in the final minutes). Those performances, albeit losses, set the tone for the level of play that Holy Cross is capable of, and they have hardly disappointed in their games since then. Let’s take a look at how they have been playing in recent weeks.
Stony Brook (Nov. 15 in Uncasville, Conn.)
The Crusaders traveled to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., for a pair of neutral site games as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. Holy Cross set the tone for a productive weekend in this clash, an 84-70 victory over America East foe Stony Brook. Sophomore forward Jacob Grandison, continuing his breakout season, led the way for the Crusaders by flirting with a triple-double, posting 21 points, ten assists, and eight rebounds. Fellow sophomore guard Austin Butler also chipped in 21 points, shooting an efficient eight of ten overall and five of seven from behind the arc. Senior forward Jehyve Floyd filled the box score with ten points, eight rebounds, a career-high seven blocked shots, and five assists. The Crusaders controlled this one almost wire-to-wire, leading by seven at the half, opening up a 20-point advantage in the second half, and winning by 14.
Siena (Nov. 17 in Uncasville, Conn.)
Holy Cross met Siena of the MAAC in the championship game of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the Mohegan Sun, and came away victorious with a 57-45 win. Grandison one-upped his Friday night performance with 24 points to lead the Crusaders to the top of the tournament’s Springfield Bracket. Butler again provided solid production with 12 points, a career-high 11 boards, and five assists. After a back-and-forth first half, the Crusaders led by three heading into the break. Siena started the second period hot, but HC answered with a 14-0 run (ten of those points were scored by Grandison). Holy Cross played with great poise, turning the ball over just five times against constant full-court pressure. The Crusaders led by as much as 15, and came away with a 12-point win. Butler and Grandison were both named to the All-Tournament Team, and Holy Cross improved to 4-1 all-time at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Albany (Nov. 20 in Albany, NY)
The Crusaders were away from home yet again as they traveled to take on the Albany Great Danes in the capital of New York. Holy Cross returned to campus with a well-earned 69-65 overtime win. HC used a pair of explosive runs in the first period to open up a 29-20 halftime lead. For much of the second half, they looked like they were going to close out the game comfortably, leading by as much as 17 and holding a 13-point advantage with just six minutes remaining in the second period. Yet, an Albany 13-0 run coincided with Holy Cross missing seven straight shots to send the game to overtime. Floyd led the Crusaders with seven of his 12 points in the extra period, as HC scored the first eight points of OT, and the Crusaders made five of eight free throws in the final minutes to ensure the victory. Grandison was again the high-scorer with 17, while sophomore guard Caleb Green chipped in 12 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Floyd added another six blocks to make it 18 in this three-game stretch, reminding opponents that he is the reigning Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.
Harvard (Nov. 28 in Cambridge, Mass.)
Holy Cross hopped on the Mass Pike for a showdown against Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., where the Crusaders’ three-game winning streak was snapped with a 73-62 defeat. Grandison continued his strong play with a game-high 21 points, including making all five of his three-point attempts. The Crimson hit their shots (53% from the floor, 45% from three) and outrebounded HC 40-21 to overcome 19 turnovers forced by the Crusaders. After trailing by 19 with eight minutes left in the second half, Holy Cross went on a 12-0 run to cut the Harvard lead to seven with four minutes remaining. However, the Crimson responded with seven unanswered points and earned an 11-point win. The win for Harvard snapped a four-game losing streak against Holy Cross.
Fairleigh Dickinson (Dec. 1 in Worcester, Mass.)
The Crusaders got back to winning ways with a 67-49 win over New Jersey opponent Fairleigh Dickinson in HC’s first home game since the season-opener against Sacred Heart on Nov. 6. In a game where Holy Cross struggled to hit shots, the Crusader defense came up big, limiting the Knights to 30% shooting from the field and 19% from three. Holy Cross also forced 19 Fairleigh Dickinson turnovers. A run by FDU late in the first half gave the visitors a narrow one-point lead at halftime, but the Crusaders opened up a five-point lead with 12 minutes left in the second half. A 16-2 HC run put the game away and allowed the Crusaders to cruise to a comfortable win. It was a balanced offensive attack for Holy Cross, with Butler leading the way with 14 points. Grandison added 13, Floyd scored 12 (in addition to 13 rebounds and six blocks), and Green tallied ten points.
UMass (Dec. 4 in Amherst, Mass.)
Holy Cross earned its biggest win of the season with an 82-78 road victory over Atlantic 10 foe UMass. The hosts led by two at the break and looked like they were pulling away with a 7-0 run to start the second half. However, HC answered with a 10-1 run to tie the game at 48 apiece. The two were still tied with seven minutes to go when the Crusaders went on a 9-0 run to take the lead for good. Key free throw shooting down the stretch (9-12 in the final three minutes) sealed the impressive victory for HC. Grandison again led the the Crusader attack with 20 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Green was solid as ever with 17 points, six assists, four boards, while going 6-6 from the charity stripe in the final minute of play. It was Holy Cross’ first win against UMass since 2001 and the program’s first victory over any A10 opponent since beating St. Joe’s in 2007.
The Crusaders take on another A10 opponent, URI, this Saturday, Dec. 8, at the DCU Center.