Billy Fitzpatrick ’20
Chief Sports Editor
The Holy Cross Men’s Basketball team split a pair of Patriot League contests last week to remain in a tie for seventh in the league standings with a third of the conference schedule remaining before the Patriot League Tournament kicks off on March 5. Last Wednesday, the Crusaders (13-12 overall, 4-8 PL) avenged an earlier loss to Army by securing a comfortable home win over the Black Knights. However, Holy Cross could not carry the momentum on the road in a close loss to struggling Lafayette.
Holy Cross put together a signature defensive performance against Army (11-14 overall, 6-6 PL) to snap a two-game skid and earn an important 56-42 victory over a middle-of-the-pack Patriot League foe. After the two teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of contest, HC opened up a 13-6 lead halfway through the first period. The Crusaders led by as much as nine in the first half before Army cut into the deficit, leaving Holy Cross with a 25-19 advantage at the half.
Sophomore forward Jacob Grandison quickly scored out of the gates to start the second half, but Army responded with a 10-0 run to claim its first lead of the game early in the second half. The game was very much in the balance halfway through the second period, but a 7-0 run powered by five points from sophomore guard Austin Butler put Holy Cross ahead 41-35. The Crusaders would never relinquish the lead again, using a stout defensive performance to cruise to a 16-point victory.
In the low-scoring affair, Butler paced HC with 14 points and ten rebounds, his team-leading third double-double of the season. Grandison, the Crusaders’ leading scorer, reached his season average with 14 points of his own to go along with four boards, three assists, and three steals. Senior forward Jehyve Floyd chipped in ten points, three assists, two rebounds, and three blocks. The 42 points allowed and 26 percent shooting by Army were season-bests for the Crusader defense, and the 20 forced turnovers tied a season-high mark.
The Crusaders then traveled to Easton, Pennsylvania, to take on fellow Patriot League basement-dwellers Lafayette. In a game that could have large implications for seeding in next month’s conference tournament, in which the top six seeds get a first-round bye, Holy Cross suffered a heartbreaking 69-67 defeat to the Leopards (7-16 overall, 4-8 PL). The loss puts Holy Cross and Lafayette in a four-way tie for seventh place in the league standings along with Loyola (Md.) and Boston University, entering the week of February 11-17.
In contrast to Holy Cross’ low-scoring grit-fest against Army, both Lafayette and its visitors came out firing in the first half last Sunday. Nine minutes in, the Crusaders held a 24-23 lead, but the Leopards went on a 14-0 run over the next five minutes to establish a 13-point cushion. Holy Cross hung around the rest of the first half and trailed by 12, 47-35, at the intermission. The Crusaders allowed more points in the first half of this contest than they did in the entire game against Army, illustrating just how crucial home-court advantage is for this Holy Cross team.
Holy Cross cut the Lafayette lead to five early in the second half and then used an 8-0 spurt to go ahead 57-54 with nine minutes remaining. A few minutes later, however, Lafayette answered with an 8-0 run of its own to go up 65-59. Holy Cross battled back to tie the game at 67 with less than a minute to go thanks to a pair of free throws from Butler. Lafayette guard Justin Jaworski sank two free throws with 4.7 seconds remaining to take the late lead, and sophomore guard Caleb Green’s last-second floater fell short as Lafayette earned an important 69-67 win.
While Holy Cross shot well from the field, it made just five of 12 free throw attempts on the afternoon. In contrast, Lafayette shot 13-16 from the charity stripe, including Jaworski’s two in the final seconds to seal the win for the Leopards. Jaworski led all scorers with 18, while Floyd led the Crusaders with 17 and eight rebounds. Butler and Grandison were both below their season averages, notching 12 and ten points, respectively.
Holy Cross faces an uphill battle to vie for a favorable seed for the Patriot League Tournament next month. While four of the Crusaders’ remaining six games are at home, five of them are against teams currently in the top four of the conference standings, including two against third-place Colgate. HC hosts Patriot League leaders Bucknell this Saturday, but travels to second-place Lehigh next weekend. The Crusaders will have to capitalize on home games against Boston University and American in the coming weeks if they have any shot at earning a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Photo courtesy of GoHolyCross.com