Billy Fitzpatrick ’20
Chief Sports Editor
With the first day of spring officially here, let’s take a look back at the Holy Cross men’s basketball season before we switch out the hardwood for the baseball diamond for the next several months.
The Holy Cross men’s basketball team (16-17 overall, 6-12 Patriot League) got off to a promising start to the season during the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Crusaders held halftime leads in road contests against both Michigan and Providence, split a pair of games against Atlantic 10 opponents (won at UMass, lost to Rhode Island), and beat Fairleigh Dickinson (a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament) by 18 in December. Holy Cross also topped MAAC champion Iona (another 16-seed) by seven on the road.
After playing to a 10-5 record in 2018, the flip of the calendar brought adversity for the Crusaders. Sophomore forward and key rotation piece Connor Niego (13 points against Michigan) was lost for the season after appearing in the team’s first ten games. Head coach Bill Carmody stopped traveling with the team for most road games to be with his wife, Barbara, as she underwent cancer treatment. The Crusaders lost five Patriot League games by five points or less, including an overtime home defeat to Lehigh that came after HC built up a 12-point halftime advantage.
The Crusaders finished last in the Patriot League standings, but only trailed fourth-place American by three games. Holy Cross proved its mettle with wins over Bucknell (2nd in the Patriot League) and Lehigh (3rd in the PL) and a close loss to Colgate (regular season and conference tournament champions).
HC traveled to Bethlehem, Penn., to take on 7-seed Lafayette in the play-in round of the Patriot League Tournament. The two teams split a pair of regular season meetings with the home team prevailing in each contest. The Crusaders took the season series and advanced to the Patriot League quarterfinal round with a 79-74 road win over the Leopards. Sophomore forward Jacob Grandison paced Holy Cross with 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, while senior forward Jehyve Floyd posted 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two blocks.
Holy Cross then made the two-hour journey west to Lewisburg, Penn., to take on the 2-seed Bucknell Bison. The Crusaders’ season would end there, however, with Bucknell pulling away in the second half to secure the 77-65 win. HC held a five-point lead with just under 15 minutes remaining, but the Bison went on a storming 21-5 lead over the next five minutes to take control of the game and never looked back.
Congratulations to Floyd on being named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, just second player in conference history to win the award twice. He was also selected to the All-Patriot League second team as well as the league’s All-Defensive Team. He set a program record for blocks in a season with 80 this year. Floyd also finished his career as the all-time conference leader in field goal percentage (65.6%). Across Division 1, Floyd was 13th in the nation in blocks (2.42 per game) and fourth in field goal percentage (66.9%), behind only Brandon Clarke of Gonzaga, Zion Williamson of Duke, and Scottie James of Liberty.
Congratulations to the senior class of Pat Benzan, Floyd, Marcellis Perkins, and Matt Zignorski on accomplished careers, including an Patriot League Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016.
Holy Cross brings back a strong nucleus for next year’s team, led by Grandison, Caleb Green, Austin Butler, Niego, Matt Faw, and Kyle Copeland (all currently sophomores).