March isn’t even a week old in 2016, and the college basketball world has experienced its fair share of madness already. One day after the Austin Peay Governors secured their place in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Ohio Valley Conference as an 8-seed, the college basketball world may be witnessing the next Cinderella team.
The Holy Cross Crusaders.
Coming into the Patriot League tournament, the Crusaders were the 9-seed after finishing the regular season with a 5-13 conference record. They took down the Loyola (MD) Greyhounds in the opening round, then upset the top-seeded Bucknell Bison in the quarter-finals.
With the win over Bucknell, the Crusaders were off to the semi-finals to take on the Army West Point Black Knights. After struggling early on in conference play, Army is finally healthy and has started to play some strong basketball when it matters most.
Army came out flat, and the Crusaders took full advantage. Playing on the road didn’t intimidate Holy Cross in the slightest, and they led from start to finish on the afternoon.
The Holy Cross Crusaders are off to the Patriot League championship game after their 60-38 win over the Army West Point Black Knights.
Holy Cross opened the game on a 10-0 run, keeping the Black Knights off the scoreboard for over 3 minutes to start the game. Anthony Thompson capped off the run with a three pointer at the 16:58 mark of the half.
Army got on the board at the 16:45 mark, on a three pointer from Kyle Wilson.
As the half ticked on, the Crusaders would build on their lead, stretching it to 12 points on three different occasions before the 7-minute mark. Robert Champion hit a three pointer with 7:01 to play to push the Crusaders’ lead to 24-12.
The Black Knights would continue to fight as the first half came to a close, cutting the deficit down to as little as 5 points. Tanner Plomb hit a pair of free throws to bring Army to within 28-23, but Holy Cross responded to stretch their advantage back to 8 before the half was out.
Holy Cross opened the second half on a 9-3 run, capped off by Karl Charles connecting on a three pointer, to extend their lead to 14. The Crusaders had the Black Knights down for the count, and never let up as the game ticked along.
After Larry Toomey hit a layup to make the score 43-31, the Crusaders reeled off another run to put the game to rest. An 8-0 run extended the Crusaders’ lead to 20, and they kept Army off the scoreboard for over 6 minutes.
From start to finish, the outcome of the game was never in question. Holy Cross dominated on both ends of the floor, keeping Army’s star players under wraps, using a strong defensive presence to lead them to victory.
The 9th-seed Holy Cross Crusaders went on the road and upset the 4th-ranked Army West Point Black Knights to secure their spot in the Patriot League championship game, 60-38.
The duo of Malachi Alexander and Robert Champion led the way for the Holy Cross Crusaders, who won their third game in six days. Alexander chipped in with 13 points and 7 rebounds, while Champion scored a game-high 15 points to go along with 6 rebounds.
As a team, the Crusaders shot 22-of-56 (39.3%) from the floor, and 9-of-25 (36.0%) from three point range.
Army’s starters did the majority of the damage on the afternoon, as their bench players only recorded 1 point combined. Kyle Wilson scored a team-high 12 points, while Tanner Plomb added 11 points and 9 rebounds in the loss.
The Black Knights were limited to just 12-of-53 (22.6%) from the floor on the afternoon.
With the win, the Holy Cross Crusaders (13-19, 5-13) are off to the Patriot League championship on March 9th. The Crusaders will take on either the American U. Eagles or the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.
The loss ends the Army West Point Black Knights’ (19-13, 9-9) chances of making it to the NCAA Tournament. All season long, they looked like a top contender to win the conference tournament title. With 19 wins to their credit this season, they will be considered for either the CBI or CIT fields, so the post-season could still be a reality for the program.