Saders Sting Bison for Eighth Patriot League Victory
Published: Friday, February 14, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 17, 2014 15:02
Coach Milan Brown entered Sunday afternoon’s game with a 2-6 record versus Bucknell since he has been at the helm of the Men’s Basketball program for the past four seasons. In fact, the Crusaders have not defeated the formidable Patriot League rival since Winter Homecoming of the 2011-2012 season. Nevertheless, Justin Burrell and company snapped the 3 game skid to the Bison with a decisive double digit victory at the packed Hart Center and on national television, provided by CBS Sports.
The momentum of the first half swayed to the Holy Cross side quickly due to a ferocious slam dunk by Taylor Abt. The 6’8” Junior, who has been in-and-out of the starting rotation, sparked the Crusaders with his emphatic post-slam battle-cry that amplified throughout the Hart Center. From that point on, the Crusaders did not look back, cruising to a 66-50 victory with a clear home court advantage.
The Crusaders played a solid forty minutes as a collective unit with strong man-to-man defense and timely scoring with 13 second chance points. Although only up by six points at halftime, the Saders pulled ahead by as much as 21 in the second half, coasting to a critical Patriot League win. Burrell led all scorers by dropping a season-high 19 points, including 50% shooting from beyond the arc. Malcolm Miller also added 14 points, along with two emphatic swats, thereby confirming his consistently helpful presence for the Saders. Sophomore Eric Green scooped up several offensive rebounds and manufactured points with a shifty reverse lay-up and a smooth fade away jumper just below the right free-throw elbow.
The Crusaders won by dominating in all facets of the game, including locking up several loose balls for jump-balls, much to the annoyance of the Bison. Also, the Crusaders exuded their creativity, when at one point in the second half, Cullen Hamilton was set to inbounds the basketball. Instead of dumping it short, Hamilton heaved the ball down court to a streaking Malcolm Miller who caught the ball and lit up the Hart Center with a high octane dunk. Eric Green also delivered an exciting dunk that erupted the Sader Faithful. Furthermore in the second half, Dave Dudzinski blocked a Bucknell shot and trailed down the floor in transition; when he received a pass at the top of the three point arc, he hit nothing but nylon.
After the game, when asked about the flurry of dunks, Coach Brown replied, “It does get us revved up on the defensive end… it almost makes our attack mentality go through the roof.” In other words, the slams provided not only a spectacle for the crowd, but served as the basis for maintaining momentum in the double digit victory over a historic Patriot League rival from start to finish.
Although the Crusaders soared through the Hart Center en route to plenty of slam dunks, the team demonstrated their defensive prowess by holding Bucknell to only fifty points. More impressively, the Saders forced the Bison to shoot 7 for 27 from the field in the second half, and held their best player, Cameron Ayers, to zero points in the second half. Star Senior Dudzinski brought down 12 boards, blocked three shots, and added nine points for a well-rounded performance.
Cullen Hamilton, who has struggled to regain his play as a leading scorer on the squad due to his lingering knee injury, robbed Bucknell Star Cameron Ayers of the ball. In the next swoop, Hamilton’s turnover produced an offensive opportunity for the Crusaders, and more importantly, emphasized the sophomore’s grit and determination in spite of an ailing knee. The game was littered with examples of high energy efforts that make the Crusaders a dangerous team to play against in the latter part of the conference schedule. Plays such as these exhibit how the Crusaders have truly bought into Coach Brown’s philosophy of playing mentally tough with a keen sense of togetherness that results in players putting their bodies literally on the ground for the sake of their team.
The Crusaders will have hosted Army this past Wednesday February 12th in hopes of continuing their exceptional play at home with a 6-2 record at the Hart. Tomorrow, on Saturday, February 15th, the squad will travel to Lehigh in hopes to beat the Mountain Hawks for the second time this season.
With the Patriot League schedule winding down, the Crusaders find themselves in a favorable position atop the standings due to their combination of high flying offense and a tenacious defense. Most importantly, the Holy Cross Men’s basketball team thrives due to their consistently high energy efforts fueled by the leadership of Burrell and Dudzinski. The performance on Sunday may have signaled to the Patriot League the re-emergence of the Crusaders as a prominent league contender, akin to the early 2000s teams that hoisted four Patriot League titles. Only time will tell how this season fares, but most Sader fans are now rallying around this highly likable team that continues to perform and wow the Hart crowd.