Crusaders' `D' stuffs Eagles.
WORCESTER - Holy Cross played well in back-to-back victories against Lafayette and Army two weeks ago and the Crusaders seemed poised for their first extended winning streak of the year. Losses to Bucknell and Navy, though, ended it in a hurry.
As the Crusaders enter the last week of the regular season, they still believe they have a late-season run left in them.
"We know we can win any game in the Patriot League," junior forward Andrew Keister said after HC's 64-51 win over American yesterday at the Hart Center. "We'd love to get some momentum going for the league tournament and keep it going."
For the third time in five games HC held an opponent to less than 60 points. The Eagles shot 39 percent from the floor.
"We know the only way we win is playing defense," HC junior guard Andrew Beinert said.
At 5-7 in the league and with two regular-season games left, Holy Cross still has a chance at a top-four seed and first-round home playoff game.
Keister posted his second straight double-double and 11th of the year. He scored 15 points and tied a career high with 18 rebounds.
"There's not a question in my mind he's the finest rebounder in our league," Holy Cross coach Sean Kearney said, "and when he's getting to balls like that it gives our team great confidence. I couldn't be more pleased with his effort."
Starting in place of the injured R.J. Evans, sophomore guard Devin Brown scored 16 points, 10 from the free throw line. Evans was sidelined because of a hip injury suffered in last week's game at Bucknell. He is questionable for Wednesday's home game against Colgate.
Freshman guard Dee Goens contributed 10 points off the bench. Beinert had eight points and four assists, including a no-look beauty to senior center Eric Meister along the baseline late in the game.
American big guys Vlad Moldoveanu and Stephen Lumpkins combined for 37 points and 23 rebounds in the Eagles' 71-64 win over HC at Bender Arena in January. Holy Cross held the duo to a more reasonable 23-10 combined line yesterday.
"They had great numbers against us and I challenged our whole team," Kearney said, "but I think our big guys really took that as a personal challenge. They shared a terrific effort."
Kearney praised Meister's work in the back of the zone and was also pleased with freshman forward Eric Obeysekere's 13 minutes. Midway through the second half, Obeysekere swatted away a shot by Lumpkins. Obeysekere was called for a foul and Lumpkins made two free throws to cut HC's 11-point halftime lead to five, but the play really seemed to fire up the Crusaders.
"EO gives tremendous energy off the bench," Keister said.
Stopping Moldoveanu, who is averaging 19.8 points and scored 20 against HC in the teams' first meeting of the year, was a priority. He finished with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting.
"Definitely the No 1. key was having great awareness for (Moldoveanu)," Keister said. "Sometimes during year we've let the other team's best player beat us at times. Today we had great awareness. We tried to keep him uncomfortable and I think he got out of a rhythm."
Led by Beinert, who scored six points, HC opened the game with a 12-3 run and led by as many as 13 in the first half after a Keister follow with 5:25 left. The Crusaders shot 50 percent from the floor in the first.
Lumpkins' free throws made it 41-36 with 11:51 to play, but Goens helped push the lead back up to nine with a driving layup and jumper. After Simon McCormack made a layup with 9:03 left, American went more than seven minutes without a field goal. The Crusaders built the lead to 15 with 2:04 left.
HC committed a season-low six turnovers.
"I think it was our most efficient day on both ends of the floor," Kearney said.
Senior Adam May is out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his right foot. May, who hasn't played since HC's game at Colgate on Jan.27, averaged 2.7 points and 1.6 rebounds off the bench.
NAME: COLLEGE OF THE HOLY CROSS
CUTLINE: (1) Holy Cross' Dee Goens is fouled by American's Joe Hill on a drive to the hoop. (2) Holy Cross' Andrew Beinert pleads his case to the referee who calls a held ball following a scramble at mid-court.
PHOTOG: JOHN FERRARONE