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Saints drop game to winless Jaguars

The Holy Cross Saints came into Wednesday night’s game at McKenna Arena looking to rebound from four straight losses following a victory to begin the season. This would be the last game the Saints played at McKenna Arena in Notre Dame until December 10, with five straight games on the road approaching. The game would also represent the Saints’ third game of conference play in CCAC, in which they were winless thus far. Their opponent would be the Governors State Jaguars, a 0-5 team.

Holy Cross came out on fire against the underwhelming Jaguars defense, shooting 57% from the field and 44% from the three point line in the first half. Senior forward Mick Sullivan, a transfer from Quincy University, set a strong pace for the Saints offense. He would ultimately finish the game as the team’s leading scorer with 22 points on 11/14 shooting.

The Saint 42-37 lead going into the second half quickly  evaporated through a combination of revived Jaguar play and an inability for the sloppier Saints team to put the game out of reach. The Jaguars took a slight lead, and the game became a tussle of rebound battles and turnovers. It would be those turnovers which would produce an extra 17 points for the Jaguars, demoralizing the Saints as they tried to battle back. The Saints’ bench also failed to adequately produce compared to GSU, scoring four points to the Jaguars’ 16. It is worth noting Coach McBride chose to only play seven players in this battle while Governors State brought out eleven. 

The Saints continued to shoot the ball efficiently, however, leading to a nail biter. Freshman guard Phil Robles had an opportunity to win the game with a last second three point shot, but just missed the clincher. The Jaguars secured the game 76-74, extending this streak of difficulty for the Saints. Despite out-rebounding the Jaguars 32-26, shooting better from three point range and the free throw line, scoring more points in the paint(38-28) and second chance points(16-7), the Jaguars capitalized extremely well off Saint miscues. 

The Saints have now dropped to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in conference play. Their next game will be this Saturday, November 19th, at Judson University, in a conference matchup in Elgin, Illinois. The Saints hope they can rebound and get this season back on track against a 1-5 Eagles team that stands above them in the CCAC. 

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Saints fall to Cougars, add to losing streak

The Holy Cross Men’s Basketball continued their conference home stand on Saturday when they took on the Saint Xavier University Cougars.

Sophomore guard Nash Hostetler opened up the game by sinking a three-pointer, a sign of the strong Saints shooting performance to come. In the first half, the Saints would go on to shoot 70% from beyond the arc. Hostetler himself went 4-4 from range, helping the Saints make seven out of 10.

Saint Xavier was able to nullify this shooting performance by the Saints, converting seven of their 11 three-point tries in the first. The shooting effort felt like two heavy-weight fighters trading blows. With 5:04 remaining in the first half and the Saints down two, Hostetler sank a three to take a 29-28. After the Saints were unable to score on a Xavier turnover, Xavier’s Maki Mohr reclaimed the lead with a three-ball of his own.

Moments later, Hostetler fought for a defensive rebound, and then hit his fourth and final three of the half. Just 16 seconds later, Drew Bishop reclaimed the lead with another Xavier three. That lead lasted for all of 17 seconds until senior guard Beau Ludwick put the Saints back up 38-37. The half closed with a clutch buzzer-beater three by TJ Babikir, putting the Saints down 40-38.

After the half, Babikir picked up right where he left off, with a three. That shot sparked a 10-2 Cougar run in the first five minutes of the second half.

Though the Saints would cut Saint Xavier’s lead down four midways through the half courtesy of a pair of free throws from senior guard Ryan Cartaino, Xavier would maintain control of the game until the final buzzer, winning 76-67.

Holy Cross now falls to 1-4 on the year and 0-2 in conference play. The Saints, now on a four-game losing streak, falling by at least seven points in each game, are scrambling for answers.

Conversely, Saint Xavier extended their winning streak to four games, and after losing their first two games of the season are 4-2, with a 2-0 conference record.

Saint Xavier now has a four-game winning streak against the Saints. The last time the Saints defeated the Cougars was at home Feb. 15, 2020. Holy Cross is 3-18 all-time against the Cougars.

Four Factors View

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)

Though the Saints started out with a dominant three-point shooting performance in the first half, they cooled off quickly in the second, going just 2-10. That brought the Saints to a 9/20 (45%) outing, compared to Xavier’s 13-23 (56.5%) performance.

Both teams shot incredibly well in the first half with the Saints boasting a .638 eFG%, and Xavier a .672%. However, the second half saw the Saints dip to .375%, while Xavier improved to .692%.

Turnover Percentage (TOV%)

The Saints had 12 turnovers and a TOV% of .166 while Xavier had 8 and a TOV% of .126. The Saints were able to compensate for their turnovers by scoring 15 points off their turnovers forced. Xavier only scored 14.

Offensive and Defensive Rebound Percentage (ORB% and DRB%)

Holy Cross dominated the glass at their end, boasting a .917 DRB%, only allowing Xavier 2 offensive rebounds. As a result, Xavier scored 0 second-chance points. The Saints also had a strong ORB% of .235 (compared to Xavier’s .083) and were able to score second-chance points.

Free Throw Factor

Holy Cross was able to get to the line 17 times and made 12 (an FT% of .226) while allowing Xavier just one trip to the line (.018).

The Saints will conclude their first stretch of home games on Nov. 16, when they host Governors State University at McKenna Arena.

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Holy Cross men’s and women’s basketball teams prepare for a new season

The Holy Cross women’s basketball team went 15-15 overall (10-12 in conference play) last season. They were just one win shy of setting a win’s total record in program history. The goal for this season?

“[Best season in program history], that is the minimum expectation,” said head coach Tom Robbins. “One more win, and we would have had it last year, and we have most of our players back, and the freshmen we are adding, they move us forward.” 

Robbins will have a smaller than usual team this year, just ten players in total. However, the quality of his squad is what gives Robbins his confidence. He does admit that the lack of depth is a potential weakness, though.

“We keeps us [from our goals] is injury… we do not have a huge margin for error, we are going to sustain injuries like anybody does, but if we have any long-term, multiple game injuries out of our players, that is going to be hard for us to overcome.”

Though the squad has just one senior in guard Jayda Miller, junior guard Lauren Morris and junior forward Neva Longhofer have also stepped up and have helped prepare the team during the offseason. 

The Saints will look to spread the floor with their shooters like Morris and Miller. Then, they will use a two-man game down low, utilizing athletic guards who can attack the rim, with bigs crashing the boards for rebounds. All in all, Robbins would like to shoot from the two more often than from range.

“I like a 2/3 to 1/3 balance between twos and threes… that’s a little more conservative than what a lot of the NAIA has been trending toward; a lot more teams are 50-50 these days.”

Robbins is incredibly excited about his freshman players. Elizabeth Edmonds, a starting-caliber player, occupies the center potion that Sara White left vacant. Audrey Tallent is an incredibly dynamic freshman guard. And sophomore guard Jordyn Smith, who is an incredible passer, should see starter minutes as well. 

Defensively, the team will look to clog passing lanes in the half-court and trap the opposition in a full-court defense. The Saints will then try to funnel the opposition into mid-range shots. Ideally, they will force them to shoot off the dribble late into the shot clock. 

Instrumental to that will be Grace Adams, a sophomore forward whom Robbins said can 1-5. Robbins thought back to last year when the Saints won a game by holding the opposing team to zero points for about six straight minutes in the fourth quarter. Adams was the primary reason for their dominance.

“They thought the best thing to do was take guard and go right at her because our matchups, Grace ended up happening to guard [their lead player], and they thought that was their advantage, and Grace shut her down every single time.” 

In contrast to the women’s team, the Holy Cross men’s basketball team took a bit of a step back last season. The men’s team went 13-17 overall with an 8-14 conference record. For a team that had made the NAIA National Tournament the last two seasons, last season was disappointing.

Nevertheless, head coach Mike McBride is confident his team can return to their winning ways. For McBride, that means focusing on the little things.

“To be honest, we talk very little about [outcome-based goals] because [they] are always a byproduct of what you are doing day in and day out, so our expectation is that we are growing closer and more unified as a team daily, that our level of intensity and execution rises daily and if we do that then those outcome-based expectations and goals become a byproduct of our daily improvements.” 

Helping to improve the team every day are senior leaders Jalen Martin, Beau Ludwick and Mick Sullivan.

A 6’4” forward, Martin missed most of the previous season due to injury, playing in only two games. Now that he is healthy again, McBride expects him to be a significant part of the Saint’s defense. 

“[Jaylen] has great length, so we think he can be a versatile defender, we think he can guard inside and out, he has really improved skill-wise, we think he has become a much-improved shooter, so that is a dynamic we really need obviously with the loss of Ryan Black,” McBride said.

The Saints will play a traditional man-to-man defense, with adjustments as needed. They’ll tend to avoid switching defenders, preferring the pre-game matchups. Martin’s ability to guard one through five brings a unique skill set to the Saints, who struggled defensively last season.

Ludwick, a 6’2” guard, is expected to be another key defensive player. His skill set allows him to draw top perimeter shooting assignments night in and night out.

“He is great one-on-one on the ball, and he has as good a vision and instinct off the ball as anybody we have, so we think he can really be outstanding,” McBride said.  

Sullivan, the team’s starting center, is once again expected to be a force for the team on offense. He will feature in the low post, looking to dominate the paint, grab rebounds and find shooters on the outside when he inevitably draws multiple defenders. McBride said that having Sullivan back and healthy, along with the additions of freshmen forwards Tommy Snyder and Joe Kelly, has led to a new strategy for the team offensively. 

“We have the guys we think that can make those, but we do want to play with that inside-out mentality. We are really emphasizing playing inside, attacking the paint both with post-play, with cutting, and with driving, so I think having a much more inside-dominated approach is maybe a little different than what we had last year,” McBride said. 

The seniors are certainly not alone in guiding the team. Last year’s standout freshmen, Justin O’Neal and Nash Hostetler are coming off sensational seasons. And McBride only expects them to improve. 

“We expect a lot out of those two in terms of production and what they do and bring to the game each night… we also think they both of these guys have great leadership potential, and I do not want to wait until they are senior for that to emerge,” McBride said.

The women’s team will begin their season on the road in Huntington Indiana when they face Huntington University. Tipoff is at 1 p.m. Friday. The men will have a home opener to start the season when they play host to East-West University Monday at 6 p.m.