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Saints lose two close games on the road

The Holy Cross men’s and women’s basketball teams went on the road to face Roosevelt University as they resumed conference play on Wednesday.

The women’s team tipped off at 6:30 pm, and though Roosevelt won the opening, it was the Saints who earned the first points of the game, courtesy of a layup by sophomore forward Grace Adams. The Saints dominated the first five minutes of action, building up a 14-4 lead thanks in part to Adams and a three-point bucket by junior guard Lauren Morris.

The last five minutes of the first quarter belonged to the Lakers, as the Saints went 3:51 without hitting a shot. The cold stretch allowed the Lakers to score 16 unanswered points. Luckily for the Saints, senior guard Jayda Miller hit a three with seven seconds left to make it a one-point game going into the second.

The second quarter saw an inverse of the first, with the Lakers building an eight-point lead with 4:49 left in the quarter. However, sophomore guard Jordyn Smith contributed five points in a 10-2 Saints run that took the Saints into the half down one.

The third quarter continued the incredibly close contest with the lead changing five times in the third alone. Whereas previous quarters saw drastic swings, the third quarter spread peaked at a five-point Roosevelt lead, which the Saints were quickly able to erase.

As the quarter wound down to the final minute, with the Saints down one, freshman forward Carly Spalding stepped to the line and hit both her shots. Roosevelt responded with a layup in the final 20 seconds. But Miller was able to knock down a three that gave the Saints a two-point lead heading into the final quarter.

The Lakers quickly took back the lead from the Saints at 8:48, and they held onto it until 3:26 when Smith hit one of her two free throws, tying the game at 74-74.

Roosevelt quickly drove for a layup to re-establish a four-point lead. However, Smith answered the bell once again, and she would go on to score 11 of the Saints’ last 13 points, keeping them in the game.

Ultimately, it would not be enough, as an intentional foul by Miller would send Roosevelt to the free throw line trailing by one. Roosevelt made both shots, enough to finish off a 90-87 win.

The road loss sends the Saints back below .500 to 5-6 overall with a 2-3 conference record. It also snaps a three-game win streak and a five-game win streak against the Lakers.

Holy Cross will look to get back to .500 against Saint Mary’s on Dec. 6 at 6:00 pm. Historically, the Saints have performed well against Saint Mary’s, winning both contests by an average margin of 13 points.

Just like the women’s team, the men’s team earned the first two points despite Roosevelt winning the opening tip. The opening minutes saw an incredibly completive, back-and-forth game, with four different ties. Holy Cross slowly began to build out a lead, as the two teams continued to trade buckets well into the first 12 minutes of the game.

With the Saints leading 21-17, senior forward Mick Sullivan made a layup, assisted sophomore guard Nash Hostetler’s jump shot and got a second layup, giving the Saints a 27-19 lead.

The Lakers were able to cut the Saints’ lead to three. But Sullivan continued his stellar play and helped the Saints maintain their eight-point lead going into the half.

The second half opened with Roosevelt beginning to chip away at the Saints’ eight-point lead until freshman Tommy Snyder hit two free throw attempts. Hostetler added to the lead with a three-point lead, building the Saints’ lead to a game-high of 11 points.

It was here where the Lakers went on a 14-0 run fueled by two Saints turnovers, a foul and a missed three-point attempt, giving the Lakers a three-point lead with 15:42 left in the game.

The Saints battled to reclaim the lead and were able to do so, thanks to senior guard Beau Ludwick’s three and Snyder’s layup. But that would be the last time they had a lead in the game.

The Saints once again allowed the Lakers to go on a game-changing run thanks to two missed threes, two missed field goals and a turnover. Thanks to the Lakers 11-2 run, the Saints now trailed the Lakers by eight with 6:50 left in the game.

The Saints went on a 10-2 run themselves, with Sullivan scoring six of the team’s points. Now tied for the sixth time at 64-64 with 2:20 remaining. But the Saints only scored three points the rest of the way, with Ludwick hitting a free throw and freshman Drew Adzia hitting two of his own.

The Lakers were able to score five points and put the game away when the Lakers’ Ayo Ajiboye stole the ball from Hostetler. Roosevelt won by a 69-67 final.

The Saints now fall to 3-7 on the season and 1-4 in conference play. They will look to turn things around on Dec. 7, when they face out-of-conference foe Siena Heights University on the road.

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Saints stomp Maple Leaves

The Holy Cross women’s basketball team dominated Goshen College on Saturday afternoon at home in McKenna Arena.

Senior guard Jayda Miller’s 33 points steered the Saints past the Maple Leaves 84-48.

Holy Cross scored first, getting on the board with a corner three from junior guard Lauren Morris less than a minute into the game.

Goshen countered quickly with a long two, but a rebound by sophomore forward Grace Adams led to a Miller three-pointer, giving the Saints a 6-2 advantage.

Three more Holy Cross buckets, including a layup and another three-pointer from Miller, drove the Saints ahead of the Maple Leaves 13-2 after four minutes of play, forcing Goshen to call a timeout.

The Maple Leaves knocked down a layup shortly after the break but were unable to change the narrative for the rest of the period.

The Saints, traversing speedily down the court in transition, jumping on loose balls and shooting clean from the three-point and free-throw lines, came away from the first quarter with an imposing 28-11 lead.

During the second quarter, the Saints continued to win the battle in the paint on both sides of the court. Sloppy play midway through the quarter generated quite a few more fouls against the Saints, but Maple Leaves failed to work this to their benefit.

The score at halftime stood at 44-28, and Holy Cross hustled off the court, anxious to complete the groundwork they had laid over the first 20 minutes of play.

Less than a minute into the third quarter, Morris picked up her fourth foul and was sat. Three more layups from Miller, amidst a good of deal possession squabbling and a Goshen bucket then hushed away any Maple Leaf momentum that could have come from the 15-minute break.

The Goshen press proved ineffective against Holy Cross, and the Saints built their lead, finishing ahead 60-39 at the end of the three quarters.

Holy Cross came out in the fourth quarter as hot as they’d been all game.

The Saints picked up four layups less than three minutes into the fourth, three by Adams and one by sophomore guard Jordyn Smith, before the Maple Leaves had the chance to put up any fourth quarter points.

The ample Goshen roster remained loud on the bench to the bitter end, but the Saints were the ones dribbling it out on their way to an 84-48 victory.

In the final period of play, Holy Cross tacked on 15 points to their third quarter lead, finishing as 36-point winners.

On top of Miller’s 33 points, Adams came away with 13 rebounds, six on offense, and Smith eked out six steals of her own.

Head coach Tom Robbins attributed the Saints’ firm performance to the squad’s preparation following a frustrating loss against Bethel on Thursday.

“We had a bad loss a couple of days ago and the players really took ownership amongst themselves and set some goals and really brought themselves together to prepare for this game,” Robbins said.

Robbins was impressed by his players ability to finish out the game, having played hard from start to finish.

“We had a lot of tired girls at the end of that game,” he said. “But we have enough. We were strong enough and in good enough shape to finish this game.”

Robbins credited Miller’s dominant offensive showing to the team’s young supporting talent. Unlike in previous years, the senior has not been forced to take so many shots.

“[Miller] has really developed some more shot selection that’s not always been the case,” he said. “I thought it really came through today, because she got really hot, and it would be a temptation for her to just keep shooting no matter what, but she kept within her lane.”

The defensive leadership from Adams and Smith stood out to Robbins as well.

“I felt like Grace and Jordyn Smith took the team on their back in a lot of different ways,” Robbins added. “Beyond just scoring … I thought those two players, they showed that everybody else this is how you win, this is what winning basketball looks like. Follow us.”

Saturday afternoon’s victory lifts Holy Cross to 2-2 on the season. The Saints will match-up against Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) Wednesday back on their home court.

“We’ve kind of had been developing a rivalry with [IUSB],” Robbins said. “They’re one of the best teams in our conference and one of the best teams in the region.”

As it stands, the rivalry is a little one sided — the Holy Cross woman have yet to beat the Titans.

“We look at them and I’m not sure they’re looking at us yet,” Robbins said. “We want that to be the case. We want to get them to a position where they’re starting to look at us as a threat.”

This early-season, statement win for the Saints is as if to say: we’re ready to compete locally and in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference at large.

The Saints are back home in South Bend to compete against the Titans on Wednesday. Tip-off is at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Contact Peter Breen at pbreen2@nd.edu.

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Sports

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.