Holy Cross' Colin Cunningham (33) competes with Bucknell's Darren Mastropaola (1) during first-half action in Worcester, Mass. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)
March 9, 2007
BOSTON (AP) -Torey Thomas scored a season-high 28 points and Keith Simmons added 23 to lead Holy Cross to a 74-66 victory over Bucknell on Friday that gave the Crusaders their fifth Patriot League championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Bucknell erased a 19-point second-half deficit, but Holy Cross converted sixteen straight free throws in the final 5 minutes to secure the win.
Holy Cross (25-8) won its fourth championship under head coach Ralph Willard, but the first since winning three straight from 2001-03.
John Griffin scored 15 points for Bucknell (22-9), which had knocked out the Crusaders three straight years, including in the last two championship games.
The loss snapped Bucknell's 14-game winning streak. Earlier this season, Holy Cross beat Bucknell and ended the Bison's 23-game winning streak against conference foes.
Holy Cross opened up the second half with an 11-5 run to increase its lead to 46-27 before Bucknell responded with a 13-0 run over a span of 5:32 to get to 46-40.
Donald Brown pulled Bucknell to 51-49 when his dunk followed a missed layup by Justin Castleberry. Darren Mastropaolo tied the game at 53-53 with 5:52 remaining, but Holy Cross scored seven straight, capped off by a Thomas 3-pointer to go ahead 60-53.
Holy Cross won 18 of its last 20 on the way to the title.
Bucknell represented the Patriot Conference well in the last two NCAA tournaments, with first-round wins against Kansas in 2005 and Arkansas last season.
After falling behind 14-11, the Crusaders went on a 21-4 run keyed by eight points from Patriot League Player-of-the-Year Keith Simmons. Bucknell shot 27 percent in the half and was stymied by the Crusaders' defense, which held the Bison without a field goal for 9:08.
Holy Cross will learn of its NCAA fate on Sunday, March 11 at 6 p.m. ET. The selection show can be seen on CBS. First round action will take place Thursday and Friday, March 15 and 16 at campus sites.
The National Invitational Tournament (NIT) will announce its field of teams for the NIT Postseason Tournament on Sunday, March 11 as well after the NCAA bracket has been set.
Notes: Bison coach Pat Flannery has won a conference-record 18 tournament games. ... The Bison's 14-game winning streak was the longest in school history. ... Tim Clifford registered six blocks in the first half.
2007 Patriot League All-Tournament Team
Andre Ingram, American (36 points, 9 rebounds)
Donald Brown, Bucknell (41 points, 23 rebounds)
Chris McNaughton, Bucknell (49 points, 18 rebounds)
Tom Clifford, Holy Cross (49 points, 20 rebounds, 10 blocks)
Torey Thomas, Holy Cross (57 points, 17 rebounds)
2007 Patriot League Most Valuable Player Keith Simmons, Holy Cross (46 points, 9 rebounds, 10 assists)