By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bender Arena (4,500) -- Washington, D.C. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Holy Cross 12-4, American 12-1. Away Record: Holy Cross 6-9, American 11-6. Neutral Record: Holy Cross 0-0, American 0-0. Conference Record: Holy Cross 11-3, American 13-1. Series Record: Holy Cross leads, 15-6.
GAME NOTES: The top-seeded American University Eagles and the second-seeded Holy Cross Crusaders are set to do battle in the 2009 Patriot League Tournament title game. Considering the fact that the semifinal round took place on Sunday, expect both teams to be well-prepared and rested this afternoon.
Holy Cross crushed seventh-seeded Bucknell in the quarterfinals, 75-56, and dominated sixth-seeded Colgate in the semifinals, 61-44. The Crusaders have won this tournament five times, more than any other league member, and the most recent crown was captured in 2007. They are participating in the title tilt for the seventh time in nine years, impressive to say the least.
American beat eighth-seeded Lafayette by 22 points in the quarterfinal round before squeaking by fourth-seeded Army, 61-60, in the semis. The Eagles are the defending Patriot League Tournament champs, as they knocked off Colgate in the title game a year ago. They are 23-7 overall and cruised to the regular season title with a 13-1 mark against PL opponents.
Holy Cross owns a 15-6 series lead over American, but the Eagles won the most recent meeting in a 56-50 final on February 21st.
Looking at the recent win over Colgate, Holy Cross played tremendous team defense, limiting its overmatched opponent to 31.9 percent shooting from the field. A 40-26 rebounding advantage also helped the cause for the Crusaders, who got 19 points from Eric Meister and 14 from R.J. Evans. The only double- digit scorer on the roster is Evans, as he averages a modest 13.3 ppg. No other individual is posting more than 8.8 ppg. This marks the third straight season and fifth time in eight years that Holy Cross and American will meet in this tournament. In the league's history, teams playing on their home court have a 55-12 record, and the Crusaders will attempt to defy that trend this afternoon.
American currently holds the second-longest active winning streak in the country at 12 games and has won 18 of its last 19 games overall. The Eagles are 14-6 all-time in the Patriot League Tournament and 6-1 in games played at Bender Arena. They have now reached the title game five times in eight years and have played in the semifinal round every year during that eight-year span. There are three double-digit scorers in the AU lineup, and Garrison Carr leads the trio with 17.6 ppg despite 39 percent shooting from the field. Brian Gilmore provides 12.2 ppg on the strength of his 43.1 percent accuracy from three-point range, and Derrick Mercer brings 11.5 ppg to the lineup. In the one-point win over Army in the semifinals, Gilmore scored 19 points while Carr finished with 17.
In what figures to be a close game from the start, American gets the nod because of the homecourt advantage. Simply put, the Crusaders will not be able to generate enough offense to win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: American University 61, Holy Cross 55
03/13 10:26:20 ET
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