Jan 14

American U. drives, Holy Cross is road kill

By Chris A. Courogen
HOOP TIME Editor

After opening conference play with home wins over Lehigh and Navy, the Holy Cross Crusaders were starting to think of themselves as contenders in the Patriot League.

They might still be. But they are going to have to learn to win on the road first.

Saturday afternoon in the Nation’s Capital, the Crusaders spotted American University a big first half lead, came roaring back to make a game of it, then fadxed down the stretch of a 67-54 loss. It was HC’s eighth loss in nine games away from Worcester.

“It was a tough loss,” said Holy Cross coach Milan Brown. “We have to find some change that we need to have for us on the road.”

A good place to start that change would be on the defensive end. The Crusaders (8-9 overall, 2-1 Patriot) are the top team in the league when it comes to defending the three-point arc. They lived up to that billing by holding American to just a pair of treys on 13 attempts. Charles Hinkle, the league’s leading scorer and it’s second best three-point shooter, went 0 for 2 from the arc.

But the way the Eagles (11-7, 2-1) sliced up the HC defense for easy layup after easy layup after easy layup, they hardly needed to shoot the long ball.

Brown blamed the breakdowns on American’s early lead, which reached as many as 18 points before a late HC surge cut the deficit to 35-23 at the intermission.

“We tried to pressure the basketball. We were so stretched out defensively,” said Brown. “They put us in chase mode.”

Actually, though, that was American’s game plan from the start. On film they noticed the way Holy Cross pressured the ball on the perimeter to take away the three opened up driving lanes as wide as the beltway that encircles D.C.

“You take away one thing it opens up another,” said American coach Jeff Jones.

AU point guard Daniel Munoz was one the prime beneficiaries, finishing with 14 points, including an absolute dagger that came way too easy off a midcourt inbounds play with 3:06 left and Holy Cross down by just 3 points.

Munoz got up a head of steam in the backcourt and simply beat his man across the halfcourt line, taking a pass from Hinkle and going to the rack to start a 12-2 stretch run that sealed the win.

“The holes seemed to open up this game,” said Munoz. “I knew we’d have some driving lanes because their help defense basically stays outside with the shooters. Coach did a good job of scouting.”

Holy Cross didn’t help itself much on the offensive end, either. In the first half, the Crusaders had just one field goal the first 10:48. They went 6 for 22 from the field the opening half.

Despite being down big on the road, HC did manage to fight back to make a game of it after the break. After giving up the first bucket of the half, the Crusaders outscored American 24-9 the next 10 minutes, taking a 47-46 lead on a jumper by freshman Justin Burrell with 9:22 to play.

American answered with a Tony Wroblicky layup to retake the lead and retook control the rest of the way.

Devin Brown led Holy Cross with 14 points. But the Crusaders leading scorer, who averaged 21 points in the team’s first two conference games, had to work hard for those points, going 3 for 10 from the field. Center Phil Beans added 11 and had a team-high 9 rebounds, but foul trouble limited the 6-9 junior to just 27 minutes of action.

Like Brown, Hinkle had to work hard for his game-high 17 points, 9 of which came at the foul line. Hinkle made up for his off night from the floor by grabbing 10 rebounds for his first career double-double and dished out a game-high 5 assists, one more than the entire Holy Cross team tallied.

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