Second Basketball Scouting Report: Holy Cross
Army just got blitzed by its archrival, and in its own gymnasium. That's a bitter pill to swallow for coach Zach Spiker and his players, but the Black Knights have to time to lament last Saturday's events. Tonight's game against Holy Cross is for third place in the Patriot League and, very possibly, the third seed in the league tournament. (Both teams enter this game 8-4 in the league, with Boston and American sitting at 10-2.) Moreover, with American University losing twice in a row, there's a new and more fluid feel to the conference race. The winner of this game would have a realistic chance of snagging second place before the regular season ends. This is not a must-win game, but it's a game that – if claimed – would probably make the conference tournament a bit easier to navigate. Army shouldn't need any more motivation than that.
HOLY CROSS AT-A-GLANCE
The Crusaders are locking down their opponents. Holy Cross has won six of its last seven games, and in only one of its six wins has it allowed more than 58 points. Army's defense did collapse against Navy, but it's the offense which must perform at a high level in a road environment if this game is going to break in the Black Knights' direction. Holy Cross shows that a groove is not limited to shooting; teams can find rhythm at the defensive end of the floor as well.
Forward – Dave Dudzinski – Senior, 6-9, 227; 2013-14: 14.9 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game
Dudzinski remains the go-to guy on this team. His scoring average is down 0.3 points per game since these teams last met on Jan. 15, but his rebounding has improved by a margin of 0.3 boards per game. Dudzinski has been part of Holy Cross's increased commitment to the glass and defense, which is where this team has improved the most over the past four weeks.
Forward – Malcolm Miller – Juinior, 6-6, 190; 2013-14: 10.6 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.1 assists per game, 1 steal per game, 1.8 blocks per game
Miller's statistical averages have remained quite steady since Jan. 15, with no changes of more than 0.4 in any of the above categories. His well-rounded contributions at both ends of the floor make him the ultimate "glue guy" on this roster.
Guard – Anthony Thompson – Freshman, 5-10, 150; 2013-14: 8.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.3 apg
Holy Cross head coach Milan Brown has watched Thompson hold up under the strain of extended minutes, the unexpected result of an injury to guard Cullen Hamilton (who is now back in the lineup, albeit as a reserve) earlier in the season. Thompson's steadiness is one reason this team has gotten better over time.
Guard – Justin Burrell – Junior, 5-9, 165; 2013-14: 9.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.4 apg
Burell's scoring average has increased by 1.3 points per game since Jan. 15. This team is buttering its bread on defense, but that kind of scoring improvement from a member of the starting five certainly doesn't hurt, to say the very least.
Guard – Eric Green – Sophomore, 6-4, 180; 2013-14: 7.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.7 steals per game
Green's averages have barely budged since Jan. 15. He's still a strong defender who makes the Crusaders tough to deal with at that end of the floor. Army has to respect his wingspan and his ability to clog passing lanes.
Keys to the Game
1) No hangover. Let's not mince words or deny the importance of psychology in this game: It's easy for Army to think about the Navy loss and not play with a maximum of focus in this game. Spiker and the rest of the coaching staff need to earn their pay by resetting the dial for this team. If that doesn't happen, the Xs and Os won't matter one bit.
2) Make the simple pass and the simple play. Holy Cross is swarming on defense. Army, having been rattled by Navy's defense this past Saturday, has to return to the basic components of basketball, making the uncomplicated pass and using decisive movements to pry open opportunities at that end of the floor.
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