Basketball Scouting Report: Holy Cross
Navy's gut-punch of a loss to Lehigh on Wednesday was not the product of deficient effort or inattentiveness on the glass. The Midshipmen plucked 17 offensive rebounds and held the Mountain Hawks under 60 points in regulation time. They didn't win because, for all of their offensive rebounds, they scored just 7 second-chance points and were outscored 34-16 in the paint. How is that possible? Well, Navy pulled it off, reminding one of the famous Casey Stengel quote about the 1962 New York Mets: "They showed me ways to lose I never knew existed."
Sometimes, basketball really is just a matter of putting the ball in the bucket – such was the case against Lehigh. There's no need to overcomplicate analysis when reality points to the simplest of solutions. Finishing plays is what this team has to work on, against Holy Cross and in the following weeks.
HOLY CROSS AT-A-GLANCE
The Crusaders made the NCAA tournament in 2007, and have won more than 15 games in a season only once in the following six seasons. The 2013-2014 season started 1-3 in the Patriot League, but the Crusaders have won three straight league games to move to 4-3. Guard Cullen Hamilton is just beginning to return to the lineup following a knee injury, and guard Robert Champion is also being slowly brought back into the rotation following an injured hamstring suffered earlier in January. Hamilton is second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.8 points per game. Champion averages 10.5 minutes per game, extending the Crusaders' bench.
Forward – Dave Dudzinski – Senior, 6-9, 227; 2013-14: 15.2 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game
By any reasonable measurement, this is Holy Cross's best player. Dudzinski is easily the Crusaders' best scorer and rebounder. No player on this roster makes a substantial statistical imprint as a passer, so Dudzinski's blue-collar work in the paint makes him Navy's most important assignment at the defensive end, especially since Hamilton is likely to be limited in terms of both effectiveness and playing time in this game.
Forward – Malcolm Miller – Juinior, 6-6, 190; 2013-14: 10.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.2 assists per game, 1 steal per game, 1.7 blocks per game
Miller is clearly the jack of all trades on this team and its best defender. He's not a specialist in any one facet of competition, but he gets involved in all areas of play at both ends of the floor. To average nearly two blocked shots per game at 6-6 requires very sound instincts, so when Navy has the ball, the Midshipmen have to know that they'll have to beat Miller with ball movement and not shot fakes.
Guard – Anthony Thompson – Freshman, 5-10, 150; 2013-14: 8.4 ppg, 2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1 steal per game
Holy Cross head coach Milan Brown knows that as long as Hamilton is unable to play extended minutes, players such as Thompson have to provide more scoring production in order to make up the difference. Navy needs to be aware of how Hamilton's injury might make the other Crusaders more intent on looking for opportunities at the offensive end of the floor. That's a factor which should alter the complexion of this game.
Guard – Justin Burrell – Junior, 5-9, 165; 2013-14: 8.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.4 apg
What you see in Burrell is little different from the rest of Holy Cross's backcourt as long as Hamilton can't play for (more) extended stretches. On defense, Navy needs to be vigilant; the Black Knights have to be ready to contain the Crusaders' guards if they show more initiative on offense and play with more aggression than in previous weeks.
Guard – Eric Green – Sophomore, 6-4, 180; 2013-14: 7.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.8 steals per game
You will notice that Holy Cross has plenty of solid defenders in its starting five. Miller is the shot blocker, but Green is the pickpocket. Navy knows it is facing a team that has limited scoring options. Avoiding open-court turnovers against the likes of Green will ensure that the Midshipmen don't give away easy transition baskets.
Keys to the Game
1) Finish near the rim or get fouled and make free throws. Again, don't overthink this game. Navy has to put the orange sphere in the nylon attachment to the metal rim thingy. That's what James Naismith had in mind. (Of course, Naismith would have replaced "nylon attachment to the metal rim thingy" with "peach basket.")
2) Stop the ball on defense. As long as Navy contains dribble penetration and does not allow Holy Cross's guards to get into the paint, it should be able to handle the Crusaders' offense and create the kind of game it wants.
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