Notes and observations from Holy Cross' 74-66 win over Bucknell in the Patriot League championship game.
35 minutes to tip off: Already the chants and cheers are roaring back and forth like distant artillery volleys in a prelude to the battle set to get underway here in a little over 30 minutes.
A Bucknell cheer goes up, followed by a chorus of boos from the Holy Cross fans, then they switch order.
In splitting the two schools' ticket allotments, they have gone so far as to run ropes between the Bucknell and Holy Cross sections in the lower bowl, not that they would have any effect if craziness were to ensue.
Bucknell folks set up shop outside of Hart, handing out orange and blue pom poms, printed signs and free hats to their orange clad faithful.
Inside, the HC folks ran a similar operation, handing out signs and placing purple pom poms on every seat in the two bleacher sections behind the baskets.
Curiously, the Bucknell band has been placed on the side, opposite the Bison bench instead of being given one of those end of court sections. A league official says everybody agreed to that arrangment, but a BU athletic department source said Bucknell was given no input on the matter.
27 minutes to tip: The Holy Cross team emerges to begin stretching and warming up, bring chants of "three-peat" and "NIT" from the Bucknell fans, who erupt moments later when their team takes the floor.
26 minutes to tip: It wouldn't be a TV game without fans in silly "please give me 15 minutes of fame" costumes, like the three HC fans wearing chicken suits under their purple T-shirts.
24 minutes to tip: TV games also mean signs. The best one seen so far, a Pat Flannery Meltdown Meter, complete with a picture of Flannery on his knees pleading for a call. O.K>, the idea is borrowed from Matt B., but it still is pretty clever.
18 minutes to tip: The officials have taken the floor. Tough to believe this is the best the league could find for the title game -- John Hughes (yes, the same John Hughes who gave Bucknell's Chris McNaughton a technical in the Navy game), Billy McCarthy and our old buddy Richie Giallella.
12 minutes to tip: The Holy Cross women's team is here, but they are not repaying the men's team with "in kind" support. If you watched the HC women win the league title on ESPNU Wednesday night, you might have seen a bunch of shortless guys painted purple with white C-R-U-S-A-D-E-R-S across their chests. The women's team is wearing purple T-shits that say "Dance with us" on the front, "The Cross 2007" across the back.
2 minutes to tip: That is two minutes assuming a timely conclusion to the ACC game on television before this one.
We no sooner type that than the PA announcer tells the crowd the tip will be delayed six minutes for TV.
Bucknell 9, HC 4 (15:53 first half): Simmons at the line for an and one after the TV timeout. He has all four of HC's points. John Griffin with 4 for BU on a four-point play, McNaughton with two and Castleberry a three.
During the timeout, the Crusaders mascot climbed a ladder with an HC sign, then took off his helmet -- usually a cardinal sin for mascots -- reveealing HC women's coach Bill Gibbons inside the suit.
HC 25, BU 18 (6:17 first half):Chris McNaughton on the bench for Bucknell with two fouls since around the 9 minute mark.
Keith Simmons showing why he was the league's Player of the YEar, with 10 points already. Torey Thomas right behind with 8.
Bucknell with an unusual look, playing Darren Mastropaolo, Donald Brown and Patrick Behand together. The idea appears to be to use Brown defensively against Simmons, sacrficing the offense of a third shooter on the perimeter.
HC 29, BU 18 (3:49 first) Pat Flannery rolls the dice and re-enters McNaughton at the 4:26 mark.
HC 35, BU 22 (Halftime): The first half has been all Crusaders, at least from about the 9 minute mark on. Not coincidentally that coincides with when McNaughton sat down with two fouls.
Without McNaughton inside to keep things honest, Bucknell's offense has struggled. Tim Clifford, who had just one foul in the first half, was dominant in the paint on defense with McNaughton out, blocking 6 shots.
Simmons is leading the HC offense, with 13 points on 5 for 8 shooting, 2 for 2 from the arc. No Bucknell player has more than 4 points
HC shot 57.7 percent (15 of 26) in the first half, while holding Bucknell to 7 field goals on 26 shots (26.9 percent).
HC 46, BU 30 (15:26 seoncd half): Tough to do much updating. We have no stats monitor and there have been no updated box scores distributed on press row except at halftime.
Torey Thomas with 5 second half points has joined Simmons in double figures. Thomas has 13 points. Simmons 14.
HC 46, BU 36 (12:43 second half):Turns out the HC women's team did show up with body paint after all. They pulled off those "dance" T-shorts to unveil matching black sports bras with "B-E-A-T B-U-C-K-N-E-LL" painted across their bellies.
Bucknell on a 9-0 run, doing it the best way given the amount they were behind -- 4 of the 9 coming at the foul line, with the clock stopped.
HC 48, BU 40 (10:51 to play): Tim Clifford ends a 13-0 Bucknell run with a little jump hook over Donald Brown at the 11:11 mark, ending a scoreless spell of over 5 minutes for the Crusaders.
The Bucknell run definitely has its fans back in the game, though they really did a respectable job of hanging in while HC was having its way. Both sides fans loud and proud all evening.
HC 51, BU 49 (7:37 second half): This place is rocking after a DOnald Brown dunk following a Justin Castleberry miss brings Bucknell within two. The Bison on a 22-5 run, including 7 unanswered after Simmons hit a three to stem the bleeding for HC. That is Simmons' only field goal thus far in the second half.
HC 60, BU 53 (3:06 second half):
Bucknell in the double bonus when Pat Doherty picks up his third personal with 6:55 to play. HC reached the double bonus at the 4:15.
McNaughton gets his fourth personal with 6:10 to play. He returns to the floor 2:01 later.
Bucknell managed to tie it at 53-53, but 4 Simmons free throws and a Torey Thomas three reestablished the HC lead.
HC , BU 4 ( Final):The refs turned it into a free throw shooting contest down the stretch, sending Holy Cross to the line 16 timesin the final 5 minutes, where they were perfect. HC managed only 1 field goal the final 9:44 of the game.
McNaughton fouled out with 24 seconds to go.