The Holy Cross I grew up watching made timely buckets, played stout defense, and was at its best when playing a game in the mid 60s. Ralph Willard's teams played a bruising style that helped them make three straight NCAA Tournaments in the early 2000s before his departure led to the Sean Kearney debacle and a rough first few years of the Milan Brown era. Now, however, that defensive focus has returned as the Crusaders won their sixth game in seven tries on the road at Colgate.
Holy Cross trailed for the entire game until Justin Burrell buried a three with 2:59 remaining to tie the game at 63. Murphy Burnatowski tipped in an offensive rebound on the next possession to give the Raiders its lead back, but the Crusaders would not be denied. After Chad Johnson forced a turnover by Malcolm Miller, a play that color analyst Chris Spatola called a "winning play," Miller rebounded on the next possession to knot the game once again.
Anthony Thompson, inserted into the starting lineup of late to allow Burrell to score more effectively, stole the ball from Johnson the next time down the floor and got crushed going to the line, but he missed the front end of the one-and-one to leave the door open for a Colgate victory. Burrell closed that door, however, stealing the inbound from the sideline and feeding Eric Green for a powerful dunk and the 67-65 lead.
Now with the lead, five fouls to give, and 25 seconds to play, Holy Cross elected to foul up to the limit in order to shave seconds and eliminate scoring opportunities. A less-than perfect shot from Ethan Jacobs in the corner rimmed out, Miller knocked down his free throws, and Holy Cross went back to Worcester one game better than when it left.
For Holy Cross, this win cements its position in the upper echelon of the Patriot League. The Crusaders didn't shoot the ball particularly well to start, didn't defend the three the way they have become accustomed to, and yet they still managed to erase a double-digit deficit to come back on the road against a Colgate team with a record that isn't representative of its talent.
For Colgate, the moral victories have to be getting old. Matt Langel's team has heard enough of "hard fought" and "played it close." Burnatowski and Co. have done enough to win some games but haven't been able to make that one play that pushes a game one way or the other. On Tuesday, that play was the inbounds pass Burrell stole, erasing a potential game-winning possession and forcing them to play catch up over the last 25 seconds. Good teams make those plays and the more often Colgate fails to make them, the less that distinction seems to fit.
Holy Cross was led by Miller's 17 points while Dave Dudzinski added 14 and Green and Burrell each scored 11. Colgate got 16 from Burnatowski and 10 apiece from Johnson and Jacobs.
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