As an isolated incident, Wednesday night's game between Holy Cross and Army would have been a great game. But in the context of the Patriot League race, the back-and-forth battle felt less like a basketball game and more like trench warfare with the right to not face the Patriot League's top seed on the line. In the end, it would be Holy Cross that emerged victorious, claiming a 66-63 win and the inside track for the conference's third seed in the process.
Justin Burrell dealt the death blow at the 1:17 mark, knocking down an NBA-range three pointer that stretched the lead to two possessions at 60-56. Kyle Wilson and Dave Dudzinski, who each played spectacular games for their respective teams, then traded buckets to make it 62-58. Wilson would connect on a three to close the gap to one with less than 20 seconds to play. Burrell would make two free throws, followed by an unconested Dylan Cox layup. Two more free throws by Burrell would make it 66-63 with Army owning an opportunity for the last shot.
Cox dribbled the clock down from 11.9 seconds to play before handing off to Wilson. Guarded by Eric Green, Wilson made a couple dribbles, created some space and got a clean look -- well, it would have been clean had Green not recovered and gotten a piece of the shot, ending the game in the process.
It would be easy to look at the box score, see that Dudzinski finished with a game-high 26 points and assume there was nothing Army could have done about the outcome. But that would discredit the way that Holy Cross has been playing as a whole over the last nine games. Now 9-4 in the Patriot League, Milan Brown's team has won in a variety of ways on the backs of a variety of players. Wednesday was about Dudzinski, but Saturday could very well be about Malcolm Miller. Or Anthony Thompson. Or Eric Green. That's the way Holy Cross has looked during this stretch and that's what makes them a threat to whichever team ends up with the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League Tournament.
All of that said: Army still scares the crap out of me and probably everyone else in the Patriot League. Wilson finished with 23 points after scoring just four in the first half. Four. Just when you think you have Wilson down is when he starts to heat up, sensing your guard has dropped. Also factoring into the fear of Army: Tanner Plomb didn't play. The other half of one of the best scoring backcourts had scored a combined 44 points in the previous two games, leaving the Black Knights shorthanded. And they still only lost by three.
I hope nobody out there has reserved a hotel room for the Patriot League championship game, because its anyone's guess where it's going to be. Don't rule out Worcester or West Point, though.
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