Byline: Carl Setterlund
WORCESTER - After winning just its second road game of the season Wednesday at Navy, the Holy Cross men's basketball team was hoping to carry that momentum into yesterday's game against Patriot League power American at the Hart Center.
And the Crusaders did just that, relying on teamwork and tough defense to grind out a 59-52 upset victory in front of a fervent crowd of 2,578.
Holy Cross fell behind by eight points early, but battled back and held the visitors scoreless over the final 5:33 of the first half, taking a lead it never relinquished.
"If we can hang our hat on the defensive end, when you have bad shooting nights, the defense can carry you," said coach Milan Brown, whose team improved to 11-13, 5-5 in the league and 8-2 at the Hart Center. "We've been really good at home, so we didn't think that would change."
Senior guard Devin Brown led the way with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He came up biggest in the closing minutes with big defensive stops, key rebounds and clutch free throws.
"We treat every game just as important as the next, but to come back and beat an American team that beat us pretty heftily down at their spot, it meant a lot for us," Devin Brown said.
Starting center Phil Beans missed the game because of an illness, but 6-foot-9 sophomore Dave Dudzinski filled in and chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.
"We wanted to make sure also we established inside and get Dave some touches," said coach Brown, noting that Dudzinski came up big during crunch time in the second half.
The Crusaders plays at Lafayette on Wednesday.
Holy Cross scored the first two baskets of the game, but American (16-9, 7-3) quickly took control, grabbing a 13-5 lead just under eight minutes in.
The Crusaders didn't hang their heads as point guard Justin Burrell (8 points) hit Brown for a spot-up 3. Brown then found Erik Obeysekere for a baseline jumper and Burrell got to the rim to cut it to 13-12.
Holy Cross scored the final 10 points of the first half, starting with a jumper by Obeysekere, assisted by Burrell. The 5-9 freshman then scored himself from in close to give Holy Cross the lead for good, 22-20, with 3:54 left in the first half.
Mike Cavataio got a steal on the ensuing possession and found Brown for a transition layup...