Monday, March 12, 2001

UK faces old friend


Willard was Pitino aide

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard ought to be familiar with Kentucky, his team's first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament.

        Willard was an assistant at UK under Rick Pitino for the 1989-90 season and head coach at Western Kentucky from 1991-94.

HOLY CROSS FACTS
  • About the school: Location — Worcester, Mass.; Nickname — Crusaders; Colors — Royal purple, white.
  • Record: 22-7 (10-2 conference)
  • Bid: Automatic (Patriot League tournament winner)
  • Coach: Ralph Willard (32-25, second year; 176-149 overall, 11th year)
  • Key players: Josh Sankes, 7-0 C, Sr. (12.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.3 blocks); Tim Szatko, 6-8 F, So. (11.4 points, 6.7 rebounds); Ryan Serrevalle, 6-0 G, Jr. (11.3 points).
  • Notable: Holy Cross won the 1947 NCAA title with a point guard named Bob Cousy. Kentucky would win in 1948 and '49. Williard coached at UK as an assistant under Rick Pitino. He also was the head coach at Western Kentucky. This is Holy Cross' ninth NCAA appearance but first since 1993. The Crusaders went from 10-18 last year to 22-7 this year.
        Holy Cross, 22-7, is the 15th seed in the East Regional. The Crusaders will play second-seeded Kentucky, 22-9, Friday in Uniondale, N.Y.

        Willard had a successful run at WKU, going 81-42 and taking the Hilltoppers to the 1993 Sweet 16.

        He moved from WKU to Pittsburgh, and wasn't as successful there. He got the Panthers to the postseason only once (the NIT) and was 63-83 before resigning after five seasons.

        Holy Cross brought in Willard, a 1967 graduate of the school, before last season to revive a program that had won 22 games in the previous three seasons.

        He led the Crusaders to an 10-18 record last season.

        The Crusaders took the next step this year, winning the Patriot League regular-season title. They clinched the automatic NCAA bid by beating Navy 68-64 in the Patriot tourney.

        Defense has been the key this season. The Crusaders hold their opponents to 37.9 percent shooting from the field — best in the nation.

        The Crusaders are built around Josh Sankes, a 7-foot, 275-pound senior center. Sankes played two years at Holy Cross after transferring from Rutgers.

        He has set all the school shot-blocking records. He averages 12.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game.

        Holy Cross has another strong inside player in Tim Szatko, a 6-8 forward. He averages 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds a game.

        The Crusaders have outrebounded opponents by an average of 8.0 per game.

        Guard Ryan Serravalle also scores in double figures (11.3 per game).

        Holy Cross plays a deliberate pace. The Crusaders average 67.8 points a game but only allow 61.9.

        UK will be a huge step up in competition for Holy Cross. The Crusaders' top non-conference win was over Massachusetts. Holy Cross lost to Boston College 77-48.

Cincinnati.com tournament coverage



Sports Stories
Kentucky went from 3-5 to No. 2 seed
- UK faces old friend
UK's road to title game
Big Ten boosts Ohio State's seed
Knight gone, but Indiana is back
Knight to visit Texas Tech this week
Men's Tournament Preview
Men's NCAA Tournament Pairings
Women's NCAA Tournament Pairings
Women's Tournament Preview
Men's NIT Preview
Men's NIT Pairings
Women's NIT Pairings
Worcester 6, Mighty Ducks 2
Cyclones 9, Manitoba 2
Boys basketball coverage
Girls basketball coverage
Elder, West Hi on collision course
N.Ky. girls region preview
Cincinnati boys basketball schedule
Cincinnati girls basketball schedule
Ohio Boys Regional Pairings
Ohio girls state tournament
Kentucky boys Sweet 16 schedule
N.Ky. girls basketball schedule

Larkin's injury worries Boone
Williamson's exit raises issues
Game report: Rangers 2, Reds 1
Holmes picks Giants, not Bengals
Bearcats get what they wanted
SULLIVAN: Huggins finally cracked the code
UC's road to title game
BYU center mountain of man
UC women get consolation prize
Women's NIT Pairings
UC's Merill earns track All-America
Joy, relief for Xavier
DAUGHERTY: Waiting, watching, agonizing over
XU's road to title game
Irish back in NCAAs after 11 years
Xavier women get to play at home
Xavier women don't have easy path