Beantown brawl pits Crimson against Crusaders

Nov 16, 2014 - 4:32 PM Boston, MA ( - Intrastate rivals are in for an early-season clash at a neutral site, as the 25th-ranked Harvard Crimson take on the Holy Cross Crusaders as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Tripleheader at TD Garden.

Two other Massachusetts-based rivalries will tip off earlier in the day between Boston University/Northeastern and Massachusetts/Boston College.

Harvard, the first Ivy League squad ranked in the preseason Top-25 in nearly 40 years, started its season off well with a 73-52 home victory over MIT on Friday. The Crimson are 24-6 against opponents from Massachusetts under coach Tommy Amaker.

Holy Cross took a big step forward in 2013-14, Milan Brown's fourth season as head coach. The Crusaders saw an eight-win improvement to 20-14 overall, their first 20-win campaign since 2006-07, and they finished third in the Patriot League at 12-6. Their success led to a bid to the Postseason Tournament, where they won a first-round matchup over Brown (68-65).

Holy Cross has a 41-26 advantage in the all-time series with Harvard, but the Crimson have dominated in recent years with six straight wins, including in this event last November, 82-72.

The Crimson actually found themselves trailing MIT midway through the first half but turned things around in the a hurry, outscoring the Engineers 52-30 over the final 29:10. The squad was efficient in all facets, shooting 54.5 percent from the floor (including 7-of-13 from 3-point range) and 81.8 percent at the free-throw line, and it won both the rebounding (27-24) and turnover (17-15) battles. Wesley Saunders, the 2014 Ivy League Player of the Year, had his hand in all phases of the game with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals. Siyani Chambers knocked down all four of his 3-point attempts en route to 15 points, and Steve Moundou-Missi, Jonah Travis and Kenyatta Smith all scored eight points.

The Crusaders are in good position to continue as one of the Patriot League's best this season thanks to the return of four starters, most notably senior forward Malcolm Miller, who stuffed the stat sheet last season with 11.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.9 blocks and nearly a steal per game. Justin Burrell (8.9 ppg, 2.4 apg) brings senior leadership to the backcourt. Anthony Thompson (9.4 ppg, 2.5 apg) was a high-impact freshman in 2013-14, and Eric Green (7.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg) also brings valuable experience to the table.

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