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Bucknell and Holy Cross meet for Patriot League title

(Sports Network) - In the matchup that everyone hoped to see, the top-seeded Bucknell Bison will host the second-seeded Holy Cross Crusaders in the Patriot League championship game. These teams met for the title last season as well, and Bucknell posted a thrilling 61-57 victory in that tilt for its first tournament crown. The Bison are 18-14 all-time at this event, and they will attempt to win their 13th consecutive home game tonight. They are 25-4 overall, and the 25 victories are the most in any season in the program's history.

Holy Cross has won this tournament four times, more than any other active league member, and it owns a 19-11 record at this event. The Crusaders have won six straight games dating back to the regular season, and they knocked off Lehigh in the semifinal round of this tournament after crushing Navy in the quarterfinals. Bucknell has won the last three meetings with Holy Cross to extend its lead to 23-18 in the all-time series between the teams.

Holy Cross has a number of talented players in its lineup, and Kevin Hamilton is the best of the bunch. Hamilton was recently named a first team All-Patriot League performer for the second straight year, and he was also selected the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. He can do it all on the court, as the senior guard leads the conference with 17.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 3.3 steals per contest. As of March 5th, Hamilton was the only player in the nation to lead his squad in all three categories. Fellow guard Keith Simmons, a junior, has also been selected to the All-Patriot League First Team for the second year in a row, and he is averaging 14.1 ppg on 52.8 percent shooting from the floor. He shot just a shade under 60 percent against league foes during the regular season and is posting 19.5 ppg and 8.0 rpg through the first two games of this tournament.

In the 73-66 victory over Lehigh in the semifinals, Simmons had 20 points and nine boards, while Hamilton finished with 18 points. The Crusaders limited Lehigh to 31.7 percent overall shooting.

Bucknell finished a perfect 14-0 against league competition during the regular season, and there are a few obvious reasons for that success. Rather than rely on one player, the Bison have three individuals who have carried the load. Charles Lee was named the Patriot League Player of the Year on the basis of his tremendous versatility, as he is scoring 12.8 ppg to go along with 6.1 rpg, 85 assists and 62 steals. Chris McNaughton leads the team with 12.9 ppg on 57.7 percent shooting from the floor, and Kevin Bettencourt rounds out the tremendous trio with 12.2 ppg. Bucknell is not an explosive offensive team, as it is averaging a modest 66.4 ppg. Fortunately, the squad has been able to limit its opponents to just 55.1 ppg.

The Bison recorded double-digit victories over Army and American to reach this championship game. In Sunday's triumph over American by a 64-50 final, Bettencourt and McNaughton tallied 16 points apiece, and Lee chipped in 15 points.

03/10 10:58:34 ET