If the 83 year old "Houdini of the Hardwood" has his hands on a smartphone, you can bet that around 9:30 Thursday night, he was texting old friend Bill Russell and poking fun at his former teammate.
Thursday night at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass., Bob Cousy's alma mater Holy Cross was able to outlast Russell's University of San Fransisco in a non-conference matchup, 88-83.
With the impending holiday approaching and finals week coming to a close, both teams had obstacles to overcome. While USF had to make a long journey to the east coast, HC's star junior RJ Evans' immune system succumbed to the ever popular, "flu-like symptoms."
Late December in the hills of Worcester has been a frigid time since the days Cousy and Tommy Heinsohn ran around the Hart Center hardwood. However, the Crusaders were anything but ice cold from the field, shooting nearly 60% and 45% from beyond the arc in the game.
The one place the biting cold did find its place was in the veins of Crusader freshman Justin Burrell who iced the game with his free throw shooting in the final two minutes, consistently pushing the home team's lead to two possessions. Burrell did not have his best game, surrendering six of HC's 28 turnovers, but his clutch play from the charity stripe (10-12) proved to be the difference at the end. An early Crusader lead slowly dissipated late in the second half as the Don's leading scorer Angelo Coloiaro finally got going offensively. Up to that point USF was being carried on both ends by center Perris Blackwell who was a monster in the paint.
Blackwell was difficult to contain for Holy Cross big men Eric Obeysekere and Dave Dudzinski. The Crusaders caught a big break when midway through the second half, Blackwell swung an elbow that connected with Jordan Stevens' nose, he was whistled for a flagrant foul, his fifth. Blackwell went to the bench to stay after scoring 14 points in just 23 minutes. His absence allowed Holy Cross to take over the front court which lead to a career game by Obeysekere.
The junior forward came off the bench to put up a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds coupled with 5 rejections. More importantly, 8 of those 15 boards came on the offensive end allowing the Crusaders numerous second chance opportunities.
The relentless scoring of Rashad Green (game high 23pts) in addition to Coloiaro's late game surge pushed the Dons back into contention. A Green trey midway through the second half gave USF their first lead of the night, but Devin Brown (21pts on 9-12 shooting) responded right away, breaking the USF press with a coast to coast slam dunk over two Don Defenders with six minutes to go giving the 'Saders the lead for good.
The teams traded blows from there with HC never relinquishing the lead as Green continued to rain threes and Dudzinski took over the post en route to a 20pt night. Brown and Obeysekere threw down a couple thunderous dunks that got the crowd involved which forced USF to start fouling early.
As the pep band cascaded the Worcester faithful with the infamous Choo Choo, Rah Rah, Holy Cross headed to the locker room with their fifth victory of the season, improving to 5-7 overall and somewhere, Russell is forking over a few bucks the Cooz.
at HOLY CROSS 88, SAN FRANCISCO 83 12/22/2011
SAN FRANCISCO 9-4 (0-0) -- R. Green 9-18 0-0 23; A. Caloiaro 5-8 5-5 16; C. Doolin 3-5 1-2 8; D. O'Connor 3-7 4-4 10; P. Blackwell 6-13 2-2 14; J. Wey 1-5 0-0 3; K. Murphy 2-6 3-5 7; A. Johnson 0-1 0-0 0; M. Williams 1-5 0-0 2; C. Dickerson 0-0 0-1 0; J. Raffington 0-0 0-0 0; C. Adams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-68 15-19 83. HOLY CROSS 5-7 (0-0) -- D. Brown 9-12 0-1 21; J. Burrell 1-6 10-12 12; E. Obeysekere 3-6 4-4 10; J. Stevens 4-4 5-6 16; D. Dudzinski 4-6 11-12 20; M. Miller 4-6 0-0 9; P. Beans 0-2 0-0 0; T. Abt 0-0 0-0 0; J. Harris 0-1 0-0 0; D. Goens 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-43 30-35 88.
Three-point goals: SF 8-21 (R. Green 5-8; A. Caloiaro 1-2; M. Williams 0-3; J. Wey 1-4; A. Johnson 0-1; C. Doolin 1-3), HC 8-18 (D. Brown 3-5; J. Harris 0-1; J. Stevens 3-3; E. Obeysekere 0-1; P. Beans 0-2; D. Dudzinski 1-2; J. Burrell 0-1; M. Miller 1-3); Rebounds: SF 23 (R. Green 7), HC 35 (E. Obeysekere 15); Assists: SF 16 (R. Green 3), HC 19 (J. Stevens 7); Total Fouls -- SF 29, HC 21; Fouled Out: SF-R. Green; HC-None.