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Holy Cross still creating madness with methodical approach in First Four

DAYTON, Ohio -- There is magic in the monotony.

Holy Cross has found its formula for success just in time for the postseason, and the methodical approach again extended its season -- and sent another frustrated opponent home.

On Wednesday night at UD Arena in the First Four, it was Southern, a team that was frustrated by the Crusaders' pesky zone, which was forced to defend for long stretches at the other end by a patient attack and ultimately became the fifth straight team to fall to Holy Cross in the postseason in a 59-55 slugfest.

The Crusaders' streak is certainly unexpected after they finished the season just 14-19, but the improvement of their 1-3-1 defense, an uptick in 3-point conversions to maximize their lengthy possessions and a willingness to embrace their slow tempo is paying dividends at exactly the right time.

And for coach Bill Carmody, it's something of vindication for his style after failing to break into the NCAA tournament during his 13 years at Northwestern. Before that, he once took Princeton to the second round during his previous coaching stop.

Since surviving in a bit more of high-octane pace in the opener of the Patriot League tournament, the Crusaders have held four consecutive opponents under 56 points in regulation to set up their Cinderella run. And after making just seven attempts from 3-point range per game during the regular season, the two extra-long balls they hit against the Jaguars wound up making a huge difference in a battle that went down to the wire.

That formula will be put to a far stiffer test on Friday against Oregon, the West Region’s No. 1 seed. And the Crusaders are going to encounter some major problems if they again turn the ball over 13 times and come up short in the rebounding battle, two areas that didn’t prove costly against the Jaguars.

But the Ducks operate at a much higher level in every conceivable way. The trick for them will be to not get bored dealing with their opponent, because the Crusaders have proven more than capable of turning a monotonous style into March magic.