The Crusaders beat Southern, 59-55, in a First Four matchup in Dayton on Wednesday to improve to 15-19 overall and win their first NCAA Tournament since 1953. They started the year 10-19 but are 5-0 in March, during which they won the Patriot League Tournament and knocked off the Southwestern Athletic Conference champions.
“Yeah, we’re really excited about it,” Holy Cross guard Robert Champion said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “This run we’ve had in March has been really special for us. it’s been crazy. it’s been a crazy two-and-a-half weeks now.”
Holy Cross led by 12 in the first half and by five at halftime. The game was tied inside of two minutes, but Champion hit one of his three three-pointers to put the Crusaders ahead.
“Southern is a really good team,” he said. “When we were up 12 or whatever, it was in the first half. We knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. They’re a good team. Every team that’s in the tournament is a good team. We knew we were going to have to come out in the second half to fight. They did a great job of pressuring us and getting inside of our offense a little bit. We played behind before, so I think it speaks to the toughness of this team that we were able to stick together and come back even when it looked pretty bad there for a second.”
Champion scored a game-high 19 points off the bench, while starter Anthony Thompson added 12. Holy Cross shot 45 percent from the floor and hit nine threes.
“We’ve been shooting the ball well throughout the month of March,” Champion said, “and we were able to do it again tonight.”
Holy Cross advances to play No. 1 Oregon (28-6) on Friday at 7:27 p.m. ET. The Ducks, needless to say, will be heavy favorites.
Not that Holy Cross cares about that.
“We’re going to come in there with that same type of attitude – just play hard for 40 minutes and see where we’re at at the end of it,” Champion said. “I think that (being the underdog has) kind of been the thought of everybody throughout this run. We’ve been the underdog in every single game that we’ve played in March. We know that and it puts a chip on our shoulder, so I think that does help us. It gives us extra motivation to play well. We’re just going to keep riding this for as long as we can.”