EMMITSBURG -- It was a career-best night for Mount St. Mary's center Chris Cavanagh, but unfortunately his performance came in a game against Holy Cross center Jim Nairus.
While the 7-foot Cavanagh was scoring a career-high 22 points, the 6-foot-10 Nairus was tallying career highs in points, rebounds and blocked shots to lead the Crusaders to a 90-80 win last night over the Mountaineers before 2,150 fans at Knott Arena.
Nairus shot 11 of 13 from the field -- including six of seven from three-point range -- for 29 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots, as the Crusaders (4-3) won back-to-back games for the first time this year. Mount St. Mary's (1-7) lost its fourth straight game, the Mountaineers' worst start since they joined Division I three seasons ago and the worst in coach Jim Phelan's 37 years since 1971-72, when the team started 1-11.
"We're playing just well enough to lose -- we keep finding ways to do it," Phelan said after watching the Mount shoot under 40 percent (37.8 percent) for the second straight game. "I'll give the guys a few days off, and when we come back we'll make some lineup changes to see what happens."
The Mountaineers were down, 41-32, at halftime and faced their biggest deficit, 51-39, after Nairus hit a short banker with 16 minutes, 48 seconds left in the game. After Holy Cross guard Bill Walker (18 points) hit a three-pointer from the corner to give his team a 56-45 lead, the Mountaineers began their comeback.
A three-pointer by John Miller (20 points) was followed by a dunk by Alex Watson (15 points, seven assists). Minutes later Jeff Hall completed a 9-0 run with a layup that put the Mount within 56-54 with 11:39 left.
But Nairus, who watched most of the run from the bench, checked back in and immediately hit a three-pointer from the right corner; Aaron Jordan followed with another three-pointer. That triggered a 22-15 run by the Crusaders -- Nairus had three three-pointers during the span -- that gave Holy Cross a 78-69 lead with 3:36 left. The Mountaineers got to within 84-80 on a jumper by Steve Kinney with 52 seconds left, but Holy Cross closed the game with three straight baskets to secure the win.
Nairus, the preseason choice for Patriot League Player of the Year, was coming off a 19-point effort in the Crusaders' 76-69 overtime win over rival Boston College -- an effort for which he was named league Player of the Week.
"Someone that big shooting like that is hard to cover," said Phelan of Nairus. "That's why we played a shorter man on him. But he still hit every open shot he had."
The shooting range and agility of Nairus might warrant a look by the pros once the season is over.
"Anyone who can shoot like that can have a chance," said Holy Cross coach George Blaney. "What he's done is gotten much stronger and a lot tougher. He's outstanding on the boards and is a very good passer."
Phelan was pleased with the effort of Cavanagh, who scored 10 of Mount St. Mary's first 16 points. Cavanagh's previous career-high game was 12 points, scored two games ago at North Carolina State. The senior had just 41 career points coming into this season.
"He's catching the ball better and is working very hard," Phelan said. "He still gets stripped when he brings the ball down sometimes, but he's getting better."
The Mount will play the third of its six consecutive home games Thursday against Rider.