ALEA III salutes Lukas Foss, an American master, on Wednesday, March 20,
at 8 p.m., at the Tsai Performance Center
Week of 15 March 2002 · Vol. V, No. 26


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Next stop: NCAA tournament
Terriers maul Black Bears to win America East

By Brian Fitzgerald

"We want Duke," yelled Terrier basketball fans in unison. The chant grew louder in the sold-out Case Gymnasium late in the second half of the America East championship game March 9, when it became apparent that the BU men's basketball team was going to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997. The Terriers easily defeated Maine, 66-40, earning an automatic invitation to the Big Dance.


Giving the Terriers a huge home court advantage, fans whoop it up during BU's 66-40 victory over Maine in the America East championship game March 9. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky.


The BU faithful wanted their team to play the number-one seed in the South Region. But when asked about facing the Blue Devils in the NCAA first round, BU Coach Dennis Wolff hastened to say, "I'm going to answer that question -- I don't."

What 16th-seeded BU drew instead, however, was a matchup against Cincinnati, the number-one seed in the West. The Terriers and the Bearcats will meet on Friday, March 15, at 7:40 p.m., at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. The game will be televised on CBS.

Most analysts and fans feel that BU (22-9), despite riding a nine-game winning streak, faces overwhelming odds against fourth-ranked Cincinnati (30-3), winner of the Conference USA tournament. In the history of the NCAA tournament, none of the 68 previous number-16 seeds have advanced to the next round.

BU, however, has been overcoming adversity all year, starting with a season-ending shoulder injury to team scoring leader Matt Turner (MET'04) on December 1, followed by a back injury to forward Jerome Graham (MET'02), which required surgery. But freshman guard Chaz Carr (CGS'03) has consistently managed to fill the void, averaging 13.9 points a game, and scoring 15 points against Maine.

The Terriers' season could also have been derailed when Billy Collins (MET'04), who averages 11 points a game, fractured his right wrist February 21 in a victory over Stony Brook, and then reinjured it in the tournament quarterfinal against Northeastern March 2. Despite that, Collins, playing with an air cast, sealed the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award with 14 points and 8 rebounds in the championship.

Taking advantage of Maine's tendency to leave the open man unguarded, Collins found a lane and slam-dunked the ball with authority late in the second half. The monster jam electrified the crowd, but left some wondering if the wrist might have hit the rim. "The dunk didn't hurt, did it?" he was asked later by a sportswriter. Collins smiled and answered, "No." And following the victory, he didn't wince in pain when he used his right hand to snip a section of the net for a memento with a pair of scissors -- or when he exchanged emphatic high-fives with his teammates -- so he wasn't asked to take a polygraph.

  BU's Chaz Carr (CGS'03) beats Maine's Derrick Jackson for 2 of his 15 points as Rashad Bell (CGS'03) looks on. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

A big question at the start of the game was whether BU, whose tallest players are 6' 8", could contain Maine's Justin Rowe -- all seven feet of him. But the Terriers nullified the Black Bears' inside game. "Our goal was to keep them off the black," said forward Ryan Butt (SAR'03). "They have that seven-footer, and they scored those two points early on from the inside, but we stopped them for the most part."

After getting off to a 2-0 lead, Maine enjoyed an early 6-3 advantage. But with an 8-8 tie six minutes into the game, Collins hit the second of his four first-half three-pointers, and BU never looked back.

"We probably played our best game of the year," said Wolff. "The thing that I'm happiest about is all of the assists we had in this game. If we play together as a team, and fight through some of the things that we have this year, then we're going to have a chance to win. The unselfishness [of the team] is what I'm most proud of."

BU also demonstrated its grittiness in the tournament semifinal against Hartford March 3 when forward Stijn Dhondt (SED'02) hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Terriers to a 63-60 victory. "We've been proven to be a pretty resilient bunch," said Wolff.

Wolff's last trip to the NCAA tournament five years ago ended in a first-round loss to Tulsa, 81-52. "The last time we went [to the tournament] we had a deer-in-the-headlights look," he said. "I'm going to do my best to approach the next game like we approached this game. I wasn't as experienced then as I am now. We'll do what we need to do."

The Terriers certainly got the job done against Maine. Red BU T-shirts emblazoned with "Let's Dance" were handed out to the crowd, but the Black Bears didn't seem ready to tango.

"Our goal from the beginning was to win this league and make it to the Big Dance," said Carr. "We had it in our minds through the whole year, and we never had any doubts."


15 March 2002
Boston University
Office of University Relations