Hoops tip-off at Agganis Arena
By Brian Fitzgerald
The Catamounts are coming, and so are their fans — in droves.
Both the men’s and the women’s Terrier basketball teams will mark their debut in Agganis Arena with a doubleheader against Vermont on Saturday, February 12. The Lady Terriers’ game begins at 1 p.m., while the tip-off for the men’s contest is 4 p.m.
Like BU, Vermont is sponsoring alumni events, including lunches, at the game. So besides plenty of people wearing scarlet and white, expect to see plenty decked out in green and gold. Men’s coach Dennis Wolff is hoping the home team fans buy more tickets and send a message that the Terrier faithful won’t be outnumbered and outshouted. Not in our house.
How heavy is the hype for these matchups? Neither BU coach has uttered the word I, but both express an intense desire to win, especially since their teams dropped decisions to Vermont earlier in the season.
Just over the second-place Terrier men (8-2), defending America East champion Vermont (10-0) is perched ominously on top in the America East standings with the help of the nation’s leading scorer, Taylor Coppenrath, who is averaging 26.5 points a game.
Amazingly, BU held the six-foot-nine-inch senior to just 16 points on January 15 in Burlington, Vt., but the Catamounts sunk an unbelievable 13 three-pointers to bomb BU into submission, 69-58. Josh Duell scored 15 points, all on three-pointers. With a devastating scoring attack from both the inside and the outside, Vermont is on a roll. But Wolff is unfazed.
“There is no question in my mind that we are capable of beating this team,” he says. “In the game that we played in Vermont, we were in it the whole game, and we didn’t play well. Vermont did shoot an outrageous percentage from the three-point line, but partially because we made some errors in regard to staying with the game plan defensively. We just didn’t guard correctly. I came out of the game convinced that we can beat them when we play them at BU, or if we are fortunate enough to meet them in the postseason.”
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that it was Vermont that beat BU in the 2003 America East championship game, 56-55, taking a berth in the NCAA tournament. For that game, several hundred Vermont fans made the pilgrimage to Case Gym, the Terriers’ regular home court. However, ticket sales have been brisk north of the border, and several thousand Catamount fanatics are expected to descend on Agganis Arena.
“The players are looking forward to playing there,” says Wolff. Still, he doesn’t want the fan and media buzz (the Vermont games, as well the February 20 doubleheader at Agganis against the Northeastern men’s and women’s teams will be televised on NESN) to be too much of a diversion. “What we need to do is make sure that we’re focused on what our involvement is on that day — which is trying to win the game,” he says. “There is a lot of activity surrounding the game, and that’s all nice, but at the end of the day, it will be disappointing to us if we get distracted by the pomp and come up short.”
Sparking the Terrier attack are Rashad Bell (CAS’05) and Chaz Carr (MET’05), averaging 16 and 13 points a game, respectively. Freshman Bryan Geffen (CAS’08), who scored 13 in BU’s 79-63 win over New Hampshire January 26, has been raising some eyebrows. “He’s worked hard,” says Wolff, and is getting more playing time because he has improved at practices during the last three weeks.
Greenberg braces for green storm
“We’re excited about Agganis Arena,” says women’s basketball coach Kelly Greenberg, “especially our seniors. They watched it being built, and they can’t wait to play there.”
Vermont (5-3) shared first place with Hartford and Maine until January 29, when the Catamounts lost to Hartford, 79-66. Greenberg says BU (4-4) will have to keep its eye on Katie McNamara, who burned the Terriers for 23 points in Vermont’s 69-66 victory in Burlington January 15.
“Katie McNamara has a move to her right, and we let her do it way too many times,” she says. “So we’ll have to be ready for her.”
But the Vermont game left Greenberg encouraged, not frustrated. “I thought that was one
of our better games this year,” she says. “There were a lot of lead changes. It could have gone either way.”
Rachael Vanderwal (SED’06) and Adrienne Norris (CAS’05) lead BU in scoring, both averaging 11 points a game. The Terriers will have their hands full with not only McNamara, but freshman Alexis Castro, who shared America East Rookie of Week honors on January 17.
“Vermont is a well-rounded team,” says Greenberg. “For us, it’s a matter of offensively playing our game and getting good shots. But it helps knowing that we could have won the last time.”
The 2004 World Series trophy will be displayed at Agganis Arena from 1 to 4 p.m. February 12, courtesy of the Boston Red Sox.