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The Colonel John W. Pershing Annual Military History Lecture, Wednesday, March 26, 4 p.m., SMG Auditorium

Week of 21 March 2003· Vol. VI, No. 25

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Lady basketball Terriers earn first bid to NCAA tournament

By Brian Fitzgerald

Coach Margaret McKeon and guard Alison Argentieri (CAS’03), who scored 17 points against Vermont in the America East tournament quarterfinal. Photo by Steve Woltmann


Coach Margaret McKeon and guard Alison Argentieri (CAS’03), who scored 17 points against Vermont in the America East tournament quarterfinal. Photo by Steve Woltmann


In 1999, when BU hired Margaret McKeon to coach a struggling women’s basketball team, she laid out a blueprint for building a true winner. The project, in real estate terms, was a bit more daunting than a “fixer-upper,” since McKeon was inheriting a 5-22 squad.

It was, rather, a complete rebuilding from the foundation up.

However, on March 16, 2003, guard Katie Meinhardt hammered in the final nail to complete the construction of a dream house. With 1:47 left in the America East tournament championship game against Maine, Meinhardt (SMG’06) scored a baseline three-pointer to increase BU’s lead to six points. The Terriers never relinquished the lead, winning the game, 69-65, and earning their first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament.

Number 16–seed BU (16-14) will face legendary UConn (31-1), the top seed in the East, on Sunday, March 23, at noon at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2, and will be shown in the GSU’s Metcalf Hall and in the Union Court.

“Four years ago, this is where I envisioned the program being,” says McKeon, “and now it’s a reality.” Before the season began, WomensCollegeHoops.com named Boston University a “Cinderella Team.” Still, in reality, the BU story was a calculated and gradual ascension over the first three years. Under McKeon, the team’s record improved every season: 8-21, 10-19, and 17-11. This year the Terriers are 16-14, but McKeon deliberately scheduled a few tough games, including Villanova, Harvard, St. Joseph’s, and Stanford — all NCAA tournament teams — to get her players used to playing at a higher level. They didn’t slay the Goliaths, but the battles prepared them for the America East tournament, where the third-seeded Terriers defeated Northeastern, 55-53 (overcominga 14-point deficit with 5:56 left), and then Vermont, 68-57, before dispatching Maine.

Part of McKeon’s strategy this year has been to spread out the scoring, taking some of the load off Katie Terhune (CAS’04), who led the conference last year. It worked. Forward Larissa Parr (CAS’05) and guard Alison Argentieri (CAS’03) joined Terhune on the All-Tournament Team, while Meinhardt was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Meinhardt’s reputation as the go-to shooter to eat away at an opponent’s lead — or put the enemy away for good — is growing. She hit crucial late-game three-pointers in all the tourney contests, hiding in the corner to get the pass and deliver the knockout trey against Maine.

“When you put a plan of attack together, you set goals and you try to accomplish them,” says McKeon. “Then, when it’s time to do it, you say, ‘Okay, let’s get it done.’” Still, McKeon knows the enormity of what BU has accomplished. The victory against Vermont was the Terriers’ first in the last 15 tries, and they were able to snap a 20-game Northeastern winning streak. “The hard work obviously pays off,” says McKeon, “but once it has happened, you still say, ‘Can you believe it?’ ”

Now BU faces a UConn team that is the number-one seed for the 9th time in 10 years. “UConn is a great program, but they do have four freshmen — they’re not experienced in the NCAA tournament. That makes the playing field more level,” says McKeon. The Huskies also proved they were not invincible this year, letting Villanova slam the brakes on their 70-game winning streak. “Furthermore, we’re not facing the great UConn teams that had Sue Bird, Asja Jones, Swin Cash, and Tamika Williams,” McKeon says, referring to the school’s 1,000-point scorers, who brought the team four straight Big East regular-season and tournament titles. “UConn is a young, talented group. But as a number-16 seed, if you wanted to face a UConn team in the NCAA tournament, this would definitely be the season.”

The first UConn player the Terriers have to stop is six-foot junior guard Diana Taruasi, who has scored 50 or more points on four occasions. “She can do so many different things, scoring outside and inside,” McKeon says. “Rebounding and defense are things they can do very well. We’re going to have to find ways to score — be patient so we get good looks, and hopefully nail the shots down.”

UConn isn’t a big team, “but they’re very athletic,” she says. “We can hit the three pointer and post-up on them. It’s not like they have a great shot blocker. They thrive on team defense and doing the extra little things. But we’ve prepared ourselves for this moment. I don’t think our kids will be intimidated. We get to play 40 more minutes, and we’re going to play our hearts out.”

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21 March 2003
Boston University
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