Terriers to tip off with season-opening tournament

This weekend, eight months of offseason workouts, preseason practices, and preseason exhibition games against club teams that few people have ever heard of will finally give way to real games that count.

When the Boston University women’s basketball team takes the floor to host Yale University at The Roof at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Boston University Invitational, it will be for real.

“We’re ready for the season,” BU coach Margaret McKeon said. “We have some things to work on, but practice has been good this week.”

Their first opponent, Yale, comes from the Ivy League. The Terriers and Bulldogs are meeting for the first time since 1996 and the eighth time overall, but the Terriers have won all seven prior meetings.

The Bulldogs’ strong spot this year is their backcourt, led by sophomore Maria Smear, senior Kim Gahan and junior Kate Merker. Smear was a member of last year’s Ivy League All-Rookie team, led the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game and drained 40 three-pointers. Gahan’s strength is her defensive capabilities, which fit with Yale’s disciplined, man-to-man, defense-oriented style.

“[Yale] plays a very sound man-to-man defense,” McKeon said. “They’re very good at rotating defensively and packing it in. On offense, they’re very structured and disciplined. They probably want to slow the game down.”

However, the fact that Yale relies so much on their guards may play into the hands of the Terriers, who like to pressure teams defensively and play up-tempo.

“We plan on pressuring teams this year,” McKeon says. “I hope that works against Yale.”

The other two teams in this weekend’s tournament, Baylor University and University of Miami (Ohio), have never faced the Terriers before. Those two teams will meet in the second preliminary game at 3 p.m. on Saturday at The Roof. The consolation game will be on Sunday at 1 p.m., followed by the championship game at 3 p.m.

Baylor, a member of the Big 12 conference, is an intriguing team, mainly because of their coach.

Kim Mulkey-Robertson is starting her rookie season as the Bears’ head coach after spending 19 years as an assistant to legendary coach Leon Barmore at Louisiana Tech University, where she went to 11 NCAA Final Fours and won three national championships. Not only did she inherit an already talented roster at Baylor, but she brought in a great group of junior college transfers.

“[Baylor] is very strong and athletic,” McKeon said. “They will be exciting to watch this year.”

Miami (Ohio) comes from the Mid-American Conference, and returns their top two scorers, senior guard Jenny Martin and sophomore guard Heather Cusick, from last year’s 16-12 team. This year, the Red Hawks have their sights set on the conference championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament.

“[Miami (Ohio)] has some great jump shooters,” McKeon said. “They play a lot of man-to-man defense, and they also play up-tempo sometimes.”

The injury front, which looked worrisome earlier this week, has improved considerably. The Terriers had feared that freshman forward/center Ashley Carr might have suffered a season-ending injury to her anterior cruciate ligament, but an MRI revealed much less serious damage. Carr will be out 2-6 weeks, meaning that she could possibly return in time for the Terriers’ trip to Nashville for a tournament at Vanderbilt University at the end of this month. At worst, she should be back by the New Years holiday.

The news was even better for freshman guard Courtney Jones, who, despite injuring her thumb during the preseason, has been cleared by the medical staff to play this weekend.

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