The Boston University women’s basketball team opens its 2008-09 campaign tonight at 5 p.m. at the University of Rhode Island. It will be a veteran showdown on the floor of the Thomas M. Ryan Center, as the Terriers ‘-‘- coming off their second 20-win season in program history ‘-‘- and Rams will start four seniors.
Co-captain Christine Kinneary, who ranked third in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.68) and eighth in assists per game (6.7), will man the point for BU. Classmates Amarachi Umez-Eronini and Kristi Dini will join her in the backcourt, while preseason All-Conference honoree and co-captain Jesyka Burks-Wiley will occupy one of the spots up front.
The veteran foursome of guards Amanda McGrew and Crystal Bellinger and forwards Sierra Cooper and Tanja Licina lead URI. McGrew is the team’s leading returning scorer (9.5 points per game), while Cooper (7.4), Bellinger (6.1) and Licina (5.3) ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, last year.
BU coach Kelly Greenberg said she isn’t concerned with URI’s senior leadership.
‘I’m not really worried about seniors and experience because I think that’s to our advantage with our four senior starters,’ Greenberg said. ‘Right now, I’m going into this game just hoping we play with the personality we’ve been showing the past couple of weeks and get everything going with our defense with Christine and Amarachi leading the charge.’
Sophomore Kerry Cashman will start at the other forward spot for the Terriers in place of junior Aly Hinton, who is rehabbing a knee injury and is expected to see limited playing time to start the season. Greenberg said Hinton’s status would be determined after seeing how she felt following last night’s practice.
Freshman Caroline Stewart, a McDonald’s All-America nominee and Wendy’s Heisman Award candidate her senior year at Masconomet Regional High School in Boxford, Mass., will also see significant playing time in the frontcourt.
‘Right now, if Aly gets a couple minutes, we’d be happy,’ Greenberg said. ‘Our forward off the bench will be Caroline Stewart, and if we have to go to another forward we can always move Amarachi to the forward spot.’
Fellow freshman Alex Young, a four-time All-Conference and All-Region member at St. Stephens High School in Hickory, N.C., should also see quite a few minutes in her first collegiate contest as the Terriers’ top shooting guard coming off the bench.
‘It depends on how the game’s going,’ Greenberg said of the number of minutes her freshmen will see. ‘But Caroline and Alex both see a lot of playing time in our practice scheme. I’m sure they’ll be nervous, but I told them, ‘Expect to play and expect to play a lot of minutes.’ They earned it, so they should be excited and, when we call them, they’ll be ready.’
After leading America East with 69.4 points per game last season, Greenberg said she hopes to run just as much this year, starting tonight.
‘We definitely want to push it,’ Greenberg said. ‘We feel it’s a strength of ours. If we don’t get opportunities off the push, we have a lot of offenses we can fall into. [The Rams] do play a lot of zone, so we’re ready for that. They might press a little bit, but we’re prepared and the girls are ready for their first game.’
BU holds a 7-6 advantage in the all-time series against URI, including a 77-56 victory last November at Case Gymnasium. Kinneary led all scorers with a then-career-high 17 points, while Burks-Wiley recorded 10 points and nine rebounds.