At NCAA Tournament, players find diversion from war

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- War has been part of Siobhan Kilkenny's
life in the past. It will be on her mind again this weekend.

"It's a very sad situation and I'm sorry we're in it,'' the
Ireland-born Manhattan senior said of America's invasion of Iraq.
"Coming from Ireland, we've gone through a lot of trouble in our
own country and I'm not too far away from that.''

Kilkenny is one of the scoring leaders on the Lady Jaspers team,
which plays Mississippi State in Saturday's first round of the women's NCAA

Manhattan is a big underdog against the Bulldogs, the No. 3 seed
in the Midwest Regional. The Lady Jaspers have never won an NCAA
Tournament game and will face one of the nation's best players in
MSU forward LaToya Thomas.

Kilkenny and her teammates relish the opportunity to try to
spring an upset. But she said Friday the tournament might also help
divert some attention from what's going on in the Persian Gulf.

"Obviously, there's bigger things happening around the world,''
she said. "We just hope that the NCAA Tournament -- both men and
women -- takes some of the pressure off people. You're trying to
give them something else so they're not thinking about the war all
the time.''

David Cehron, a member of the Bulldogs' pep band, agreed with
Kilkenny that March Madness can be a haven from war.

"There's only so long you can watch the news before they start
repeating themselves,'' Cehron said. "It's nice to have something
else to give you a diversion.''

The 20-year-old Cehron said he hadn't made up his mind how he
stands on the United States' decision to attack Iraq, but leans
toward supporting the president's decision.

"I don't feel like I have enough information on what's going
on,'' he said. "It's probably necessary. I don't think we can just
wait until something happens with Saddam Hussein.''

The University of New Mexico is hosting the first two rounds of
the women's tournament, as well as next week's Midwest Regional
semifinals and finals.

There have been ongoing demonstrations in the city and school
officials said Friday if protesters show up, they will have an area
across the arena set aside for them.

"We've made allowances for anyone that wants to protest,'' said
Greg Remington, associate athletics director for administration and
media relations. "By law they cannot impede traffic, exits or
entrances into the building.''

Remington said the university had increased the number of
uniformed officers and event security personnel for the games
Saturday and Monday and was working closely with city, state and
federal authorities.