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Trading their red for pink

By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
Published February 9, 2008


If the uniforms look a little different this week, do not adjust your television.

When Rutgers, fresh off an upset of undefeated and No. 1 Connecticut, travels to play at soon-to-be No. 1 Tennessee on Monday in a rematch of last year's championship game, the Scarlet Knights will wear pink uniforms and shoes from Nike.

It's part of the national "Think Pink" campaign to promote breast cancer awareness, launched by the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research in honor of N.C. State women's coach Kay Yow, who is battling the disease.

More than 800 universities across the country are expected to participate, including USF, whose women's team will wear pink Nike shooting shirts before today's game at Cincinnati. The Bulls have designated their Feb. 16 home game against Rutgers as their first "Women's Hoops for the Cure" game, with special $3 tickets offered and proceeds going to the Florida Suncoast Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

USF coach Jose Fernandez and his staff wore sneakers and warmups last week at Louisville in support of "Coaches vs. Cancer" week, a gesture normally made by men's coaches.

"We had a couple of people at the scorer's table who said, 'What are you guys doing? That's a men's thing,'" Fernandez said. "I thought, cancer, it doesn't only affect men; it affects everyone.

"By carrying that over to the women's side, we can do so much more to find a cure."

Orange nation

Tennessee fans are hopeful that Candace Parker's bruised left knee is just a short-term loss - it's the same knee she tore an ACL in as a high school senior - but her absence could come during a key week as the Vols return to No. 1 in the polls.

Fans in Knoxville get not one but two Final Four-caliber games this week, as the Vols play host to No. 7 Rutgers on Monday and No. 8 LSU on Thursday.

The Vols and Tigers are both 8-0 in SEC play, so this is a potential preview of the SEC championship game. The Tigers aren't done with elite-level play either, as they play host to Connecticut on Feb. 25.

Now that's young

UCF has struggled to an 8-14 record - 1-8 in Conference USA - under first-year coach Joi Williams, but there's certainly promise ahead in Orlando.

Williams' top seven scorers are freshmen, led by 6-foot-4 forward Tia Lewis, who leads the Knights with 12.5 points per game and ranks third nationally with 11.9 rebounds per game. Another freshman, 6-2 forward Emma Cannon, isn't far behind with 11.8 points and 9.3 rebounds. In all, nine of the 11 Knights who have played this season are freshmen, with only one reserve senior due to graduate.

Short but strong

The tallest of the NCAA's top 35 scorers? That's Tennessee's Candace Parker at 6-4. The shortest? That's 5-5 sophomore guard Andrea Riley, part of one of college basketball's better stories this season at Oklahoma State.

Riley made headlines when she scored 45 in the Cowgirls' upset of Oklahoma last month, and she has topped 30 twice in the last three games. The most impressive part of Oklahoma State's 77-67 upset of No. 5 Baylor was that Riley had a bad night, going 5-for-23 from the field for 15 points.

Oklahoma State is 18-3, which is a far cry from two years ago, when it lost 17 straight in finishing 6-22.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com or 813 226-3346.