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Bulls ‘Hoop for the Cure’ against No. 5 Rutgers

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL GAME TIMERutgers (19-4, 9-1) at USF (12-11, 2-8)When: Sat., 7p.m.Where: Sun DomeTV/Radio: Catch 47/1010 AM

South Florida women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez knows what it’s like to raise cancer awareness during a basketball game. A few weeks ago against Louisville, the coaching staff wore warm-ups and sneakers that men’s coaches wear during Coaches Versus Cancer week.

Fernandez said people from the Louisville side asked him: “What are you doing? That’s a men’s thing.”

“I thought cancer doesn’t only affect men, it affects everyone,” Fernandez said.

Now his team focuses on a cancer that primarily affects women – breast cancer.

The “Women’s Hoops for the Cure” game takes place Saturday at the Sun Dome against the No. 5 Rutgers women’s basketball team (19-4, 9-1). Referees with pink whistles and athletes with pink warm-ups will take to the court as the event teams up with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s “Think Pink” initiative and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s “Pack the Place” promotion to raise awareness and money for cancer.

“It is going to bring awareness to the entire community, and our players are going to take this to heart,” Fernandez said.

Money raised goes to the Florida Suncoast Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, a non-profit organization.

“(Funds) we raise will actually (go) back out to the community,” Lynn Rasys, executive director of the foundation said. “The only funds we would keep are to run the staff (or other operational costs).” Seventy-five percent of the funds raised return to non-profit organizations in the comunity that fight breast cancer.

To draw attention to the event, the Quick Change Show will perform at halftime. It features a married couple that changes into many different outfits.

“It is a very popular act – probably one of the NBA’s most popular acts,” Ayodele Taylor-Dixon, assistant athletic director of marketing and event management, said.

Aside from the halftime show, playing a team like Rutgers brings attention, too.

“I think it is going to be a very, very good event,” Fernandez said. “Especially at the national stage when you’re playing an opponent like Rutgers.”

Rutgers – runner-up in last year’s national title game – brings a stingy defense against the Bulls, allowing 51.2 points per game – second in the Big East.

USF associate coach Jeff Osterman said he thinks Rutgers aims to stop junior guard Shantia Grace – USF’s leading scorer.

Grace scored a career-high 35 points last week against then-ranked DePaul (16-7, 5-5), leading the Bulls to an upset victory.

The Bulls came close to defeating the Scarlet Knights last time they came to Tampa. They lost 66-65 against the then-No. 9 team. To pull off the upset, USF will need to get Rutgers starters off the floor.

“I think we need to get to the Rutger’s bench early,” Osterman said. “Our five versus their five is going to be awful tough.”

Rutger’s handed No. 2 Connecticut (23-1, 10-1), a team that defeated the Bulls 71-48, it’s only loss this season.