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Big 4 teams step up fight against breast cancer

The partnership between collegiate women's basketball and breast cancer agencies always seemed like a natural.

This year, the connection seems even stronger.

And many teams started wearing pink before their scheduled "Pink Zone" day.

With the death of Kay Yow, the legendary North Carolina State coach, teams across the country have been donning pink accessories all season as a tribute to a woman who impacted basketball and used that platform to help educate women about health and research issues.

This Saturday, the University at Buffalo will host its official "Pink Zone" game as part of the nationwide initiative sponsored and directed by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. And while it's become part of the culture of women's basketball, this year certainly adds a different dimension.

"It is extra special this year because of the recent loss of Kay Yow to our profession," UB coach Linda Hill-MacDonald said. "The attention she has been able to bring to the cause of research for breast cancer was phenomenal. Over the past four years since she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer to have fought the fight as long as she did was amazing and it galvanized the profession in an effort to raise funds to help in the research."

The Bulls will feature their Pink Zone Day when they host Northern Illinois at 2 p.m. Saturday in Alumni Arena. The doors open at 1 p.m.

Fundraising efforts include a raffle for one of two special pink jerseys autographed by the UB women's team. There also will be a "Pink Zone Toss" where for a $5 donation, fans get a pink tennis ball and can try to toss the ball into a box at halftime to win $5,000. The donation also enters fans into a raffle to win a football jersey autographed by football coach Turner Gill.

Canisius hosts its Pink Zone game on Feb. 22 when the Golden Griffins will host Iona at 2 p.m.

Any fans wearing pink will get into the game for free while the program will have a "stuff the pink sneaker" fundraiser.

Proceeds of all events at the schools go to benefit the Kay Yow/Women's Basketball Coaches Association Cancer Fund in partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Niagara will hold its Pink Zone when it hosts Iona Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. The game was moved from 7 p.m. to accommodate the men's BrackBuster game against Illinois State.

St. Bonaventure held its day in January but is still selling "Think Pink" T-shirts on campus.

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Battle of the Bridge

The final regular season grudge match between Niagara and Canisius men's basketball teams will arrive on Thursday. This edition takes place in the Koessler Center at 7:30 p.m. on Time Warner Sports Net. Niagara won round one, 75-69, at the Gallagher Center on Jan. 26.

It's a series that began in 1906 when, as the Canisius sports information department points out, the American flag only had 45 stars, the average wage in the United States was 22 cents per hour, a three-minute phone call from Buffalo to Denver cost $11 and items like iced tea and crossword puzzles had not yet been invented.

The schools can't even agree on their overall record against each other. While both schools acknowledge the Purple Eagles have the lead, Canisius has it at 88-73 while Niagara has it 93-72.

On some things, we just agree to disagree.

Key players to watch for the Golden Griffins include Frank Turner, who is averaging 15.7 points and 5.6 assists in his five career games against Niagara, and Greg Logins, averaging 12 points and 4.5 rebounds in three games against Niagara.

The Purple Eagles have won 11 of the last 12 meetings with Benson Egemonye scoring 24 points to pace Niagara in its win last month.

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Signature wins

Two weekends ago, the Canisius women's team looked to have hit that midseason grind when it split home Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games by defeating Saint Peter's and losing to Rider.

Last weekend, the Griffs got their groove back in a big way, knocking off defending champ and perennial power Marist, 68-60, in Poughkeepsie on Friday. They backed that up with a win at Siena and sit in third place in the MAAC with a 10-3 mark, 18-6 overall. They trail Marist (12-2) and Fairfield (11-2) with a critical matchup against the Stags Saturday night in Connecticut.

The St. Bonaventure women kept pace in the Atlantic 10 with a win at Saint Joseph's on Sunday. The Bonnies are 6-2 in the conference, tied for third with Temple and George Washington.

Bona hosts Rhode Island at 7 tonight in the Reilly Center.

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This week's games

*Buffalo men: Take the best start in UB Division I history (16-5) on the road with games at Eastern Michigan (Thursday, 7 p.m.) and Ball State (Sunday, 2 p.m.).

*Buffalo women: Travel to Eastern Michigan Wednesday (7 p.m.) then host Northern Illinois at 2 p.m., Saturday.

*Canisius men: After Thursday's Niagara game, the Griffs will travel to Loyola on Monday (7 p.m.).

*Canisius women: On the road with games at Fairfield (Saturday, 6 p.m.) and Saint Peter's (Monday, 6 p.m.).

*Niagara men: Take a five-game winning streak to Canisius on Thursday at 7 p.m. then at Fairfield Saturday for a 9 p.m. ESPN2 game.

*Niagara women: Looking to end their 21-game losing streak with games at Loyola (Friday, 5 p.m., ESPNU) and Rider (Sunday, 2 p.m.).

*St. Bonaventure men: Stopped a five-game losing skid with a win over La Salle on Saturday but have to travel to Rhode Island on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Return to host Massachusetts at 7 p.m. on Saturday in annual Hall of Fame Day.

*St. Bonaventure women: Host Rhode Island tonight (7 p.m.) then travel to Fordham on Saturday (1 p.m.)

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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