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UT women get nod as SSC tourney begins

The Sunshine State Conference women's basketball tournament begins tonight with quarterfinal games at four sites. Top-seeded Tampa (20-5), which won its first SSC regular-season title last week, hosts Florida Tech (1-25), which had to forfeit 14 victories because it used an ineligible player (Sherri France, who was leading the nation in scoring).

Tampa can set school records tonight for wins in a season and longest winning streak, currently at eight games. UT junior center Crystal Ashley, who scored a career-high 27 points in Saturday's regular-season-ending 94-84 win over Florida Southern, leads the Spartans with averages of 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

In tonight's other games (see schedule in For the Record), Eckerd (8-17) is at North Florida (13-11), Saint Leo (8-18) visits Florida Southern (20-6), and Rollins (19-7) hosts Barry (6-19). UT will host the tournament semifinals Saturday afternoon at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. and the final Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

UT's Bob Martinez Sports Center also is the site of the SSC men's tournament, beginning with these quarterfinal games Friday: Barry (17-9) vs. Eckerd (13-12) at 12:30 p.m., North Florida (14-12) vs. No. 2 seed Florida Southern (22-4) at 2:30, Saint Leo (14-12) vs. Florida Tech (15-11) at 6:30, and Rollins (11-15) vs. top seed Tampa (19-7) at 8:30. The men's semifinals are at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday night and the final is Sunday at 2:30.

The SSC men's winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II tournament. Another one or two teams could receive at-large berths. (The women's champion does not automatically qualify, but could earn an at-large invitation). Bids will be announced Sunday evening.