The Wichita State women's basketball team has a lot to play for in tonight's contest against Missouri State.
It will be the "grand stage," as coach Jody Adams calls it.
The start time at Koch Arena has been moved up to 5:35 p.m. so the game can be broadcast on Missouri Valley Conference television network.
Wichita State will be donning pink uniforms in the annual WBCA Pink Zone game to help raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer. All tickets have been lowered to $4.
"This is a great opportunity for us to be on the grand stage and to help spread awareness and prevention for breast cancer," Adams said. "For our team, this game means a lot. We've had a player's mother affected, one of our team's mentors has been affected and friends and family of mine."
After practice on Wednesday, each player was handed a print-out of women's breast cancer facts. Adams wanted to emphasize the meaning for this game.
"When you can take the game of basketball and not only teach kids life skills, but teach them awareness and how to take better care of their bodies," Adams said, "then there's no better place to be than the Division-I basketball level."
Wichita State (11-13, 5-8 Missouri Valley) is also desperate for a win, having lost four of its last five games.
When the Shockers have played well lately, sophomore Jessica Diamond has usually been the impetus. That wasn't the case earlier in the season when she was benched after four games in the starting lineup.
"She had to learn a different tempo," Adams said. "When you play at a certain tempo for 18 years of your life, that usually sticks with you, whether it's good or bad. We had to change that."
Diamond put in her time in the gym to adjust her playing style to better accommodate Adams' offense.
During her 11-game stretch coming off the bench, Diamond averaged 6.0 points a game. Since her return to starting, Diamond is averaging 13.6 points in the last nine games.
"Jody challenged me," Diamond said. "I just focused on my tempo. By doing that, it changed a lot of things for me. I became more aggressive. I changed my mentality. I stayed more active. When I do those things, good things happen for me."
And when good things happen for Diamond, good things follow for Wichita State.
"It makes this team much, much better," Adams said. "I think Jessy can do even more."