Feb. 17, 2011
Houston - Morgan Mayse scored a career-high 23 points and Jessica Kuster posted her 10th double-double as the Rice Owls (16-10, 8-4) defeated UTEP 76-69 in Tudor Fieldhouse. UTEP falls to 13-11 overall and 5-7 in C-USA. Mayse also crossed the 1,000-point plateau with her 23 points and sits at 1,004 career points and she is the first Owl recruit for head coach Greg Williams to score over 1,000 points.
With their 16th victory of the season, the Owls have assured themselves of a winning campaign with four games remaining, plus at least one C-USA tournament contest. This is the first winning season since the 2007 squad, that played in the WNIT, won 19 games.
Also, the Owls remain tied for second place in the Conference USA standings with UCF. Both teams are 8-4 in C-USA play. Memphis, which lost at Southern Miss (66-51) on Thursday, the Owls' Sunday opponent, is now 7-5 in the league.
It was a closely played game throughout. UTEP's biggest lead was at 6-1 (17:58), but Mayse scored the Owls first 11 points of the contest to put Rice on top 11-9 with a her first three-pointer of the night (14:59). Rice scored the final five points of the half to go into the locker room with a 38-33 lead. Rice is now 14-0 when leading at the break.
A Megan Elliott jumper gave the Owls their biggest lead of the night at 53-42 (11:54). After two free throws from Kuster, Rice held a 60-50 advantage with 7:20 to play. UTEP then rallied to outscore Rice 10 to 4 for a 64-60 margin with 4:17 remaining, capped by a trey from Kim Smith. A lay up by Keli Willingham brought UTEP to within one at 68-67, but Jessica Kuster made a free throw (2:27) and Mayse swished a three-pointer from the right corner (2:02) to keep the Miners at bay. Ashley Milian answered with a bucket to make it 72-69 at 1:23, but Owl point guard D'Frantz Smart made two free throws (:25) and Mayse sank two more free throws (:10) to seal the victory.
The Owls, as a matter of fact, made 12 of 13 free throws in the second half and 22-26 (85 percent) for the game. Kuster was 6-7 at the stripe in the final 20 minutes and she also had four blocks in 36 minutes.
Also having a career-night was Rice point guard D'Frantz Smart. Smart hustled for a career-high 9 rebounds to go with her 7 assists in playing the full 40 minutes.
Brianna Hypolite was also in double-digits for the Owls with 11 points. Hypolite also had two assists and four rebounds. Memri Carmon came of the bench for six points and Candace Ashford and Megan Elliott each had five points as well.
UTEP was led by Gloria Brown's 18 points and Kim Smith added 14.
Rice plays at Southern Miss on Sunday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. in Hattiesburg, Miss.