Feb. 23, 2012
Houston - Jessica Kuster registered her 12th double-double of the season to propel the Rice Owls women's basketball team to a convincing 68-40 Conference USA victory over Houston Thursday night inside Tudor Fieldhouse.
Kuster, in only 29 minutes of action, poured in 22 points and collected 16 rebounds, both of which were game-highs.
The Owls sweep the season series vs. UH and now sport a 14-13 overall record and an 8-6 mark in C-USA. Houston falls to 2-24 and 1-13 in league action. It is the first series sweep of Houston by Rice since the Owls captured both games during the 1986-87 campaign.
Owl head coach Greg Williams was apprehensive about his team's approach heading into the contest vs. Houston.
"I was pleased with our focus," said Williams. "I was a little concerned that our kids had been hearing all week that this was a game we shouldn't be worrying about. We tried to stress to our kids that UH gave us a great game over at their place and it's a cross-town rivalry and they had been playing better.
"I thought we came out and played tremendous defense in the first half, holding them to 13 points, two offensive rebounds and 25 percent shooting. I thought we got a little sloppy in the second half."
Rice was indeed dominant in the first-half. The Owls scored the first two buckets of the game and never trailed and led 13-4 after a three-bomb from Kuster (14:56).
The Owls then proceeded to effectively put the game away with a 16-2 scoring run to lead 29-8 with 3:26 left in the half. Kuster outscored the Cougars in the first 20 minutes 15 to 13 and she also snared nine boards. Rice in the first-half scored 14 points off of 11 UH turnovers and owned the lane in outscoring UH 12-2.
Rice reached its biggest lead of the game (31) at the 7:10 mark with a 59-28 margin as Amenemope McKinney drove the lane and scored.
Williams was able to play everybody in the game and received 37 points from his reserves. Freshman Christal Porter came off the bench to contribute 10 points and six rebounds, while fellow freshman Nakachi Maduka added seven points off the bench as well.
Owl senior point guard D'Frantz Smart dished out a game-high seven assists, committed zero turnovers, and grabbed six rebounds.
Houston was led by Roxana Button's 19 points on 7-20 shooting from field in playing the whole game. Amanda Lawson tallied 14 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
The Owls are now tied for fourth in the C-USA rankings heading into the final two games of the season. First up is Sunday's 3 p.m. (CT) game at league-leader UTEP, and then the Owls host second-place Memphis on March 1, and would like to secure at least the number four seed for the upcoming C-USA Championship in Memphis.
Says Williams, "It is a crucial time of year for a lot of teams. While our won-loss record isn't where we'd like it to be we've been playing more consistently. Our defense has been our staple.
"It's still a mad scramble. The four through eight or nine (seeds) is still a scramble. Our schedule is certainly the most difficult of anybody in that mix. That's why tonight was vital for us if we want to try and stay in the hunt for the fourth, fifth, or sixth seed instead of dropping down to the lower seeds."
Post-game with Greg Williams and Jessica Kuster: