Feb. 26, 2012
El Paso, Texas - Sophomore Jessica Kuster scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Rice Owls women's basketball squad to a 52-48 upset win over Conference USA's first place UTEP Miners Sunday afternoon in front of 6,421 fans inside the Don Haskins Center.
The Rice victory halted UTEP's 15-game winning streak and improved the Owls to 15-13 overall and 9-6 in C-USA. The Miners are now 25-3 on the season and 14-1 in conference action.
"I am very proud of and happy for the team with this tremendous win versus an undefeated and conference champion UTEP squad," said Owl head coach Greg Williams. "Our players were resilient and really fought to win in front of 6,421 Miner fans in the most difficult place to play in Conference USA."
Kuster scored 18 of her 22 points in the second-half as the Owls overcame a six-point halftime deficit to outscore UTEP 30 to 20 in the second-half. She was 7-9 from from the field and 4-5 at the free throw with two steals in the final 20 minutes.
"We did not play well in first half, and despite that we were only down six at halftime, and we stressed that to the team," stated Williams. "Jessica Kuster got on a roll in the second-half and the team did an excellent job of getting her the ball in good scoring positions. D'Frantz Smart continued her strong floor play and outstanding defense. Christal Porter had another strong game off the bench, and we're encouraged by her performance."
Porter played in 23 minutes and scored eight points (4-7 from the field) and grabbed a team-high six rebounds. Smart, in 37 minutes, scored eight points with five rebounds and five assists. Brianna Hypolite scored seven points including two late crucial free throws.
The Owls were behind 28-22 to start the second-half. Kuster got things rolling by converting back-to-back three-point plays to make the score 30-28. Kuster then tied the game at 30 (16:50) on a jumper and the Owls took the lead for good (32-30) on a lay up by Brianna Hypolite.
Amenemope McKinney put the Owls up by four (50-46) with a jumper at the 3:13 mark and UTEP's Gloria Brown then made two free throws with 1:03 to play to bring the Miners to within two. Chrishauna Parker had a chance to tie the contest for UTEP, but she missed both free throws with 32 seconds to play. Hypolite then sealed the victory with two made free throws, her first two attempts of the game, with seven seconds showing on the clock.
Rice, in the second-half, made 12 of 24 shots and 6-7 at the free throw line. UTEP shot 23 percent (6-26) in the second-half. The Miners were also 13-23 at the free throw line for the game.
The Owls are now tied for third-place with UAB in the C-USA standings heading into Thursday's final regular-season game vs. Memphis inside Tudor Fieldhouse. The top four places receive a first-round bye at the Conference USA Championship (March 7-10).
The Memphis Tigers are 22-6 overall and sit in second place in the league standings with a 12-3 mark. This game will be the final home game for Owl seniors Candace Ashford, Brianna Hypolite, Amenemope McKinney, and D'Frantz Smart.