March 7, 2012
Memphis, Tenn. - Sophomore Jessica Kuster registered her 13th double-double of the season to lead the Rice women's basketball team to a convincing 64-50 victory over Houston in the first round of the 2012 Conference USA Championship Wednesday night inside the University of Memphis' Elma Roane Fieldhouse.
Kuster finished the contest with 23 points and 17 rebounds, both game-highs. She scored 17 of her 23 points in the second-half and when she left the game with two minutes to play, had outscored Houston 17 to 13. Kuster began the second period by scoring the Owls' first 11 points.
Said Kuster on her dominating second-half performance, "I didn't do a lot the first-half, so I was just trying to be a little more aggressive in the second-half. I talked to D'Frantz (Smart) in the locker room at half-time just letting her know that as team captains we both needed to be the spark to get us going. I really just tried to be aggressive in the second half."
Kuster made six of 18 from the field and sank 11 of 12 free throws, with two assists, two steals, and one block.
Rice (16-14) outscored the Cougars 17 to six in the first 10:30 of the second-half for a commanding 52-38 lead. The Owls had held a slim 34-32 lead at the break. Rice is now 14-5 when it leads at the half.
"I thought our defense in the second-half was outstanding," said Owl head coach Greg Williams. "That's what turned the game around along with our team getting the ball to Jessica (Kuster) for more looks. She only had five shots in the first half. We got her the ball more in the second-half. She had a great game, 23 points and 17 rebounds speaks volumes. I thought D'Frantz Smart had a great floor game with eight assists and one turnover."
Smart also scored 10 points and Jessica Goswitz poured in 15 points, including four three-pointers. Nakachi Maduka came off the Owls' bench to tally a career-high 11 rebounds, four points, two assists and a steal.
Houston concludes its season at 3-26 and was led in scoring by Roxana Button's 19 points. Amanda Lawson added nine points and nine rebounds for the Cougars.
The Owls were able to control the glass outrebounding UH 50 to 39 including 19 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance points.
Rice now faces No. 4 seed UAB in Thursday's quarter-final. Game time is 7:30 p.m. again inside the Elma Roane Fieldhouse.
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