March 8, 2012
Memphis - UAB's Karisma Chapman and LaShaunda Pratt paced the fourth-seeded Blazers with 19 and 13 points respectively in defeating No. 5 seed Rice 72-46 in the 2012 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship Quarterfinals at the University of Memphis' Elma Roane Fieldhouse.
The Blazers connected on a season-best 53.8 percent of their shots from the field (28-of-52), including a 16-of-28 performance in the second half (.571). UAB's point production tied the high-water mark for the team this year, as the Blazers equaled their scoring total from their 72-42 victory at UNC-Greensboro (Dec. 6). The Owls shot 34 percent from the field (17-50).
"Well first of all, congratulations to UAB - they put a pretty good whipping on us tonight, and I thought we were a much improved team from when they really dominated us in Birmingham to start our conference season," stated Owl head coach Greg Williams. "I thought our focus was good coming in, and they were a team that came in struggling down the stretch, losing their last four, and we won three of our last four. But, you would have never guessed that tonight watching the two teams play. I thought they set the tone early, and they were the aggressor throughout the night. They just played a really nice basketball game. They hurt us in a lot of different ways. They shot the ball extremely well - 54 percent from the field. They came in shooting 33 percent in conference.
And UAB's defense was strong. They've shown to be one of the best defensive teams not only in this league, but also in the country. They had their normal defensive presence, but their offensive game tonight was really special for them, and we just couldn't guard them defensively. We got beat off the dribble more than we've been beaten in a long time. They looked very energized, and we did not."
UAB scored the first four points and never trailed in the contest. The Blazers went ahead by 10 at 22-12 lead with 7:42 to play in the first half and the closest the Owls would get the rest of the way was seven when Jessica Kuster converted a three-point play with 1:21 to play in the opening stanza. A pair of Pratt free throws put UAB up 32-21, but Rice's D'Frantz Smart nailed a three-pointer from the top-of-the-key at the buzzer to make it 32-24 at the break.
UAB began the second-half by going on an 18-3 run in the first eight minutes to forge a 50-27 lead.
Kuster's 16 points and eight rebounds led Rice in 33 minutes of action.
"(Jessica) Kuster is an unbelievable player," commented UAB head coach Audra Smith. Our whole focus was when you have players of her caliber - they're going to get theirs. She's going to get her 16 and 19. Our focus was we have to shut everybody else down because she can't beat us by herself. We looked to try and make things difficult for her. We tried to double team her when we could so that all of her shots were tough shots, and she still managed to finish with 16."
Nakachi Maduka added eight points and four boards, while D'Frantz Smart scored seven points with a game-high seven assists. Smart concludes her career as Rice's all-time assists leader with 575 assists.
With the win, UAB improves to 19-10 on the year and advances to the C-USA Championship Semifinals where the Blazers will take on the regular-season conference champs and top-seeded UTEP on Thursday at the FedEx Forum. Tipoff for that game is slated for 12:30 p.m. and will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network. Rice concludes the 2011-12 season with a 16-15 record.
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