By Kenny Bybee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
UAB 67-Rice 55 (PDF Box Score)
Rice (22-9), who was playing their third game in as many days, was led in scoring by redshirt sophomore Erica Ogwumike and junior Nicole Iademarco, each scoring 15 points. In addition, Ogwumike secured a team-best 10 rebounds for her 13th double-double of the season. Iademarco led all players with 12 points in the fourth quarter and helped Rice cut a 19-point deficit down to 10 but the Owls were unable to climb any closer.
UAB (26-5) had three players score in double-figures, led by a game-high 18 points from Rachael Childress, who hit 4-of-6 attempts from deep. Deanna Kuzmanic (15 points) and Miyah Barnes (14 points) also scored in double-figures.
The Blazers outshot Rice from the field, 46 percent-33 percent, and made 9-of-16 from three-point territory, with seven of the made three-pointers coming in the opening half.
"I'm really proud of our team," Rice head coach Tina Langley said. "We came here and really battled and believed that we had a shot and did all that we could to put ourselves in position to do something special. I'm proud of their effort, character, and the way they've competed all season and looking forward to continuing to play in the postseason."
After a competitive opening quarter in which Rice trailed just 18-14, UAB managed to create separation by outscoring the Owls 19-6 while going 5-of-5 from three-point territory.
The Owls fought an uphill battle much of the second half before making a late charge in the fourth quarter. Rice used a 13-4 run to pull to within 61-51 with 1:28 remaining but the Blazers went a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line the remainder of the way to clinch the victory.
Rice, who defeated Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee to reach the semifinals, will now await their postseason destination with an announcement expected Monday evening.
The Owls have won 22 games for a second straight season and will be looking to play in the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since the 2011/2012. Rice went a perfect 4-0 in last year's Women's Basketball Invitational, winning the team's first-ever postseason championship.