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Friday, September 30, 2022 — Houston, TX

Women's basketball ends season in WBI

By Teddy Grodek     3/14/12 7:00pm

In a mediocre season, the Owls met at least one of their goals - they got to play postseason basketball. After a finish just above .500, the Owls were invited to the Women's Basketball Invitational, a 16 team-postseason tournament that plays all games at home sites. The tournament, though less illustrious than last season's WNIT berth, gave the Owl seniors hope of one last flash of glory.

"We're excited to participate in the WBI, as it gives our players an opportunity to continue their season and it's a credit to their hard work that we had that postseason opportunity available to them," Head Coach Greg Williams said. "It's always exciting to get another chance to compete and wear the Rice uniform."

Rice was sent home in the Conference USA tournament in the second round bythe University of Alabama-Birmingham, a team they had lost to previously in the season. UAB later lost to The Univeristy of Texas at El Paso, the team that won the tournament (and the automatic NCAA tournament berth).

Rice went down six in the first half of the game and fell completely apart in the second period after being outscored 40-22. The Owls had one three-pointer the entire game as UAB simply shut them down on the perimeter.

Sophomore forward Jessica Kuster had 16 points and eight rebounds in the loss. Senior point guard D'Frantz Smart had seven points in her final C-USA game.

For her efforts this season, Kuster was awarded first team All-Conference as well as All-Defensive team.

Freshman Christal Porter, who was a threat all season for the Owls in the post, was awarded All-Freshman team.

The awards are nothing new for Kuster, who is undeniably one of the best players in the league and received All-Defensive and All-Conference teams the year before. Williams was pleased with Kuster's ability to avoid the sophomore-year slump often seen in sports.

"That is a credit to her that she didn't rest on her freshman laurels and continued to work hard during the off-season and came in prepared to continue to build on the outstanding freshman year that she had," Williams said. "It is a tremendous honor to be selected to both of those squads."

The WBI game, against Sam Houston State University (which the Owls had scrimmaged previously in the year), was played on the road in Huntsville, Texas.

Rice shot poorly in the first half, making less than 30 percent from the field, but managed to hold the Bearkats to a low 32 points, keeping itself in the game. Rice's bench played a huge role in the first half, outscoring Sam Houston State 10-2.

In the second half, Sam Houston State got hot from the field, making half of its shots. The attack left the Owls behind and unable to keep pace. The Bearkats made their free throws down the stretch, eventually beating the Owls 73-55. Rice never held a lead inside the game.

In her last game, senior Brianna Hypolite contributed 16 points in the loss. Hypolite, who ended the season averaging 10 points a game, will be a missed scorer for the Owls next season. Kuster had 18 in the last game of the season.

Heading into next year, the team will lose three of its typical starters in Hypolite, Smart and center Candace Ashford. The Owls do have a solid nucleus to build off of, though. Despite their high preseason expectations, the Owls were relatively young this year.

The Kuster and Porter combination in the post will be dangerous next year inside C-USA. Also returning is junior guard Jessica Goswitz who should step up and handle the ball with the departure of Smart.

Kuster's continued development will be the key to next year's season. As she continues to grow into a player that can be dominant in every game, look for the streakiness that plagued the Owls this year to disappear.

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