March 8, 2012
MEMPHIS -- Known for its defensive prowess throughout the season, fourth-seeded UAB flexed its offensive muscles on Thursday en route to a 72-46 win over No. 5 seed Rice 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). In addition, UAB's point production tied the high-water mark for the team this year as the Blazers equaled the scoring total of their 72-42 victory at UNC-Greensboro back on Dec. 6.
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 Friday 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, meanwhile, concludes the 2011-12 season with a 16-15 record.
"I'm just extremely pleased with their effort; with their fight," UAB head coach Audra Smith said. "We talked about the fact that when you come to the tournament everything is out the window in terms of wins and losses and regular conference play, and that the conference tournament is a brand new season. That is the way they approached it. I'm pleased with the way they played."
Forward Karisma Chapman led three Blazers in double figures with a game-high 19 points while also leading the squad with six steals, tying for the fourth-most ever in a C-USA tournament game. LaShaunda Pratt was next offensively with 17 points, after drilling 7-of-15 field goal attempts, and Khalilah Watson came off the bench to tally a season-high 13.
The Blazers out-rebounded Rice, 36-29, and turned 15 offensive boards into 19 second-chance points. The UAB defense forced 19 turnovers -- including 13 via steal -- and turned the Owls' miscues into another 21 points.
"I told them in this tournament we had to get back to what we do best, and that is defending," Smith said. "They did an exceptional job of sticking to the game plan and taking things away; getting into passing lanes and really making it difficult for Rice to get comfortable offensively."
UAB wasted little time jumping on Rice, scoring the first four points and never trailing at any point. The Blazers went ahead by 10 at 22-12 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 Watson layup and a pair of Pratt free throws put UAB up 32-21, but Rice's D'Franz Smart nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 32-24 at the break.
Pratt put her team up by 11 with a jumper 1:49 into the second half and the lead never dipped below double digits again. It remained an 11-point contest at the 17:14 mark but UAB quieted any talk of a Rice comeback with a 12-0 run over the next 4:29 and the lead swelled to as many as 30 at 72-42 with 1:09 on the clock. A layup by Nakachi Maduka and a basket by Maya Adetula over the final minute accounted for the final score.
Kuster led Rice with 16 points, eight rebounds and one block. Maduka was next for the Owls with eight points and four rebounds, and paced the squad with a pair of steals. Smart headlined the club with a game-high seven assists.