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Womens basketball

Rice 64, Western Kentucky 57

FRISCO, Texas Erica Ogwumike scored 19 of her 22 points in the second half as No. 24 Rice rallied to its 20th straight win Friday night, a 64-57 win over fourth-seeded Western Kentucky in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.

The Owls advance to the championship game to play No. 3-seed Middle Tennessee which beat second-seeded UAB 75-65. Western Kentucky (18-14) had its four-game win streak come to an end.

Oguwmike scored 15 points in the fourth quarter to propel the Owls (27-3) into their first title game since 2007. A win would tie Rice with the 2007-08 UTEP team for the longest winning streak in the nation and tie Quinnipiac for the second-longest current streak behind Baylor's 23-game winning streak.

Nancy Mulkey added 10 points and three blocks, putting her three behind Lauren Neaves single-season school record, for Rice. Ogwumike also had 12 rebounds and four assists.

After a tight first quarter, Western Kentucky hit five-straight 3-pointers, the last three by Arame Niang, to take a 10-point lead. The Owls cut it to five at the half and scored the last five points of the third quarter to go up 43-31.

Ogwumike, the conference's Player of the Year, scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, the last six at the foul line and the 13-0 run gave the Owls a 51-41 lead. She added two more free throws, a 3-pointer and a layup, the last coming with a minute left and keeping the lead at nine. After that spurt of 3-pointers in the second quarter, when they made five in six possessions, the Lady Toppers were 1 of 15 the rest of the game, finishing 6 or 21.

Alexis Brewer had 17 points for the Lady Toppers (18-14) and Niang had 15 points. Western Kentucky, which lost the regular-season meeting by 22, is just the second league team to lose to the Owls by single digits this season.


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