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Tulsa Women Punches Ticket to NCAA Tourney with 55-52 win over Rice

Tulsa is NCAA Tournament bound after winning the Conference USA Championship today in Dallas, Texas.
Tulsa is NCAA Tournament bound after winning the Conference USA Championship today in Dallas, Texas.
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March 5, 2006

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Dallas - All-America candidate Jillian Robbins scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and the Golden Hurricane punched its ticket to the 2006 NCAA Tournament with a 55-52 victory over Rice in the 2006 Conference USA Championship game at Moody Coliseum.

Tulsa improves to 25-5 overall this season and added the C-USA Tournament championship to its regular season crown. The Golden Hurricane secured the league's automatic bid and will make its first-ever NCA Tournament appearance. The 2006 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball selection show will announce the field of 64 on Monday, March 13 from 6-7 p.m. on ESPN2.

In front of a crowd of 2,393, Tulsa overcame a poor shooting afternoon with a strong defensive performance. Tulsa managed just 29-percent from the field, but countered with 15 steals, four blocked shots and forced Rice (17-13) into 23 turnovers.

Tulsa led the entire second half, but Rice kept the contest close and never trailed by more than eight points.

Robbins came up with two huge plays for Tulsa down the stretch. TU led 44-40 after Rice's Amber Cunningham drilled a three-pointer. On the next possession, Robbins found Kara Pongonis-Paslay at the top of the arc and the senior drained the trey to put Tulsa ahead by seven points. Cunningham answered with a trey of her own, but the 6'1" Robbins dribbled the length of the floor through Rice's press and finished with a lay-up to put the Hurricane ahead by six points with 4:51 remaining.

Pongonis-Paslay hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the Hurricane a seven-point cushion with just 2:46 showing on the clock. Rice mounted one final push and Jenks, Okla., native Samantha Stovall scored five straight points with a three-pointer and a short jumper on back-to-back possessions to slice the lead to two points with under a minute remaining.

TU missed a lay-up and the Lady Owls had a chance to tie or take the lead, but turned the ball over when Kadie Riverin stepped out of bounds on the baseline with 0:13 left in the game. Rice was forced to foul and senior Megan Moody converted 1-of-2 shots to give the Hurricane a three-point cushion. The Owls had one last chance to tie and send the game into overtime, but Cunningham's last gasp three-pointer fell short and the Golden Hurricane players stormed the court in a mad rush.

Robbins added six steals and three blocks to her 20 double-double of the season and 45th of her career. She also became just the third player in Conference USA history to lead the league in both scoring and rebounding. Moody was the only other Tulsa player to reach double figures with 14 points. Senior Emily Jakowiak finished with 11 rebounds to lead TU, and was also named to the all-tournament team.

Lauren Neaves led Rice with 13 points and Valeriya Berezhnska grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds, while Cunningham added 12 points.

Tulsa never managed to find its rhythm in the first half, shooting just 27.5 percent, but controlled the boards and limited the Owls to 10 field goal attempts. Rice's last lead was 12-11 with 10:53 remaining in the first half, and TU took the lead for good minutes later on a Moody three-pointer. TU maintained its lead and led 26-25 at the break.