As the Conference USA leader in defensive rebounds and blocks, Rice junior Jessica Kuster has shown her top-notch defensive abilities throughout the season.
Conference coaches, sports information directors and media members rewarded those efforts Monday by naming Kuster the Conference USA Women’s Basketball Defensive Player of the Year. She is the first Rice player to win the award.
Kuster was also chosen to the All-C-USA First Team and All-Defensive Team. It’s the third straight year the San Antonio native has received both honors. She is the first Owl to make the First Team three times.
Kuster is third on Rice’s career rebounding list and has the second most blocks in school history. She led the Owls in blocks 17 times this season, finishing with 44 on the season.
She pulled down 234 rebounds and swiped the ball 29 times, including notching 15 defensive rebounds and three steals as Rice upset Conference champion SMU 58-46 on Thursday. She finished the season with 68 more defensive rebounds than any other C-USA player.
For all her defensive prowess, Kuster was pretty darn good on offense as well. She averaged a double-double for the third straight season with 16.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. She and
Middle Tennessee State’s Ebony Rowe as the only two juniors in Division I to have averaged a double-double in three straight seasons.
Kuster and the Owls (14-15) are the No. 11 seed in the Conference USA Tournament in Tulsa. They drew an opening round matchup Wednesday with the host team Golden Hurricanes (13-16). Rice-Tulsa is the third game of the day. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.
“Tulsa has played well down the stretch, and they have a 6-2 record at home,” said Rice coach Greg Williams “Playing the host team is an additional challenge, but at least it’s not on campus at the Reynolds Center.”
The game is at the Tulsa Convention Center. The Rice-Tulsa winner will take on No. 3 seed Tulane (22-7) at 5 p.m. Thursday. Here's the tournament schedule.