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.