Rice women’s basketball became a beacon for the university, overcoming all obstacles to clinch their first Conference USA Tournament Championship.
For Rice women’s basketball, winning isn’t a new thing. The Owls haven’t lost in this calendar year. They haven’t played too many close games either. At least, not up until they found themselves in two make-or-break elimination games in the conference tournament.
Undefeated in conference play, Rice overcame not one, but two double-digit deficits to clinch their first Conference USA Tournament Championship in school history. The win was massive, not just for head coach Tina Langley or this team, but for the university as a whole.
“We’re really proud to do that for Rice,” Langley said, “We wanted to help the basketball program be as respected as this university is… we have a tremendous university that we want to represent well.”
Langley’s comments underscore the often unspoke undercurrent of Rice athletics. It’s hard. At least to some degree, it’s hard to win at Rice. Not because of any perceivable flaw with the school or the basketball program, but because the level of excellence Rice requires of its athletes is extraordinary.
“It’s hard to be a student-athlete at Rice,” Langley went on, “to perform on the basketball court the way they are right now and also have to do the work in the classroom every day takes an exceptional student-athlete.”
That extra gear was instrumental in helping this team will themselves to victory on Saturday. Trailing by eight at halfitme, Langley didn’t resort to a generic “go get ’em” pump up speech. Instead, she gathered her team around them and point blank explained the plan. Then they went out and executed it
“We’ve always known our IQ is very high,” Langley said, knowingly. “I think when you have a team that’s very smart you can go into the locker room and say ‘okay, this is what we’re going to do. We’re fine and we’re going to make a couple of adjustments and we’re going to be okay.”
Those adjustments worked. The added aggression on offense was noticable, as was the overall change in energy after the break. The result was, quite literally, historic. Langley’s understanding of the caliber of athletes she had in her locker room was instrumental in the come from behind victory. More still, it serves as a guide for every other program at Rice. It can be done.
The highest levels of achievement can be reached, not in spite of Rice’s lofty academic standards, but because of them. It truly has to be the Rice Way.