The 2019-2020 Rice women’s basketball season is fast approaching. Here’s a rundown of the Owls’ squad bent on returning to the NCAA Tournament this season.
The last time the Rice women’s basketball team took the court they left it with a sour taste in their mouths. The Owls led Marquette in a first round NCAA Tournament game by nine points with minutes left in regulation. Rather than advance to the next round, a rematch with the Texas A&M Aggies, the Owls faltered and saw their storybook season end in overtime.
There has been plenty of time for soul searching since that game. A new season is right around the corner, one which this team hopes will end much later in March than the last. Here’s a bit more on the coach, the players, the roster, and what to expect from this team in 2019 and beyond.
The Coach – Tina Langley
Upon the completion of last season, Rice signed Langley to a five-year extension. The reigning Conference USA coach of the year led the Owls to their first-ever ranking in the AP and Coaches Poll, a perfect regular season in conference play and set program records with 21 consecutive wins and 28 total victories in a season.
Rice women’s basketball has been on the upswing since Langley took over prior to the 2015-2016 season. The Owls have seen their overall win total and conference win totals increase each subsequent season, finishing last season with a sterling 28-4 record. As long as Langley is at the helm, the future for Rice women’s basketball remains extremely bright.
Last Season Snapshot
With center Nancy Mulkey sidelined by injury, Rice lost their first two games of the 2018-2019 season to No. 20 Texas A&M and No. 23 UCLA. Following their 0-2 start, the team won 28 of their next 29 games. A road loss to North Carolina in mid-December was their only blemish during the remainder of the regular season.
Rice won all 16 of their conference games, only one of which was decided by less than 10 points. The Owls stayed perfect in three Conference USA Basketball Tournament games, rallying to take down Middle Tennessee to secure the Tournament Championship and punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, their first trip to the Big Dance in 14 years.
Rice Women’s Basketball Marquee Games and Key Dates
Nov. 5, 2019 – Season opener vs Nicholls State
Nov. 17, 2019 – Owls host Texas A&M at Tudor Fieldhouse
Nov. 23, 2019 – Owls visit Oklahoma State
Dec. 20-21, 2019 – 2019 Puerto Rico Classic vs Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech
Jan. 2, 2020 – Conference USA opener vs Marshall
Feb. 22, 2020 – Conference USA bonus play begins
You can find the complete 2019-2020 Rice basketball schedule here.
The Returning Players
No. 2 – Sydne Wiggins, Guard (Jr.)
A returning starter and one of the Owls’ foremost returning outside shooters, Wiggins was one four different players to make more than 20 shots from beyond the arc. She finished second on the team in steals, proving to be as dangerous without the ball in her hands as she was when she was knocking down shots.
No. 10 – Jasmine Smith, Guard (So.)
The only freshman to start every game for Rice last season, Smith was a shutdown defender. Her efforts on opposing shooters helped the lead Owls’ to the No. 1 scoring defense in the conference, allowing 52.8 points per game. She frequently turned her defensive efforts into offensive successes and tied Wiggins with 30 steals.
No. 11 – Haylee Swayze, Guard (So.)
Swayze was a prominent member of a promising freshman class who saw some action in 28 of 32 games, averaging 13.1 minutes per contest. After the five starters and sixth woman Lauren Grigsby, Swayze was one of the more active bench players for Rice last season. When she was called upon, she made a difference from behind the three-point line with 22 long-range buckets.
No. 13 – Erica Ogwumike, Guard (Sr.)
Conference USA Female Athlete of the Year Erica Ogwumike was the catalyst on both ends of the court for this team last season. Since transferring to Rice from Pepperdine following the 2015-2016 season, Ogwumike has been nearly unstoppable at South Main. She tallied a double-double (18 times) more often than she didn’t and led the conference in rebounds. Her leadership and talent have been instrumental in the Owls’ recent success.
No. 21 – Arianna McCurry, Center (So.)
McCurry saw most of her action before the Owls got into the heart of Conference USA action. She played a career-high 10 minutes against McNeese State and scored six points in five minutes against FAU, a game in which she also tallied a pair of blocks and three rebounds.
No. 23 – Alexah Chrisman, Center (Jr.)
Chrisman saw most of her action as the primary backup to starting center Nancy Mulkey. Seven inches shorter than Mulkey, Chrisman wasn’t the same caliber shot blocker, but she provided a physical presence in the paint and was a trustworthy conduit for the offense and defense when Mulkey needed a breather.
No. 24 – Temi Alao, Center (So.)
Injuries kept Alao from seeing the court as a true freshman, but she played in 18 games as a redshirt sophomore in the 2018-2019 campaign. The bulk of her involvement came at the beginning of the season, including a career-high 24 minutes against Texas A&M. She had three or more rebounds in nine appearances.
No. 25 – Kendall Ellig, Forward (Jr.)
Ellig played a reserve role for the Owls last season, seeing a few minutes here and there throughout conference play. She played in 13 C-USA games, but never tallied more than nine minutes, playing less than three minutes seven times in those contests. She scored in four games and had a career-best four rebounds against FAU.
No. 32 – Nancy Mulkey, Center (Jr.)
Mulkey is the tallest player in women’s college basketball. Every time she takes the court she gives Rice a mismatch no other team in the country can counteract. When healthy, Mulkey is the difference-maker that separates Rice from their competition, leading the NCAA in blocks per game and setting the school record with 94 blocked shots last season.
The New Additions
Rice signed five players in their 2019 recruiting class, which ranked first in Conference USA.
No. 3 – Katelyn Crosthwait, Guard (Fr.)
Crosthwait averaged 24 points per game as a junior, one year removed from being named a Gatorade Player of the Year finalist. She can shoot from close range and from distance and create opportunities for others with the basketball.
No. 5 – Destiny Jackson, Guard (Fr.)
The only native Texan in the class, Jackson hails from Mansfield Texas. She was named to the 2018 UIL All-Tournament team following her senior season.
No. 12 – India Bellamy, Forward (Fr.)
A small forward out of McDonough, Georgia, Bellamy is can score from the wing and play great defense. She was the GACA South Junior All-Star MVP.
No. 15 – Lauren Schwartz, Forward (Fr.)
Scwartz led her school to their first regional championship in program history, finishing the year with 29 victories. The MVP of Kentucky’s 9th region, Schwartz is an elite scorer with more than enough athleticism to win on the boards.
No. 22 – Ashlee Austin, Forward (Fr.)
Austin averaged 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in her senior season. From Johns Creek, Georgia, she was the 2017-2018 Region 7-6A Player of the Year and an AJC First Team All-State selection.