Rice Women’s Basketball was without their star guard but still managed to blow past Louisiana Tech. The Owls are a perfect 5-0 in Conference USA play.
Rice women’s basketball had won in a variety of ways on their way to a C-USA leading 24-game winning streak. They’d blown out countless teams and played close contests with others. But they’d never won without their best player on the court — they hadn’t had to.
The white and blue-clad Owls showed no timidity when they took the court without Erica Ogwumike on Thursday night against Louisiana Tech. The senior guard had suffered an injury against FIU that kept her sidelined against Louisiana Tech. She did not dress for the game and has no official timetable on her return. However, the expectation remains she’ll be back sooner rather than later.
If that wasn’t enough, the team was hit with sickness during the week. Rice dressed a half dozen players for their first practice of the week and had to send coaches and players home to rest. “We were barely able to practice,” head coach Tina Langely said postgame, not as an excuse, but as a credit to the performance her shorthanded squad had put together against a conference foe.
With Ogwumike out, there were some jitters. Rice had a few shot clock violations and lost possessions early on, clearly impacted by the loss of their primary ballhandler. What never wavered was their defense. Rice has now held 15 of their last 24 (and three of their last five) C-USA opponents to 50 points or fewer. Louisiana Tech shot a season-low 26 percent from the field.
“I love the pride that they take on the defensive end of the floor. I think it speaks to the character of our team.” Langely said. “Defense is about your heart and your effort and you don’t usually get a lot of credit from the defensive end of the floor as individuals. And you see our team really comes together and gives all that they have to defend well.”
That defense turned into just enough offense. Rice scored 13 points on fast breaks, relying on Jasmine Smith and Destiny Jackson to push the team down the court. Once the team stretched the lead to double digits at halftime, Louisiana Tech never got closer than eight for the remainder of the game.
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 17, 2020
Player of the game – Sydne Wiggins
On a night in which only two Owls reached double-digit points, it was the defensive performers who stood out. Nancy Mulkey registered her 200th career block and a career-best 15 rebounds, but it was the furious play of Sydne Wiggins that stood out the most. She was relentless on that side of the court, registering one steal, two blocks and plenty of headaches for the Owls’ opponent. Langley praised her focus, “She plays with such poise,” Langely said, “[She] has a great IQ. She brings so much to the court for us.” With Ogwumike on the bench, Wiggins was a much-needed energizer.
Saturday they host Southern Miss with tip-off scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Then the team gets a few days off before a Thursday/Friday road trip to play UTEP and UTSA.