Rice women’s basketball head coach Tina Langley has come to terms with the team’s truncated season. For here, there’s more to success than wins alone.
Fans were disappointed when the final buzzer sounded in Reed Arena and Rice women’s basketball was eliminated from the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Erica Ogwumike, Nancy Mulkey and a core group of young players had fallen just short of upsetting Marquette in College Station.
The Owls had come close to keeping their tremendous season alive, but all was not lost. Rice would return almost the entire unit next year. Surely, Rice would get another chance at an NCAA Tournament win. It just wouldn’t come as soon as many had hoped.
Months later, Ogwumike and Co. walked onto the court in Frisco, TX to play their first game of the Conference USA Tournament. The Owls were favorites to win the game and the tournament. That would secure another trip to the Big Dance. But minutes before tip the game was called off and the tournament was canceled. With 48 hours the NCAA Tournament had been canceled too and any that second chance at an NCAA win with this group went up in smoke.
In the weeks and months that followed the NCAA would opt not to grant additional eligibility to basketball students who’s seasoned’ were shortened. Ogwumike would hear her name called in the WNBA draft. Life would move on.
In the aftermath, Rice women’s basketball head coach Tina Langley found comfort in another kind of success, one that she said carries just as much weight as championships.
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“We’ve never been a program that really evaluated ourselves based on winning and losing or whether we won a championship or not. It’s just did we become the best team that we could possibly become?” she asked before going on to answer her own question. “I’m just really proud of who we became.”
And perhaps that is the best way to evaluate a season without a true ending. Rice started slow, and saw a 30-game conference winning streak snapped midseason. They rebounded, winning their final five games. Although they didn’t know it at the time, the season would end with a home win over Old Dominion. That victory — weeks after the Monarchs had snapped the Owls streal — solidified the Owls as back-to-back outright champions. Like every coach hopes, they were playing their best basketball at the end of the season.