The 2020-2021 Rice women’s basketball season is fast approaching. Here’s a rundown of the Owls’ squad aiming for a third-straight conference title.
It feels like so long ago since Tina Langley and the Rice women’s basketball team stood awkwardly on the court in Frisco, Tx prior to their Conference USA Conference Tournament game that never tipped off. The Owls had surged through the league for a second-consecutive regular-season title and were prepared to defend it, but the wave of COVID-19 cancelations stole that chance away.
Much has happened in the months that followed. Erica Ogwumike was selected in the WNBA Draft. And just this month, Rice signed a new class of freshmen. Finally, the longer than anticipated offseason is coming to an end.
The Coach – Tina Langley
There’s a reason Rice signed Tina Langley to a five-year contract extension prior to the beginning of last season. She’s built one of the most dominant programs across the breadth of Rice Athletics. She helped Rice earn its first-ever ranking in the AP Poll, led the team to an undefeated conference record two seasons ago continues to rewrite record books. As long as Langley is at South Main, this program is in good hands.
Last Season Snapshot
Rice saw a 30-game conference winning streak broken on the road against Old Dominion in overtime last February. The loss marked the first time the Owls had fallen to a conference opponent in longer than a calendar year.
Undeterred, Rice would rally, setting up a winner-take-all matchup with those same Monarchs at Tudor Fieldhouse on the final day of the regular season. Rice beat Old Dominion that day, clinching the conference title and cutting down the nets on their home court. Rice finished the year 21-8 (16-2 C-USA).
What does this team look like without Ogwumike? We saw a brief snippet of the team without their star guard on the floor last season and they faired well, but it’s one thing to make something work for a few games and another to be without such a potent scorer and ace rebounder for a full season. The sample we’ve seen suggests they’ll be just fine, but there could be an adjustment period as the team adapts.
Rice Women’s Basketball Marquee Games and Key Dates
Nov. 25, 2020 – Season opener vs Houston Baptist at Tudor Fieldhouse
Nov. 28, 2020 – First road game, at Little Rock
Dec. 20, 2020 – Owls visit Texas A&M at Reed Arena
Jan. 1, 2020 – Conference USA opener at UTSA
Jan. 8, 2020 – Conference USA home opener vs UTEP
Mar. 10, 2020 – Conference USA Tournament
You can find the complete 2020-2021 Rice women’s basketball schedule here.
Sydne Wiggins, Guard (Sr.)
Wiggins led Rice in minutes last season, starting all 29 games. She’s a dynamic shooter from the outside and a pesky defender. Her 1.7 steals per game ranked Top 10 in Conference USA. A senior, Wiggins will be a key leader for this team on and off the court, always playing with an infectious level of aggressiveness.
Jasmine Smith, Guard (Jr.)
Through two seasons, Smith has started every game of her Rice career. She’s a lockdown defender and a plus rebounder, frequently turning takeaways into easy opportunities for the Rice offense. Her enthusiasm and quickness on defense prevented even some of the conference’s best shooters from getting open looks from deep.
Nancy Mulkey, Center (Sr.)
When healthy, Mulkey is one of the most potent forces in women’s college basketball. When she’s on the court, she gives Rice an advantage that no other team in the conference can match. She’s improved on her touch inside and is really becoming a more well-rounded player as she enters her third season on South Main. She’s blocked 171 shots in 48 games in her Rice career.
Lauren Schwartz, Guard (So.)
Schwartz cracked the starting lineup for the Owls immediately upon her arrival at South Main last year. A member of the Conference USA All-Freshman team, her ability as a scorer and a facilitator on offense was crucial to the team’s success on that side of the court. She averaged 9.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. With Erica Ogwumike gone, Schwartz will be the primary ballhandler for Rice this season.
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Key names off the bench
Destiny Jackson, Guard (So.) – Saw the most playing time of the freshmen reserves last season. Shot .442 from the field and was a key contributed in the early parts of conference play.
Kendall Ellig, Center (Sr.) – Earned the backup center role and played well. She averaged 2.0 rebounds per game, playing at least 15 minutes in nine contests.
Haylee Swayze, Guard (Jr.) – Opened last season with 22 points off the bench against Nicholls St. Capable shooter off the bench that can rise to the occasion when her number is called.
Katelyn Crosthwait, Guard (So.) – Impactful interior scorer who helped Rice defeat Old Dominion with a season-high 21 minutes and 11 points. Trustworthy defender and rebounder.
More names to know
Sophomore forwards India Bellamy and Ashlee Austin saw a large portion of their action in non-conference play last season, but each had moments during the conference slate where they were asked to come off the bench and play roles here and there. They should be involved in similar situations again this season with room for their playing time to grow.
Arianna McCurry will see some run as a reserve behind Nancy Mulkey and Kendall Ellig at center. Newcomer Maya Bokunewicz can play multiple positions. The 6-foot freshman received rave reviews from coach Langley in the offseason and should see the floor in some capacity early on, especially given how committed the Owls were to getting a much larger freshman class playing experience last fall.