Rice women’s basketball was pushed to the wire twice, but prevailed each time, earning an important road series sweep over Old Dominion.
Despite entering the weekend undefeated in conference play, Rice women’s basketball was weary of what waited for them inside the confines of Chartway Arena. The Old Dominion Monarchs broke the Owls’ 30-game conference winning streak on that very court a season ago. Both programs had experienced turnover since, but there were no illusions amongst either side: this was going to be a battle.
Old Dominion came out ready on Friday night, taking advantage of some early miscues from Rice and adding some second-chance points of their own. A 20-17 first quarter lead would not last long, though. Rice rallied quickly, exploding for 26 points in the second quarter to take an eight-point lead into halftime. Nancy Mulkey’s near-perfect sowing from the field proved to be more than enough to power the Owls to a game one victory.
Rice came out more composed in game two, earning an early lead and extending it to a 38-28 lead at halftime. This time it was Katelyn Crosthwait with three big three point makes to give the Owls some breathing room. But Old Dominion would not go quietly. The Monarchs retook the lead with their first bucket of the fourth quarter.
Then it was the Owls’ turn for a statement. Mulkey and Lauren Schwartz powered a late run, capped off by a Jasmine Smith three point shot to put Rice comfortably ahead in the final minutes. Old Dominion would try to extend the game, but Rice hit their free throws and finished off the road sweep.
Player Spotlight | Nancy Mulkey
A short bench meant the Owls would have to ask a lot from their star center. Mulkey came through in a big way, delivering 21 points and eight rebounds on Friday with an encore of 25 points and five rebounds on Saturday. She was essential on both sides of the court, prevent the Monarchs from ever getting into a rhythm for two long and making what felt like every shot she took.
Mulkey began the Friday game 8-for-8 from the field before finishing 10-of-13. She was 10-of-16 from the field on Saturday, averaging 76.9 percent from the floor in the series. If she’s shooting at that clip, it’s opens up the offense. And when Rice can score, their defense will do the rest. That was the formula against Old Dominion and it’s probably not the last we see of it this spring.
Stat Corner | The few, the proud, the undefeated
NCAA scholarship restrictions put the cap at 15 players available per team each season. Eight players saw action for the Owls on Friday night. Only seven played on Saturday. That’s a far cry from the 10 players that suited up and got on the court for Rice in their season opener against Houston Baptist.
Injuries played a part in what became a rather lean contingent against Old Dominion. Nevertheless, the Owls persevered. Even when tasked with playing two games in less than 24 hours, they found a way to dig deep and finish in the fourth quarter.
For the first time this season, Rice was outscored in the third quarter in both games of a conference series. On both occasions this weekend, Rice answered by outscoring Old Dominion in the fourth quarter and held on for two important road victories.
Rice returns home next weekend to face UAB. The Blazers are in the middle of the pack in the West with a series win over Southern Miss and a series loss to North Texas. This past weekend they were swept by Charlotte.