Rice women’s basketball returned to the court in triumphant fashion, posting two big wins over Western Kentucky.
There were no signs of rust when Rice women’s basketball returned to the court for the first time in four weeks. Injuries and COVID-19 impacts forced a prolonged pause for the Owls, but their resiliency was put on full display in their two-game sweep of Western Kentucky.
Both teams started fast on Friday, trading shot after shot in an exciting first half. Both teams shot better than 40 percent from the field. Western Kentucky’s Raneem Elgedaway and Rice’s Nancy Mulkey combined for 34 of the 69 (49 percent) of all points before the break.
Rice took over in the second half, ratcheting up the defense. They held Western Kentucky to 20 points in the final two quarters combined, sealing yet another conference win.
The second game was another highly contested battle. Rice led for most of the game before Western Kentucky pulled ahead with a thrilling fourth quarter run. When push came to shove, Rice wouldn’t be denied. A six-point deficit with 3:41 to play was erased thanks to three huge triples from Katelyn Crosthwait. Rice would ice the game with their defense and earn the sweep.
Player Spotlight | Lauren Schwartz
Rice took the lead in the third quarter of Friday’s game but Western Kentucky did not go quietly. The Hilltoppers came close to a few fourth quarter runs, but Schwartz slammed the door with one of her most clutch shooting performances of the season.
Schwartz scored the Owls’ final eight points, connecting on two three-pointers to ward off any notions of a Hilltopper comeback. She only finished with five points on Saturday, but her five rebounds and three blocks helped paved the way for another Rice win.
Stat Corner | Locking down the third quarter
There may not be a better third quarter coach in college basketball than Rice women’s basketball head coach Tina Langley. No matter the situation or the stakes, her teams are always ready when the second half whistle blows. On Friday, Rice turned a one-point halftime deficit into an eight-point fourth-quarter lead. One more big shot to start the fourth turned a close game into a double-digit difference.
Western Kentucky outscored Rice by one point in the third quarter on Saturday, but the Owls never lost their rhythm. They outrebounded WKU and shot a better percentage from the field.
Winning the third quarter doesn’t win basketball games. Still, when a team that plays the level of fundamentally sound, physical defense that Rice does enterers the fourth quarter with a lead, they’re hard to stop.
It’s probably no coincidence their only loss of the season, a four-point defeat on the road against a ranked Texas A&M squad, was one of the rare outings when Rice was outscored in the third period. Western Kentucky came close on Saturday but still couldn’t outdo Rice down the stretch.
The final scheduled road series of the season looms next weekend for Rice basketball. They’ll hit the road one more time to take on Marshall in Huntington, WV. The Thundering Herd entered the weekend in the middle of the pack in the East. Like the Owls, the Herd have had multiple series postponed over the course of the past month.