Rice women’s basketball saw their perfect run come to an end, suffering their first conference loss in a road split at Marshall.
Any physical or psychological toll exacted on the Rice women’s basketball team by the events in Houston this week was not apparent in their series opening win against Marshall on Saturday. Almost immediately, the Owls jumped out to a 10-0 lead, then grew that advantage to 33-15 at the half. Led by Lauren Schwartz and Nancy Mulkey, Rice cruised through the opener with ease.
The Sunday finale was closer, but there wasn’t too much reason for concern until the floor seemingly dropped out from beneath them. Rice fell behind 13-6, but stormed back on a 21-3 run to regain control and walk into halftime with a comfortable 31-23 lead.
Marshall edged Rice in the third quarter by a point, but everything seemed to be working well up until the point when India Bellamy made an early fourth quarter layup to give Rice a nine-point advantage with just over nine minutes to play. Rice would go on to lose by 12, their first conference loss in more than a calendar year.
The Herd outscored Rice 18-0 in the final 3:53 and 23-2 in the final nine minutes of the fourth quarter. For a team that has accrued a certain amount of respect around the league for their ability to adjust in the second half and close things out, things just slipped away. Rice made two of their final 13 shots. Marshall made their last five, finishing perfect from the field over the final six minutes of regulation.
Going undefeated in conference play was never the goal. Head coach Tina Langley has always said as much. The focus for Rice has always been on getting better with each successive week. This team has always bounced back for the better. Now they’ll put that resiliency to the test once again.
Stat Corner | Just enough of an edge
The defense has been the Owls’ calling card ever since head coach Tina Langley took charge. Seeing Rice hold a team like Marshall to 15 points in the first 20 minutes of play on Saturday isn’t too surprising. Not anymore. That’s what this team does.
But Rice also holds the distinction of being the No. 1 shooting team in Conference USA. The Owls have outshot their opponents in every game this season, including in their two losses: a narrow defeat to Texas A&M and Sunday’s loss at Marshall. Even though they lose by double figures, Rice shot better from the field (42.9 percent vs Marshall’s 41.2 percent).
Rice women’s basketball will play their final home series next weekend against Louisiana Tech. The Owls will host the Bulldogs on Friday and Saturday before finishing out their regular season scheduled against North Texas the following weekend.