Rice women’s basketball clinched Conference USA West over the weekend. For the third consecutive year, the Owls finished the regular season with C-USA’s best record.
It’s always a battle when Rice women’s basketball squares off with North Texas. That proved true again this time around when the two teams battled for the best record in Conference USA West in the final weekend of the regular season, with Rice once more coming out ahead.
Rice took an early lead in the opener, but couldn’t fully contain an 18-9 North Texas run in the second corner. Trailing at halftime and after three quarters, the Owls came alive with a near-perfect fourth quarter. Rice hit 10-of-12 shots from the floor including a pair of three-pointers to put the game away late and clinch the divisional crown.
North Texas got the better of the Owls’ in the series finale, taking an early 16-9 first quarter lead and staying just a step ahead. A banner day for Quincy Noble plus some timely three point shooting propelled the Mean Green to an upset win.
Player Spotlight | Nancy Mulkey
Mulkey has become so automatic for this team. Regardless of whether or not her shots are falling, she impacts the game every trip down the court. She had seven blocked shots on Thursday, including two big ones in the fourth quarter. She also tallied yet another double-double. On Saturday she had 12 points and two more blocks.
It’s become easy to take having someone as impactful as Mulkey on the court, but what she can do as an athlete is remarkable. Rice fans should soak up every minute they can.
Stat Corner | Tusseling with turnovers
Rice women’s basketball has done so many things well over the last three seasons in which they’ve been nearly unbeatable in conference play. As impressive as the Owls have looked in that span, though, they’ve struggled to consistently take care of their basketball. Fortunately, when you have a defense as tenacious as theirs has been, those self-inflicted wounds are easier to overcome.
Rice has finished in the bottom five in Conference USA in turnover margin three years running. This year they average five more giveaways than takeaways. That’s five extra possessions per game that go for naught.
The Owls turned the ball over 15 times on Thursday and 16 times on Saturday. Now imagine how much more challenging of an out they’ll be in the postseason if they aren’t giving away free possessions. When this team protects the basketball, they’re lethal.
Rice women’s basketball walked off the court at Tudor Fieldhouse on Saturday for the last time this season. The next time they take the hardwood will be in the Conference USA Tournament, where they’ll represent the West as the No. 1 seed which includes a bye. They’ll play the winner of Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss on Thursday at 11 a.m. The Rice men play on Tuesday against Southern Miss at 7 p.m.