Rice women’s basketball exploded out of the gate, leading Fresno State from start to finish to advance in the WNIT.
It was clear from the start that the second-round game for Rice women’s basketball against Fresno State was going to be different than the defensive struggle that encapsulated the Owls first-round win over Arizona State. Rice made their first three shots and scored 25 points in the opening frame. That’s two points less than the Owls and the Sun Devils combined to score at halftime on Friday.
That strong start proved to be the harbinger of good things to come. Rice did cool down from their scorching 64.7 percent field goal percentage in the first quarter, but their lead held from that point onward.
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Fresno State made things interesting with a 9-0 run in the middle of the third quarter, but Rice was quick to respond immediately with an 11-2 run of their own to quiet the threat. Central to that hold, and the sizable lead itself, Nancy Mulkey led all scorers with a season-high 28 points. She also had eight rebounds.
Player of the Game – Jasmine Smith
Smith isn’t traditionally the Owls’ primary scoring option on the court, but her ability to run the offense and set others up for success is differential for this team. On Saturday, though, Smith combined her keen eye for her teammates with a near-perfect shooting performance. She started 4-of-4 from the floor, finishing with 15 points. She also had 10 assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
Rice women’s basketball has moved into the win-or-go-home stage of the Women’s NIT. With the win, the Owls will face the winner of San Francisco and California Baptist on Monday, March 22 and 7:00 p.m. Should Rice win that game, they would win the Fort Worth Regional and advance to the Final Four in Memphis.