Rice women’s basketball finally opened conference play this weekend against Middle Tennessee, falling to the Blue Raiders on the road.
Head coach Lindsay Edmonds had always known the 2021-2022 Rice women’s basketball season was going to be challenging. Her transition to the school, plus a thinned roster and the seemingly inevitable bouts with COVID-19 posed a daunting challenge. But even forwarned those obstacles would come, it was hard for anyone within the program to prepare for what they faced over the course of the past month.
Rice last played a basketball game on December 16. They finally made their way to Murfreesboro, TN to open conference play against Middle Tennesse only to have the game delayed by a snowstorm. Exhausted, they took the court anyway and somehow managed to reel off a 13-2 run to open the contest.
Staked to an 11 point lead, the Owls had hope. Then the more seasoned Blue Raiders, who hadn’t been out of action for more than three weeks, overtook the Owls and turned a close game into a one-sided affair shortly before the halftime buzzer.
More: Rice Women’s Basketball Midseason State of the Program
Edmonds was honest in her comments after the loss, “It’s been a really rough couple of weeks for us,” she said, “From tests popping positive, to canceling games, to extending an already long Christmas break even longer, practicing with as few as 6 players for several days, weather delays – trying to get back into game shape after 10 days of quarantine has been extremely challenging.
“But I’m not into making excuses. That was the hand we were dealt and we needed to respond better. Middle [Tenneessee] was the much better team today and we didn’t step up to the opportunity. I’m disappointed in our showing today but do believe there are plenty of things we need to and will learn from these challenges.”
Player Spotlight | Maya Bokunewicz
Playing in only her ninth career game, redshirt freshman Maya Bokunewicz was the bright spot for Rice women’s basketball on Friday. She exploded for 20 points, a career-high, propelled by four made three-pointers. Her 41.9 percent clip from deep leads the team, as does her 18 three-pointers made. She also added an assist and five rebounds. Altogether it was a promising day for the second-year player.
Stat Corner | One step too slow
There were plenty of numbers that did not paint Rice women’s basketball in a favorable light following this loss, but two stood out from the boxscore in particular, points in the paint and fast break points. Middle Tennessee almost tripled up Rice in the paint, outscoring the Owls 52-18. They also edged Rice 20- 3 in fast break points.
The paint problem is a nod to physicality. Whether it be exhaustion from a long layoff or too long of gap between seeing live action, Rice was a step slow when it came to protecting the paint. That followed through to the fastbreak as well. Middle Tennessee was ready; Rice wasn’t.
The men exhibited a similar lull last weekend against North Texas before bouncing back and defeating Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Hopefully, the women just needed to get their feet under them and will bounce back in a similar fashion.
Final Box | MTSU 87 – Rice 63
WBB FINAL | MTSU 87 – Rice 63 pic.twitter.com/KKhQa1B8L5
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 8, 2022
Up Next | Full Schedule
Rice women’s basketball has already had their next scheduled game against UAB postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Blazers’ program. A replacement game was contemplated, but as of now, it seems likely the Owls will march forward as their current schedule dictates. That would mean home games against Western Kentucky (Thursday) and Marshall (Saturday) next time out.
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