Rice Women’s Basketball won its first Conference USA Tournament game on Wednesday, soaring past Marshall thanks to Malia Fisher’s big day.
Earlier this season, Rice women’s basketball head coach Lindsay Edmonds had talked about the importance of winning the third quarter. That need had progressed to winning the fourth quarter as the Owls struggled to close games out at the start of conference play.
On Wednesday morning in their opening game of the Conference USA Tournament, Rice won the second quarter, and they did so with such an emphatic blow it set the tone for the remainder of the contest, one in which they would go on to score 80 points, a Rice women’s Basketball Conference USA Tournament record.
The Owls took a three-point lead out of the first quarter and opened with an 8-0 run to kick off the second period. It was the Owls’ defense though, combined with a voracious desire to attack the basket, that left the most resounding mark. Marshall would make just two field goals in the second quarter, shooting a meager 11.1 percent from the field. Conversely, Rice went to the line 12 times in the frame and knocked down all 12 shots.
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Leading 38 to 25 at halftime, all Rice had to do was buckle down and hold the line. That’s exactly what they did. Marshall would get their deficit back within single digits on a few occasions early in the third quarter, but from the moment Maya Bokenewicz drained her second three-pointer of the day with 6:17 to play in the third, it was a runaway win for the Owls.
“We’re definitely playing our best basketball,” head coach Lindsay Edmonds remarked. “The proof is in our record. We’re clicking.”
Rice would extend their lead to as many as 18, maintaining at least a 14 point advantage for the duration of the fourth quarter. Marshall never got within striking distance and the Owls were able to coast down the stretch to their first win of the tournament.
Player Spotlight | Malia Fisher
With Ashlee Austin sidelined with foul trouble, Rice women’s basketball was going to need someone to help shoulder the load. Malia Fisher answered the call with one of the most spectacular outings of her young career. Days removed from being named to the All-Conference team, Malia Fisher put on a rebounding clinic in Frisco, TX.
Fisher ended the game with 16 rebounds, nearly tying her career-best 18-rebound game against FIU just a few short weeks ago. She also added 17 points.
“I wasn’t aware of [having a double-double] until I came out in the last couple minutes until I came out,” Fisher said. “You just go out there and play. I’m not really worried about the numbers. A win is a win.”
Coach Edmonds was elated to see Fisher’s success but stressed this was just the beginning of the freshmen’s abilities. “Her ceiling is extremely high. We’re tapping into that, but we’re not even close. The future is very, very bright for Malia,” Edmonds said. “She’s an unbelievable young lade. I’m glad she’s wearing that uniform.”
Stat Corner | Free throws and free points
Rice did a lot of things well against Marshall, but their dominance at the free throw line might have been the most impactful differentiator. The Owls hit 25-of-27 free throws (92.6 percent). Marshall attempted just 15, but made a woeful eight of those attempts (53.3 percent).
While the Herd handed away points at the stripe, Rice stockpiled them. It would have been enough to give Rice the win in a close game. As well as they played on Wednesday, it was enough to comfortably send them to the second round.
Final Box | Rice 80 – Marshall 62
FINAL | @RiceWBB 80 – Marshall 62
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) March 9, 2022
Up Next | Full Schedule
With the win, Rice women’s basketball advances to the third round of the Conference USA Tournament where they’ll face Charlotte, the No. 1 seed in the East. The Owls and 49ers played a 4 OT thriller in the regular season with the 49ers coming out on top in that contest.