Rice women’s basketball pitched a near-perfect defensive performance in their season opener against HCU, holding the Huskies to 38 points in the win.
The crowd filling the lower bowl of Tudor Fieldhouse hadn’t even had time to exhale from their raucous cheering at the opening tip before Rice Women’s Basketball had its first lead of the 2023-2024 season. Malia Fisher won the tip, got the ball to Destiny Jackson and watched as Owls’ senior leader drained a three to put Rice in front.
Those three points by themselves would nearly be enough to preserve the Owls’ advantage in the first half. Rice held Houston Christian to a meager 6.5 percent shooting mark from the field, holding the visiting Huskies to just five first half points, a school record.
“It’s definitely something that we’ve worked really hard on,” head coach Lindsay Edmonds said of her team’s defensive performance, mentioning her team’s experience in her system. “They know exactly what I want and they know what the expectations are.”
It would prove to be the start of a historic defensive performance for the Owls. Just three times in the past 10 seasons had Rice held an opponent to fewer than 40 points. The program record is 28 points, set against Prairie View A&M in 1994. To even be in that conversation is impressive.
Houston Christian entered the fourth quarter with just 17 total points. With history in reach, Rice limited HCU to just 21 more, posting a 70-38 win in their season opener.
Rice women’s basketball didn’t secure a program-best defensive performance — at least not according to the record books — but Edmonds and company will take the win, soak in the strong defensive showing and get to work on tightening up the mistakes.
“Winning is hard. The expectations are set really high for this team and we’re striving for perfection,” Edmonds said. “I feel like tonight we showed in spurts who we are, but I don’t think we played a 40-minute game of Rice women’s basketball. I think there’s definitely some areas that we can clean up and improve in, but [we’re] 1-0 to start the season and I’m proud of them for that.”
Final Box | Rice 70 – HCU 38
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) November 7, 2023
Key takeaway | Don’t worry about the offense
Counting the exhibition, this was just the second game this team has played together against people wearing different color jerseys. If you’re going to have some growing pains, it’s best to get them out of the way against opponents the caliber of HCU before getting to the meat of the nonconference schedule — and that is coming — but for now, Rice is happy to take the win and plenty of teaching material.
The offense was never a serious concern for this program under Edmonds, not in the slightest. Rice led Conference USA in field goal percentage last season and would have ranked second by a few percentage points to AAC-leading USF. This team can shoot. The scoring will come.
“There’s going to be nights when the shot doesn’t fall,” Edmonds said. “But the two things that we can control is our defensive intensity and our rebounding effort.”
Rice won the battle of the boards 57 to 32. The defensive performance speaks for itself.
Scoring is volatile. Defense is more absolute. Either you can defend at a high level or you can’t. Monday’s debut game against Houston Christian suggests Rice might be pretty good in that respect. The baskets will come.
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