Rice women’s basketball rebounded from a challenging road trip with an emphatic home sweep of Louisiana Tech. The wins kept the Owls atop C-USA.
The lede up to the Marshall games was different for Rice women’s basketball. The team wasn’t able to practice like they’re used to before fleeing a thawing city in the midst of ever-present COVID-19 concerns. Win or lose, last week was hard.
So win Jasmine Smith launched a half-court heave in the third quarter of Friday’s win over Louisiana Tech, the bench exploded. “Everything is so heavy right now,” head coach Tina Langley recalled after the game. “You can’t even see each other smile hardly anymore. So to be able to see [Smith] celebrate and have some fun, I think really brought us all a lot [of joy].”
That infectious energy imbued Rice to a two-game sweep of Louisiana Tech this weekend. The Owls jumped out to an early lead in the opening game, but Louisiana Tech fought back and held the Rice accountable for their miscues.
A five-point halftime lead reflected what had been a fairly evenly contest to that point. Then the Rice women took a page out of the men’s playbook and began a barrage of three-pointers. Including the half-court bomb from Smith, Rice hit six threes in a row, blowing what had been a close game wide open. The Owls closed out the fourth quarter with a comfortable lead, capping off an emphatic bounce-back win.
Saturday was more of the same. The two teams traded blows early on, with Rice clinging to a two-point lead at halftime. Then came the third quarter and, once again, the three point barrage. Rice made three of their seven three pointers in the third quarter, extending the lead to double-digits to set up a relatively stress-free fourth quarter.
Player Spotlight | Nancy Mulkey
Mulkey notched her 1,000th career point with, what else, but a three pointer in the third quarter. She’s perfect from deep on her career, making all three of her attempts. As good as the Owls have been as a unit, Mulkey has been on another level.
As of the end of this series, the Owls’ center leads the team in field goal percentage, rebounding, blocks and points. She’s also the only member of the team to be shooting 1.000 from three.
Stat Corner | Going deep
This isn’t a team that takes a lot of three point shots. With Nancy Mulkey in the paint, there’s hardly much need to rely on volume from deep. It’s just never been part of head coach Tina Langley’s offensive philosophy. Until now?
“To be honest with you, we’ve been talking about [shooting more threes] for some time.”
Rice finished their Friday game with 14 made three-pointers, four more than they converted in their two-game set against Marshall last weekend and more than they’ve made in any game over the past three seasons. Four different players hit at least three three-pointers. The Owls 25 attempts were the most they’d taken since Feb. 14, 2019 in a win over FIU.
The volume was down Saturday, but the efficiency remained sky-high. Rice hit 50 percent of their deep balls, tied for their fourth-best shooting performance from three this season.
While some programs have ended their regular season schedule, Rice women’s basketball has one more set of games lined up prior to the conference tournament. The Owls will make up previously scheduled games against North Texas. The Owls will play Thursday in Denton and finish the two-game set Saturday at Tudor Fieldhouse.