Rice women’s basketball built an early lead and held on, surviving a late rally from BYU to advance in the WNIT.
Despite playing on BYU’s home court, Rice women’s basketball looked like they were right at home on Friday night’s opening round game of the WNIT. The Owls’ jumped out to a 10-0 lead, blitzing the Cougars from the first possession.
BYU got things going later in the first quarter, but Rice matched them blow for blow thanks in large part to a big day from freshman Shelby Hayes who made her first postseason appearance particularly memorable. Hayes had 10 points and four rebounds in the first half, setting the tone for the early portions of the game.
After holding BYU to 38 percent shooting in the first half, Rice turned up the pressure in the third quarter. The Owls led by as many as 13 in that frame, holding BYU to 29 percent shooting from the field, but the Cougars wouldn’t stay silent for much longer. BYU thundered back in the fourth quarter, closing within two points and forcing a Rice timeout.
BYU threatened, but never took the lead, missing a pair of three pointers in the final 20 seconds. Rice would grab the rebound and win the ensuing battle of free throws to secure the win.
Final Box | Rice 71 – BYU 67
FINAL | @RiceWBB 71 – BYU 67
The Owls are moving on! pic.twitter.com/KrMvMhflpn
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) March 18, 2023
Key takeaway | Full Strength Owls
Rice women’s basketball did not have Destiny Jackson available in the Conference USA Tournament, and her absence was felt. Her ability to create on the offensive side of the court and drive to the basket played a significant role in the Owls’ early exit from that tournament and might help keep Rice dancing longer in their WNIT run.
The closing seconds of the first quarter served as a reminder of what Jackson brings to this team. With the clock ticking toward zero, she took on several defenders, slicing through the lane and delivering a layup, the half’s final points. Her ability to score puts the Owls’ opponents on notice and opens the door for her teammates. If Jackson is back, even in limited minutes, Rice will be dangerous going forward.
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