Locked in a close game with UTEP from wire to wire, Rice women’s basketball made the shots when it mattered to secure the road win.
It might be worth finding someone to whisper “it’s the first quarter” into the ear of every Rice women’s basketball player before they take the court. The Owls continue to be one of the fastest-starting teams in Conference USA as their trend of early scoring continued on Saturday against UTEP.
Rice jumped out to a 9-3 lead to start the contest, pushing their advantage to seven points late in the first quarter before UTEP was able to find any sort of rhythm. The Miners would narrow the deficit in the second quarter and tie the game up before a Destiny Jackson jumper at the buzzer put Rice back in front, 32-30.
Last Time Out: Rice Women’s Basketball can’t keep up with sharpshooting USM
The third and fourth quarters would be more of the same. Despite Rice outshooting UTEP 49.0 percent from the field compared to UTEP’s 39.3 percent, neither team led by more than three points in the second half until Haylee Swayze hit a three with 5:51 to play. From that point onward Rice simply had to weather the storm.
Turnovers by both teams made the finish tighter than the Owls would have hoped for, but Destiny Jackson delivered five free throws in the final 90 seconds to secure the win. After starting 0-5 in conference play, Rice women’s basketball has now won two of their last three.
Player Spotlight | Malia Fisher
Extended playing time for some of the Owls’ up-and-coming players was one of the subtle blessings of a short bench this season. Malia Fisher showcased the benefits of having her on the court quickly, notching double-doubles in three of her first six career games.
On Saturday against UTEP, it seemed as Fisher couldn’t miss. She connected on her first six shots from the field, ending the game 7-for-14 with seven rebounds, fives assist and two steals. The Owls’ streaky offense was sparked time and time again by a big play from Fisher.
— Rice Women’s Basketball (@RiceWBB) February 5, 2022
Stat Corner | Five deep
Rice women’s basketball has relied heavily on their staters all season long. With little reinforcements behind them, the Owls’ starting five are going to have to carry the load. That’s exactly what they did on Saturday. Rice got two points from their bench, courtesy of India Bellamy’s lone shot attempt, splitting the remaining 70 points across their five starters. UTEP would only score 69 points with their starters and bench combined.
Four of the Owls’ five starters reached double-digits with Haylee Swayze coming up just short (eight points) but delivering the crucial three-pointer in the fourth quarter that all but put the game out of reach. It was a stellar performance from the starters. Rice will need more of that going forward.
Final Box | Rice 72 – UTEP 69
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) February 5, 2022
Up Next | Full Schedule
Rice women’s basketball gets a home-and-away two-game slate with North Texas next weekend. The Owls will travel to Denton on Thursday, Feb. 10 and host the Mean Green on Sunday. Feb. 13.