Forced to play away from home in their American Conference opener, Rice Women’s Basketball prevailed nonetheless, topping Wichita State at the Fertitta Center across town.
Rice women’s basketball did not open American Conference play under ideal circumstances. The Owls were forced to play their “home opener” just down the road at the Fertitta Center because of water damage to Tudor Fieldhouse over the holidays.
Makeshift visitors in their inaugural game in a new league, Rice took some time to get settled into their red-clad benches. The Owls and the true visitors, Wichita State, traded baskets and free throws throughout the first quarter. It wasn’t until the midpoint of the second frame that the Owls started to find their groove, opening an 11-point lead, only for the Shockers to whittle it back within one score at halftime.
Wichita State scored the first five points in the second half, but it was all Rice from that point onward. The Owls outscored the Shockers 20-8 through the rest of the third quarter, taking a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter. Dominque Ennis led the charge, scoring 11 of her 17 points after the break. She left the game with a minute remaining in regulation with an injury, souring an otherwise very encouraging night for the Owls.
Staked to a 10-point advantage entering the fourth, the margin waivered below 10 points on two brief occasions, but the Owls delivered clutch free throws and kept things from getting too interesting down the stretch. Despite some early jitters, Rice found a way to close out the “home” win away from Tudor Fieldhouse and move to 1-0 in AAC play.
Final Box | Rice 76 – Wichita State 64
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 4, 2024
Key takeaway | Making the right adjustments
Early on, Wichita State was able to hang around in this game because of their ability to capitalize on extra opportunities. They outrebounded Rice 24-20 and edged Rice 10-5 in second-chance points, netting 33 percent of their first half scoring after their first shot failed. That’s an exorbitant amount of extra chances and something the Owls simply could not let continue if they were going to win this game.
Not only did Rice do a better job on the boards in the second half, 17-14 in their favor, but they stonewalled Wichita State in those second half opportunities. The Shockers had zero second-chance points in the second half, allowing that double-digit point differential that was bypassed in the first half to flow in earnest after the halftime buzzer. Without the extra opportunities, the Shockers couldn’t keep pace with the Owls.
The teams that strive to compete well into March can make those sorts of adjustments. Wednesday’s win was another step in the right direction for a Rice women’s basketball team that hopes to do just that.
Up Next: at SMU (Sunday, Jan. 7)
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