The Rice University women’s basketball team was hard at work while most students were off campus for Thanksgiving recess this week. The Owls played two non-conference games, one in Lake Charles, LA against McNeese State University on Wednesday and the other at Tudor Fieldhouse against Harvard University on Saturday. Despite playing two close contests, Rice came up short in both, falling 61-53 to McNeese State and 67-61 to Harvard. 

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The Owls traveled to Louisiana to try to earn their first win of the season against McNeese State. The game was close from the start, with Rice taking a 13-10 lead after one quarter. The score remained tight throughout the rest of the half, with the Cowgirls holding a 24-23 advantage heading into the break. Sophomore guard Shani Rainey led the Owls with seven points and seven rebounds in the first half. She would finish the game with 17 points and 11 rebounds to notch the Owls’ first double-double of the season. Head Coach Tina Langley said Rainey has impressed her this season. 

“I’m really proud of what [Rainey] is doing right now,” Langley said. “She’s spending a lot of time in the gym individually and you can see that transferring over into the games.”

The two teams continued to fight in the second half, but the Cowgirls began to pull away at the end of the third quarter behind a pair of 3-pointers that gave them a six-point lead after Rice had tied the game. McNeese State senior guard Allison Baggett then scored eight straight points for her team during a 14-2 run to stretch the lead to 51-39. From that point on, the Owls had to fight back. Rice came within 57-52 in the final minute, but the Cowgirls were able to make free throws to seal the game and hand the Owls their fourth loss of the season. Despite the loss, Langley said she took some positives from the team’s performance. 

“I’m proud of the way they continue to battle throughout the game for 40 minutes and that gave us a chance there at the end,” Langley said. 

Rice returned to Tudor Fieldhouse for a home game against Harvard on Saturday looking to rebound from the close loss. The Crimson dominated the first quarter, taking a 20-8 lead after a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Kit Metoyer. After the Owls went on a 13-4 run to cut the deficit to three, Harvard stretched its lead back to 30-23 at halftime. In the third quarter, however, Rice came out strong. Junior forward Jasmine Goodwine scored seven of her season-high 22 points in the quarter as Rice took its first lead of the game. According to Langley, Goodwine’s impact on the game could not be measured by the box score. 

“[Goodwine] is really focused in all areas,” Langley said. “Not only did she score well tonight but she was a great screener, worked hard on the defensive end and it was exciting to see her perform like that on both ends of the floor.”

The Owls led by as many as six points before the Metoyer hit another three-pointer to cut the lead to 45-42 entering the fourth quarter. But Rice could not keep up this momentum in the final frame. Harvard outscored the Owls 25-16 in the fourth quarter to win 67-61 and drop the Owls to 0-5 on the season. Langley said she was pleased with the quality of the game even though the Owls could not pull out a victory.

“Both teams competed extremely hard,” Langley said. “Obviously we would have liked to come out on the other end, but I like how we continue to fight and grow as a team and I’m excited about where we’re headed.”

The Owls will next travel to Waco, Texas to take on No. 4 Baylor University. It will be the third game against a top 25 opponent in six games this season for Rice. According to Langley, the Owls have valuable experience from the Harvard game that they can use in their upcoming games. 

“I think going into the next game, we have to continue to build on the intensity that we have on the defensive end and the way we competed tonight,” Langley said. “There’s a lot of things that we’re going to be able to take away from this game and talk about.”

Rice will hope that it can use this experience to pull off the upset against Baylor on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. in Waco. The Owls will then return home to take on the University of Houston on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse before a break in the schedule for finals.