Senior point guard Maya Hawkins and senior forward Jasmine Goodwine delivered clutch performances in their last game and the Rice Owls women’s basketball team captured its first Women’s Basketball Invitational title with a 74-62 win over the University of North Carolina, Greensboro at an electric Tudor Fieldhouse.
Hawkins led all Owls in scoring with 17 points, adding seven rebounds and seven assists to her well-rounded effort. Goodwine notched 13 points and five rebounds, shooting an efficient 5-8 from the field (63 percent). Rice also received strong efforts from junior forward Shani Rainey (13 points), sophomore forward Lexie Ducat (12 points) and junior guard Wendy Knight (10 points).
Rice outpaced UNC Greensboro in all three scoring categories, shooting 25 for 56 from the field (45 percent), 7 for 19 from 3-point range (37 percent) and 17 for 26 from the free-throw line (65 percent). The Owls held UNC Greensboro to 23 for 74 shooting from the field (31 percent) and 5 for 19 from 3-point range (26 percent). Rice narrowly lost the turnover and rebound battle against a lanky and aggressive Spartan squad.
After the win, the players and coaching staff gathered with students on the court, jumping up and down in celebration. The Owls then received the WBI championship trophy, watched as Hawkins was honored as the WBI Most Valuable Player and then one by one, cut down the nets in Tudor Fieldhouse. Hawkins said the moment was one she will remember for the rest of her life.
“As a senior, I wouldn’t have wanted to end my career any other way,” Hawkins said. “Ending my career with a championship on our home court with all the fans who love and support us was perfect.”
The WBI championship concludes a 22-13 season for the Owls, a 13-win improvement from last season. Without drastically revamping the roster, this Rice basketball team succeeded with positive team chemistry and sharp three-point shooting. According to Goodwine, this title is the culmination of tireless effort on the practice court all season.
“Our team’s word this season was ‘relentless,’” Goodwine said. “Every day and every game we tried to be relentless and tried to reach our goals. We were never satisfied and worked to improve each game.”
Despite the fans’ constant excitement all game, there was a scary moment in the middle of the fourth quarter after a collision involving Rainey and a UNC Greensboro player. Rainey laid down on the court clutching her knee in visible pain. She was carried off the court by the team’s medical staff. After the game concluded, the team’s third-leading scorer was aided by her teammates and crutches as she awarded the privilege of being the last Owls player to cut down the nets. Rainey said the moment was one of the most emotional experiences of her life.
“[Celebrating the victory] was amazing,” Rainey said. “Everyone started clapping when I cut down the nets, and that shows how much everyone cares about our team. I didn’t start crying because of my knee, I cried because everyone was supporting us until the very end.”
In the post game press conference, head coach Tina Langley remarked on the relentless effort of all of her players. According to Langley, this Owls squad will go down in history as one of Rice’s most hard-working basketball teams.
“I could not be more proud of these young women,” Langley said. “It is such a blessing to be their coach. We learn from them just as they learn from us. Their character and work ethic is terrific. It is great to see our seniors go out with a championship.”
The Owls will return three starters and nine players next season. Rice will also add Erica and Olivia Ogwumike, sisters who both transferred from Pepperdine University and sat out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Erica was rated as a top-100 recruit in the class of 2015 by ESPN and earned First Team All-West Coast Conference honors as a freshman. With a confident returning group and an infusion of new talent, the Owls have a realistic chance to make noise in March next year. According to Hawkins, this championship is just the beginning of a dynasty that will succeed for years to come.
“This is the foundation,” Hawkins said. “This is the beginning. We are leaving a program that is headed for excellence. It will be great to come back here and see this team’s legacy started with a WBI championship.”