In its first home Women’s National Invitational Tournament game since 2006, Rice did not disappoint the Tudor Fieldhouse crowd. The Owls defeated Texas State University 71-60 Thursday night to move on to the second round of the WNIT, where they will take on the University of New Mexico.
Rice took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by junior guard Gabrielle Stanton with 3:41 to go in the first quarter. The Owls led by three after one quarter and built on their lead to take a seven point advantage into the half. Texas State trimmed its deficit to 62-58 with 4:18 to go in the game, but it never came any closer. Rice closed the game on a 9-2 run to clinch the victory.
Sophomore guard Erica Ogwumike led the way for Rice with 27 points and 10 rebounds. It was her 14th double-double of the season, best on the team. She accounted for 20 of the Owls’ 39 second half points. Ogwumike said the team’s relentless effort led to its success.
“We just played hard,” Ogwumike said. “I think that simply was it today. On offense and defense, we just played very hard because we knew at the end of the day that gameplan would help us win.”
Rice held Texas State to just 60 points, nearly 11 points below the Bobcats’ season average. Head coach Tina Langley said she was thrilled with the team’s defensive performance.
“I’m really proud of the way we came out and defended today,” Langley said. “I thought we played really good scout-specific defense and really battled throughout the night.”
For Ogwumike, who transferred to Rice from Pepperdine University, the game was her first chance to experience postseason basketball. She sat out last season, including the championship run in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, due to NCAA transfer restrictions. Ogwumike said she is relishing the chance to play in the WNIT.
“It’s really cool to be playing in March,” Ogwumike said. “Every single day in March is fun if you’re into basketball because there are so many games going on and it’s really neat to be a part of it now.”
Rice will head to Albuquerque to take on New Mexico in the second round. The Lobos received an at-large berth to the WNIT after finishing 23-10 in the regular season and defeated Saint Mary’s College 82-80 in the first round of the tournament. The game is scheduled for Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Dreamstyle Arena in Albuquerque.