Women's basketball grabs two wins over break
Despite playing two of the top teams in the country, the women's basketball team is above .500 seven games into the season, giving Head Coach Greg Williams a big reason to be happy with the play of his team. Despite a setback against Texas A&M University (5-0) the weekend before, the Owls came out storming in the Georgia State Thanksgiving Tournament, winning the event and returning both the championship and MVP trophies to their locker room.
Rice welcomed Texas A&M, currently ranked eighth in the USA Today Coaches' Poll, into Tudor Fieldhouse on Nov. 20, hoping for a signature season win. Texas A&M got off to a quick start, much like the Baylor game on Nov. 14, and quickly put it out of reach for the Owls, with the Aggies going up 38-21 headed into the half.
The second half was no better, as the Aggies held Rice to under 20 points in the half, ending up winning the game 80-40. Junior point guard D'Frantz Smart led the way for the Owls with 10 points, but no other Owl hit double digits. Williams went deep into his bench, playing 12 different Owls in his attempt to stifle the Aggies' scoring machine.
The next weekend, the Owls traveled to Atlanta and came out firing on all cylinders in the first game of the tournament. Junior forward Brianna Hypolite caught fire, scoring 31 points against Mercer University (0-5) to lead the way for the Owls. It was the highest scoring effort for a Rice women's basketball player since junior center Jackie Stanley's 36-point performance against Sam Houston State University last season.
Rice began the half with a quick tempo, going up 14 at the half. The Owls never went on one large run, but would just constantly add to their lead, slowly putting the game out of reach for Mercer.
The second half was much of the same, as Rice maintained its large advantage throughout, never letting the lead go below single digits. The game ended at a final score of 65-39, a major defensive victory for the Owls as well.
Hypolite led the way with 31 points but also contributed four rebounds, an impressive night for the emerging leader. So far this year, she has stepped up and helped fill the void left by Stanley's injury. Senior forward Morgan Mayse also contributed 11 points to the effort.
Hypolite talked about how she managed her career night.
"I was just feeling it that night; I was making the shots, and my team was rebounding and forcing turnovers and doing the little things," Hypolite said. "I try and do anything I can to help the team."
The next night, in the championship game, the Owls took on hometown team Georgia State University (4-2). Georgia State led in the opening seconds of the game and never let it get out of hand, closing a 10-point lead in the closing minutes of the game.
The Owls were up 54-52 with 1:30 left in the game when Georgia State got possession of the ball. They lost control and turned the ball over to Rice with 12 seconds left and then proceeded to foul Mayse.
Mayse made one of the two free throws for the final three-point margin, 55-52, and the tournament win. Hypolite, with 14 points in the game, earned the title of tournament MVP. Mayse contributed a team-high 18 points for the Owls in their win.
"We struggled on the road the last few years, and hopefully this win will be a momentum boost when we travel," Williams said. "We had some outstanding performances and played excellent defense the entire tournament."
It was a big weekend for Rice, who will stay at home for its own holiday tournament this weekend. They open up the Gene Hackerman Invitational tonight against the University of Louisiana-Monroe (4- 3), a young, athletic team that will push the Owls' tempo.
The Owls will then play in either the consolation game or the championship game tomorrow night.
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