Women's basketball moves into tie for third
Weeknight road games are difficult for any team; there is just something about having to travel on class days, then getting on the bus and heading back late at night. Last week's bus ride home was an easy one for the women's basketball team, which had just knocked off one of the top teams in the league and pushed itself above .500 in Conference USA play.
Heading into last week, the Owls were in the middle of the pack, stuck looking upward at a possible bye in the Conference USA tournament. With a tough closing to the conference schedule, the women's basketball team knew that it would have to play well this weekend if Rice seriously planned on moving up in the conference standings.
Thursday, Rice played defending conference champion Tulane University (17-4, 6-2 C-USA), which was sitting in second place in the standings and was probably looking past the Owls to other match-ups in its schedule.
It was an entire game for the highlight reel, as Rice and Tulane both played up to their peaks, providing an enthralling finish for fans on both sides.
Before the game, junior guard D'Frantz Smart knew the importance of the game to the team.
"This could be a huge confidence boost for us heading into the rest of the season," she said. "This is a good team and a tough road trip; it would be a big win if we could pull it out."
The entire first half was a constant battle, as neither team was able to build a lead greater than a handful of points. Rice, which had been shooting poorly from three all season, managed to capitalize on a lot of shots from outside the arc. The Owls ended up shooting more than 60 percent from three, a season high.
The teams started the second half tied at 31, and once again, neither team was able to get any separation. A layup from senior forward Morgan Mayse with just over one minute left put the Owls up one, only for the Green Wave to tie the score up a few seconds later.
Tulane made a layup, once again tying the score up at 61 in the closing seconds. Forward Megan Elliot tried to make a shot with a few ticks remaining to keep the game from overtime, but the ball rimmed out, forcing extra play.
In overtime, Rice drew first blood, with Mayse making a jump shot to push the Owls up two. Tulane proved unable to score, and two free throws by Smart put the game out of reach and the final score of 74-70.
Mayse led the team with 21 points, with sophomore guard Jessica Goswitz, freshman forward Jessica Kuster and Smart all also contributing double-digit points.
Then, next Sunday, the Owls played at home, taking on the University of Tulsa (5-10, 1-6 C-USA), a team they had already beat earlier in the season.
Rice got out to a blazing fast start, going up 23-2 to start the game and quickly put it out of reach. Tulsa was never able to recover and was simply never a factor in the game. Nineteen points from Goswitz helped the Owls onto a 70-47 rout - Rice's third straight C-USA victory.
"The Tulane win was huge for us, and really gave us a confidence boost heading into the Tulsa game," Head Coach Greg Williams said. "Originally, I was worried about matching the intensity of Thursday night, but that was never a problem."
Kuster was named C-USA's Freshman of the Week once again for her efforts in the game, her record seventh on the season.
This Sunday, the Owls take on Southern Methodist University (10-10, 3-4 C-USA), one of teams in the middle of the C-USA scrum. If the Owls want to remain close to the top of the standings, where they are currently third, this is a game they must win.
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