Women's basketball goes .500 over the break
After looking like a team that was turning a corner, over break the Rice women's basketball team regressed, struggling to close out contests that could have certainly been victories.
Partially due to an injury to star sophomore forward Jessica Kuster, the team looked flat at times, struggling to score points in their nonconference schedule and opening conference matches.
After Kuster's ankle injury, Rice had a disappointing 0-2 finish in their own Gene Hackerman Invitational, losing a heartbreaker to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in the opening game.
Despite the 23 point performance from senior forward Brianna Hypolite, the team could not overcome the absence of Kuster from their starting lineup against a good Oregon State team in the second game of the tournament.
The team rebounded well after losing the second game of the tournament to Oregon State University by pulling out a close win against Texas State University to bring the team back to 5-5 on the season.
Kuster returned in the Texas State game, contributing 20 points, paired with another great game from Hypolite and a huge performance off the bench from freshman Christal Porter. Kuster led the team in points despite playing only limited minutes.
"It was nice to get Jessica Kuster back" said Head Coach Greg Williams said after the game. "We had to limit her minutes around the 20 mark and she had a great stat line."
Off the win, the team had to travel to Nacogdoches a few days before Christmas to take on Stephen F. Austin University. Despite another great performance from Hypolite, 29 points and nine rebounds, the limited minutes of Kuster contributed to the team's demise, ultimately losing an 11 point lead in the closing minutes.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, one of the weaker teams on the Owls schedule, saw the full-return of Kuster, a San Antonio native. Kuster had 21 point and 21 rebounds to match, leading the team to a 71-46 victory, continuing the Owls streaky play.
Two straight losses would follow, with a 61- 54 loss against Lamar coming in the first game of the new year. Rice had a nine-minute scoreless streak in the second half – handing victory to Lamar.
Despite the trials and tribulations of the break, the Owls season began anew this past Thursday as the team opened C-USA play against the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
The Blazers, who were predicted to finish in the middle of the pack by the C-USA coaches, started out hot, putting Rice in a 14-3 hole. In the first half, Rice shot only 13 percent from the field, one of their worst shooting halves of the year.
Another second quarter UAB run slammed the book shut on the Owls, who were down 49-20 at one point. The final score ended up at 60-45.
After the disappointing opening to conference play, the Owls welcomed Southern Methodist University into Tudor Fieldhouse, hoping to put themselves at 1-1 on the year in conference play.
After a fast paced first half, Rice was down by four at halftime after a fast paced first half and would eventually see SMU's lead grow to eight with only minutes left in the game. Three straight Rice baskets tied the contest, only to give up five unanswered points to the Mustangs.
Rice dug five points out, tying the contest on the put back by Porter with only 38 seconds to play. A missed SMU basket led to a Brittany Carter layup, winning the game by a final score of 56-54.
It was a big win for the Owls, who would have a tough road to climb back after falling 2-0 to start the season.
Two crucial games for the Owls follow, with a game Thursday versus Tulane University and a game Sunday at the University of Tulsa. The Green Wave, predicted to finish fourth in the conference, is 1-1 so far this season inside C-USA but an impressive 12-3 overall record this season – making them one of the favorites to compete for the conference title in March.
More from The Rice Thresher
In the season finale, Rice football defeated the University of Texas, El Paso 30-16, outscoring the Miners 16-0 in the second half en route to their third consecutive victory on Saturday. The victory in Rice’s season finale improved the Owls’ final record to 3-9, a one-win increase over last year’s total and tied for Rice’s best finish since 2016.
As the semester wraps up, it’s a good time to take stock of how Rice Athletics is doing as a whole. At this moment, we believe that there is good reason to be happy and optimistic with how the Owls are performing now and will perform in the future. On a sport by sport basis, Rice sports teams are ending the decade at a peak.
Volleyball will compete in the NCAA tournament after receiving an at-large bid to play against the University of Oklahoma in the first round during Sunday night’s Selection Show. Transportation will not be provided for Rice students to the match against OU, but the possibility exists a student bus will travel to College Station on Friday if the Owls win their first round match, according to Rice director of marketing David Pillen.