Lady Owls bust slump with home victory against Birmingham
The Rice Owls women's basketball team drew a line in the sand. This Rice team is just too talented to lose six in a row, and the team must have realized that heading into a big weekend of games.
Another two losses would have buried the Owls firmly at the bottom of Conference USA, down to a point where recovery is unlikely in the conference standings with only eight games left to play. While a split this weekend did not vault the team into the upper echelon of C-USA, it gives the team momentum to possibly pull off a streak of wins and position itself for a decent seed at the C-USA tournament in Tulsa, Okla.
The first game this weekend, against a middle-of-the-pack University of Memphis team on the road, did not provide the Owls the win they wanted but proved the team can compete away from Tudor Fieldhouse. The Owls' last four road games had all been substantial blowout losses.
Typical of the Rice team, it fell down badly in the first half, going down 29-14 at one point. It managed to close the lead to 10, heading into the break down 33-23.
After playing well the first few minutes, Rice managed to close the gap to only a few possessions. It started hitting the 3-ball with some consistency, much better than the 10 percent from behind the arc it shot in the first half.
Rice got within three but could not get that one big turnover, eventually losing the game 64-60. Head Coach Greg Williams said he was pleased with the effort.
"I thought that this was our best consistent road game, to battle back from down 10 at the half to get within three twice," Williams said. "Jessica Kuster had a really strong game as we tried to get her some looks in the second half."
Forward junior Kuster had 22 points for Rice, her sixth 20-point game of the season.
The next Sunday, the Owls welcomed the University of Alabama, Birmingham to Tudor Fieldhouse, looking for a much-needed victory after five straight losses.
The Owls got off to a fast start, going up 11-2 in the first three minutes. A halftime score of 30-21 gave the Owls confidence heading into the half.
The Owls traveled to the line an impressive 17 times during the first half, with great ball movement to the inside of the post.
The Owls held off their opponent for the entire second half at home, never letting UAB back into the game until the closing seconds. The 61-53 final's eight-point difference makes the game out to be closer than it really was.
Kuster had another double-double, her 11th this season, scoring 18 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in the win. She went an impressive eight for 10 from the free-throw line. Senior guard Jessica Goswitz also contributed eight points in the win.
The next game is a big one for the Owls, who will take on city rival University of Houston at Tudor. Houston's team, which has struggled in the conference, is a very winnable game for the Owls and an important potential later tiebreaker for postseason seeding.
The Owls then travel to New Orleans, La., to take on Tulane University, which the Owls barely lost to earlier in the season at home by a score of 69-65.
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