Women's basketball team completes a difficult season
Although they headed into the tournament hot, winning four of their last five games, the season ended for the Rice women's basketball team in disappointment Wednesday night, as the Owls fell to the University of Tulsa in the first round of the Conference USA tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
For a team with such high expectations heading into the season, the loss was a setback. While many players from this season will be returning next year, they will be thinking this off-season about what exactly went wrong this year.
The Owls, in their final regular season game of the year, upset Southern Methodist University at Tudor Fieldhouse.
SMU jumped out to an early lead, heading into halftime up four points. Rice shot poorly and had trouble getting second opportunities, resulting in only 20 points the entire first half - one of their lowest totals on the season
In the second half, Rice got red-hot shooting the basketball, finding points on every corner of the floor. They jumped out to a huge lead on SMU - up to 18 points at one juncture. The 38 points they scored in the second almost doubled their first half total. Rice ended up winning the game 58-46.
Junior Jessica Kuster had another huge game for the Owls, hauling down an impressive 18 rebounds along with 15 points. Sophomore Nakachi Maduka led the Owls with 16 points.
"[Our team put forth] tremendous effort defensively," Head Coach Greg Williams said. "Hopefully this will give us positive momentum going into the conference tournament."
However, the Owls have struggled to play two complete halves all year, and in the first C-USA game against Tulsa, they could not buck this trend.
The Owls trailed by up to ten in the first half, but closed the gap to two going into halftime.
In the second half Tulsa shut the door in the second twenty minutes, holding Rice to only 24 points while putting 44 up themselves. Rice committed 17 fouls in the second half, making a win even more unlikely. By the end of the game, Tulsa cruised to a seemingly easy 74-52 victory.
Kuster had 15 points, but only 7 rebounds. Senior Jessica Goswitz had two assists in her final night as an Owl, while Senior Zoe Rogers contributed 3 points in her last game.
"I give credit to Tulsa. They played very hard, very aggressively," Williams said after the game. "We were the second leading rebounding team in C-USA this year, and we got outrebounded 44-23, so that was a huge factor in the game. We haven't been outrebounded like that all year long."
Kuster knows that her team will make progress in the off-season.
"For myself, I have a lot of little things I want to work on," Kuster said. "For my team, I don't know, everybody is just so young. It's good that we're going to have more experience next year. We have people that can shoot; we just need them to be more confident."
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