Barber Shop Talk: Historic women’s basketball team deserves our support
Rice women’s basketball clinched the regular season Conference USA title on Saturday with a win against the University of North Texas. The Owls are C-USA Regular Season Champions for the first time in program history.
The 2018-2019 season has been record-breaking for the Owls. They are ranked in the Associated Press Top-25 poll for the first time in program history. They are currently on the longest winning streak in program history at 16 games, which is the second-longest current winning streak in the nation behind Baylor University. The Owls haven’t lost since before Christmas. With one more win, the women will tie Rice’s single-season record for wins, and with two more they’ll break that record. The Owls have yet to lose at home this season, posting a perfect 12-0 record.
Rice’s defense has been as stifling as the ‘85 Bears (or, if you don’t get the reference, 85 actual bears). They rank No. 7 in the country in opponent points per game allowed (53.6) and No. 16 in the nation in opponent field goal percentage allowed (35.5 percent).
However, at times this season, the fan support for the team has been less than impressive. Yes, the Rice Rally Club has done its absolute best to get students in the seats, but often to no avail.
The average attendance at women’s basketball games at Tudor Fieldhouse is little more than 800 people. That number hovers around 1,800 for the men’s games, both according to the Rice Athletics website. For a team that is writing history, the women deserve better fan support than they are getting. However, it’s not too late.
Students, you have one more shot to see the Owls in action. Rice takes on Louisiana Tech University this Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse in what will be the Owls’ last home game of the season — not to mention their senior night.
For the final time this season, you can see junior guard Erica Ogwumike score and rebound at ease. Ogwumike was the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year and looks to earn All-Conference Honors for the second consecutive year as she is currently averaging a double-double on the season.
For the final time this season, you can see sophomore center Nancy Mulkey. She started the season out with an injury, but her introduction has added a different dimension to Rice’s defense. Mulkey averages 3.7 blocks per game, more than doubling the next best conference player. She is a strong candidate for C-USA Newcomer of the Year.
And for the final time of her career, you can see senior forward Nicole Iademarco make shot after shot from beyond the arc at Tudor Fieldhouse. Iademarco is the all-time leader in three-pointers made in Rice women’s basketball history.
After the game against LA Tech, Rice has one more regular season game on the road against the University of Texas, San Antonio. The Owls will then head to the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed in hopes of earning their way to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.
Before Rice makes its push for a tournament berth, come show your fellow classmates support. If you have never attended a Rice sporting event, Saturday afternoon should be your first. Admission is free for students. Take less than two hours out of your weekend and cheer on the blue and gray. Even Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Twitter that he will be in attendance. Just because Rice is not known as an athletic powerhouse does not mean that students should not show up when the teams are successful.
Rice’s unofficial motto this year has been “Fight 4 Greatness.” They have certainly been great. And it’s time for Owls fans to be great too.
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Stahlé Vincent came back to Rice over the weekend. But this time, he got a different reception than he did when he first set foot on campus over five decades ago. “[When I first got here] there was not an open-arm reception,” Vincient said. “There were people who never spoke [to me], people avoided me, I had professors who wouldn’t call my name at roll. There was an animus there that you could feel.”
During her 19-year tenure, Rice volleyball head coach Genny Volpe has led the Owls to seven NCAA tournaments, two conference championships, 14 winning seasons and, as of Aug. 26’s victory over the University of Houston, 350 wins. With the Owls back in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s top 25 as of Monday, those numbers seem poised to keep improving. This is a flooring amount of success for a program that had never even been to the tournament until Volpe was hired, but she is far from willing to take sole credit.
On Sunday, a flock of birds rose victorious above Tudor fieldhouse and it wasn’t a band of blue jays. After five intense sets, the Owls team took down No. 17 Creighton University on a second match point, capping off a tournament which started off with a reverse sweep of Big 12 opponent Kansas State University. After missing out on the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Top 25 last week by one spot, the defining weekend was enough to jump the Rice volleyball team to No. 23 on the rankings.