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Fast start propels WBB past Charlotte on Senior Day

Katherine Hui / Thresher

By Chloe Singer     2/28/23 10:51pm

Starting an all-senior lineup, the Rice women’s basketball team never trailed on their way to a 64-52 win over the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on Saturday. The Senior Day win improved Rice to 20-7 on the year and marked their eighth consecutive home win. 

According to senior forward Ashley Austin, the emotions of Senior Day helped fuel the Owls’ strong performance. 

“We always celebrate each other, but for some reason, [today there] was just an insane joy and happiness,” Austin said. “Every time I saw my teammates score, I scored like you could just feel the energy. I think that really carried us throughout the game, offense and defense, just playing together being excited for each other…we were really together.” 

The Owls’ chemistry was on display throughout the game, as they controlled the pace of play with quick passes and open shots in the halfcourt. Rice out-assisted Charlotte 17-3 on the day, with senior point guard Destiny Jackson racking up 9 assists. According to senior forward India Bellamy, the Owls defense helped kickstart their offense.

“I feel like we were able to get a lot of stops and that was spilling into our [offense] today,” Bellamy said. “Everybody was scoring. We were sharing the ball.”

The Owls pulled out to an early lead behind an 11-0 run, with all four baskets coming from seniors, and closed the first quarter up 21-10. However, it was not just the seniors who shined. With Bellamy in foul trouble after getting called for two in the first quarter, freshman center Shelby Hayes scored eight points in the final five-plus minutes to give the Owls a 16-point lead at the break. According to head coach Lindsay Edmonds, Hayes, who put up a career-high 18 points and her first career double-double, was the imposing interior presence the Owls needed on Saturday.  

“Shelby [Hayes] was awesome,” Edmonds said. “She came in and gave us a spark off the bench … She stepped out when India couldn’t be out there and she gave us exactly what we needed. She was big time on offensive rebounds. She’s putting the ball in the basket. She’s just someone that does whatever it takes to make the team better. She got rewarded tonight and I am so proud of her.”

A high-scoring third quarter saw the Owls extend their lead to 20, before a late 49er push brought the final score to 64-52. Overall, Edmonds said she was pleased with her team’s performance, but they did not play their best basketball in the fourth quarter. 

“We’re really close,” Edmonds said. “I thought the first three quarters today were phenomenal. If we want to be picking it apart, our fourth quarter wasn’t fantastic. So that maybe that’s something that we grow in, in March.”

After the game, Edmonds explained how important this senior class has been in the success of the team.

“I’m proud of the way that we send the seniors out on a high note,” Edmonds said. “So much of [our success] is their work, their recognition … We were at 14 wins last year, with seven or eight players and we got to 20 this year with games to go … [Just] really, really proud of this group for reaching that milestone.”

The win moved Rice into sole-possession of fourth place in Conference USA, with just two games left in the regular season. According to Edmonds, the team is playing some of its best basketball just in time for the C-USA tournament.

“We’re really close, we’re clicking on a lot of cylinders, our defenses stepped up, our offense is scoring the ball really at a really high clip,” Edmonds said. “We got two more regular season games, we got conference tournament, and then there’s gonna be life after the conference tournament as well … So I want to push them towards perfection as much as possible.”

The Owls will finish their regular season on the road this week with a game at Florida Atlantic University on Thursday at 6 p.m. and Florida International University on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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