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Owls one game back of first in the AAC, split last week’s matchups

Junior guard Emily Klaczek attempts a layup on last Wednesday’s home win against East Carolina University. The Owls lost to the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Saturday, putting them one game back of first place in the AAC. Courtesy Rice Athletics

By Cadan Hanson     2/20/24 10:08pm

Rice women’s basketball split their pair of matches last week, beating East Carolina University at home on Wednesday 75-57 before losing on the road to the University of Alabama at Birmingham 87-74 on Saturday. 

The pair of games moved the team’s record to 15-10 on the season and 9-5 in conference play, enough to put them in a three-way tie for second in the American Athletic Conference as of publication. The Owls play their final three games of the regular season on Feb. 25, March 2 and March 5. 

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, the Owls hosted the Pirates at Tudor Fieldhouse. After taking the lead with two minutes left in the first quarter, the Owls never let up and went on to win by 18. Junior forward Malia Fisher led the team’s offensive attack with a 22-point performance, and three other Owls scored in the double figures. Defensively, the Owls forced 16 Pirate turnovers, but the largest statistical advantage was the 50 bench points for the Owls while holding the Pirates to four.

“I just keep saying that I’m so impressed with how deep this team is,” head coach Lindsay Edmonds said after the game. “Different people step up every night and find ways to help us score and help us win. They are all ready when their name is called. I’m just so proud of the group, it was a total team effort.”

Riding a three-game win streak, the Owls traveled to Alabama to take on the Blazers. In their only matchup of the season, the Owls and Blazers went back and forth with the Owls holding the lead late in the third quarter, 53-51. However, a quick run gave the Blazers a six-point lead going into the fourth which they never relinquished, winning by a 13-point margin, 87-74. After the game, Fisher said she was disappointed with the Owls’ complacency.

“We took this game for granted,” Fisher said. “We did not have the right mentality to come out and compete against a team who’s been trying to beat us for the last three years. They are a great team, but we hurt ourselves on Saturday and it’s not a feeling that we want to feel ever again.” 

Following the loss, the Owls find themselves in a three-way tie for second in the AAC as of publication, one game behind the top-seeded University of North Texas, whom they are slated to face in their final home game of the season on March 2. Tied for second is UAB, to whom the Owls just lost, and the Temple University, whom the Owls will face at home Feb. 25. With the end of the regular season fast approaching, fifth-year guard Destiny Jackson likes where her team is but knows that each game going forward is important. 

“We are in a pretty good spot standings-wise but we can’t get complacent,” Jackson said. “These last few games are very important, so it’s crucial that we take it one game at a time. No pressure, no diamond.”

The Owls took the court last night against the University of Memphis in Memphis. The Tigers were sitting at 11th in the conference but bested the Owls on Rice’s home court when these two teams last faced each other. According to Fisher, the Owls need to grow from the UAB loss and finish the season strong.

“The best thing we can do is learn and grow,” Fisher said. “We dropped the ball, but it has made us reflect on our preparation and think about who we want to be finishing out the season and going into the postseason.”

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