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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 — Houston, TX

Owls struggle to fly: Women’s basketball drops third straight game

Fifth-year senior guard Destiny Jackson attempts a layup in last weekend’s loss to Temple University, which extended Rice’s slide to three. Courtesy Rice Athletics

By Andersen Pickard     2/27/24 10:52pm

The Rice women’s basketball team, which spent much of this season soaring near the top of the American Athletic Conference standings, extended their losing streak to a season-high three games on Sunday afternoon. In a battle of the Owls, Rice fell to Temple University, 75-66.

When the game tipped off at Rice’s Tudor Fieldhouse, Temple flexed its muscles immediately. They stormed out to a quick 6-0 lead, and although Rice briefly evened play, Temple took a 13-0 run into the second quarter. 

In response, junior forward Malia Fisher scored 12 points in the second quarter alone, pulling Rice within 10 points by halftime. 

Rice outscored Temple in just one quarter — the fourth, 17-12. This late surge was not enough as Temple left Tudor Fieldhouse with a nine-point victory. 

Temple controlled the entire game, jumping out to a 17-point lead at one point early in the fourth quarter. Rice found itself tied or trailing for all 40 minutes of Sunday’s conference battle. They never held a lead. 

Three-point shooting proved to be the difference maker as Temple sank 10 shots from beyond the arc, shooting 58.8%. On the other hand, Rice converted just four three-pointers at 22.2%.

Fisher provided the bulk of Rice’s production down the stretch, grabbing eight boards while tallying a career-high 24 points. She went 0-for-3 from three but enjoyed steady production from the free-throw line, sinking 10 of 12 foul shots. The junior attributed much of her success to her aggressive playing style and a strong supporting cast.

“Being able to get to the free throw line was a big factor. That in itself was 10 points,” Fisher said. “Also, having the confidence to go out and keep shooting regardless of makes or misses. It also helps knowing that my team has confidence in me to make plays.”

Fifth-year guard Destiny Jackson also made a significant impact, tallying 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Five of her six assists and 11 of her 13 points came in the second half, keeping the score close even though Rice was unable to ultimately come back. 

“To see that even at halftime my team still believed we could fight back, that encouraged me even more to come out swinging in the second half,” Jackson said.

The Owls’ skid comes at an inopportune time as the AAC regular season winds down. Rice, which was tied for first place in the conference on Jan. 23, now finds itself at 15-12 overall and 9-7 in conference play. They rank sixth in the conference standings and are just two games ahead of the 11th-place team, the University of Memphis.

Seeding is crucial as the top four seeds in the conference receive double byes in the conference tournament, allowing them to skip the first two rounds unabated. Teams seeded five through 10 receive just one bye, and Nos. 11 through 14 would have to win all five games to secure the conference title.

If the season were to end today, Rice’s sixth seed would earn them one bye, advancing them to the second round on Sunday, March 10. However, there is still time for the Owls to move up or down within the standings.  

Between now and their penultimate regular-season game on Saturday, the Owls will focus on controlling their energy, making layups and free throws, limiting turnovers and boxing out, according to Jackson. They will also unite off the court, attending the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as a group this week.

Heading into the final leg of the season, Fisher believes staying aggressive and prepared is imperative.

“During this break, it will be very important for our team to stay focused on the ultimate goal, which is to win a championship,” Fisher said. “Things aren’t going our way right now, but that doesn’t mean we can play victim. It just means that we need to come out even more hungry and ready to execute when the time comes. These next two games will be used as momentum boosters for us going into the tournament.”

Rice hosts the University of North Texas on Saturday before finishing the regular season on the road against the University of Texas at San Antonio on March 5. 

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