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WBB loss to UNT sets up six-way tie in AAC

Fifth-year guard Destiny Jackson dribbles in the Rice women’s basketball game against the University of North Texas. The Owls are 9-8 in AAC games. Courtesy Rice Athletics

By Diego Palos Rodriguez     3/5/24 10:33pm

Women’s basketball fell to the University of North Texas 63-54 on Saturday, bringing their losing streak to four, their longest of the season, and dropping them to a six-way tie for fourth place in the American Athletic Conference standings only a few days away from the conference tournament. 

Early on in the season, the Owls were tied for first in the AAC but have gradually slipped throughout the year leading up to the conference tournament. 

Prior to the start of the senior day game, guard Destiny Jackson was honored as the only outgoing player in the program.

“I thought the entire ceremony was one to remember,” Jackson said. “I truly felt honored to be recognized for my contributions to this program, and the video itself was spectacular. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and just feeling appreciated by such a remarkable program here at Rice.”

Although the Mean Green are ranked first in the AAC, the Owls held an even score throughout the first and second quarters, even going up by six in the second quarter before losing the lead and tying it back up before the end of the first half.

Despite a low-scoring third quarter, Rice was able to take a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, which, according to junior center and the game’s leading scorer Sussy Ngulefac, was attributed to strong defensive efforts.

“I felt the flow of [the] game was great throughout,” Ngulefac said. “Our defensive intensity was one of the best all year and that really kept us afloat.”

That momentum, however, completely shifted in the last quarter.

“We let it get away from us in that fourth quarter [by] not hitting some crucial shots and layups,” Ngulefac said. “I think a few defensive miscues led to UNT’s run late in the game and we didn’t really bounce back from it like we should’ve.”

A 9-0 surge followed by a 17-4 run for UNT sealed a fourth straight loss for the Owls who are in a six-way tie for fourth place in the AAC. This means that Rice’s last conference game against the University of Texas at San Antonio on Tuesday, March 5, ongoing at the time of publication, will be a crucial one for the Owls. 

“My expectations for us going into UTSA would be to keep that defensive mentality we had for UNT and [be] urgent on every possession,” Ngulefac said. “Along with that, we just need to shoot a little better as well as being ready for a physical matchup that I believe we can match.”

At the time of publication, a win, along with losses from the rest of the 9-8 teams in the conference, which is possible based on the schedule, could place Rice as the fourth seed and give them a double bye in the conference tournament. A loss, however, along with unfavorable results, would guarantee them at most only one bye.

Reflecting on the last few games of her basketball career at Rice, Jackson hopes to end on a high note and believes the team is ready to face the challenge.

Ngulefac echoed this, believing that the team has the necessary tools to make it far in the conference tournament.

“We need [to beat UTSA] for standings but also momentum and feeling good about ourselves,” Ngulefac said. “As we’ve seen this year, the conference is a fair, tough match every game and [because of that] I’m excited for the tournament. We’re more [than] capable and we’ve always had the tools. This is the time to put it all together.”

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