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WBB wins conference tournament, clinches spot in March Madness

Rice women’s basketball punched their ticket to March Madness after defeating East Carolina University in the American Athletic Conference Championship. Photo courtesy Rice Athletics.

By Kathleen Ortiz     3/13/24 9:04pm

Rice women’s basketball is headed to March Madness for the first time since 2019 after winning the American Athletic Conference tournament in their first year in the conference.

As the tenth seed in the AAC tournament, the Owls played four games in four days. Rice defeated ninth seed ECU 61-41 in the AAC Championship on March 13 at Dickies Arena. 

Rice’s most recent appearance in a conference tournament final was on March 13, 2021, exactly three years earlier, as a member of Conference USA.

The Owls took control early against ECU with an 18-3 first quarter. They were up by 17 at the half, 34-17. From there, they kept a double-digit lead for most of the second half. Four players were in double digits, with junior center Sussy Ngulefac leading with 15 points. Junior guard Emily Klaczek had 14 points, junior forward Malia Fisher had 13 and fifth-year guard Destiny Jackson finished with 10.

Earlier in the tournament, Rice beat the University of Alabama at Birmingham 71-56, the University of North Texas 61-59 and Temple University 60-57. Rice had lost to all three of those teams in their last meetings during the regular season. However, Rice went undefeated against ECU, beating them 80-67 in January and 75-57 in February.

ESPN will broadcast the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament bracket on March 17 at 7 p.m. Rice’s championship win guarantees them a spot on the bracket. The women’s tournament will begin on March 20.

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