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Sports


SPORTS 1/28/15 7:38am

Conference proves tough for women’s basketball

In six games, the Rice University women’s basketball game registered six losses.This week, the Owls fell to the University of Southern Mississippi and Louisiana Tech University. On Thursday night, the Owls took on Southern Miss and lost by a final score of 65-54. Following the loss, the Owls faced off against the Lady Bulldogs. Rice led for much of the game but Louisiana Tech finished the game on a 21-8 run and won 88-71.The team failed to reach 60 points for the seventh straight game against Southern Miss. At the 11:22 mark of the first half, the Owls took an 18-16 lead on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Maya Hawkins. The lead did not last long though, as Southern Miss went into halftime with a 34-26 halftime advantage. Rice would get as close as 34-32 with a quick burst in the second half, but would not regain the lead for the remainder of the game. Key contributors for Rice included senior forward Megan Shafer, who scored nine points off the bench in just 13 minutes of action, and fellow senior Christal Porter, who led the team with nine rebounds. Against Louisiana Tech, the Owls made the necessary adjustments on the offensive side of the ball and were rewarded by having three players score in double digits. Not only did Rice reach the 60-point mark for the contest, but they reached 70 points for only the third time this season. However, the defensive performance and turnover margin proved too much, as they allowed a season-high 88 points to the opposition and committed 22 turnovers. Louisiana Tech’s offense capitalized on Rice’s mistakes, shooting 59 percent from the field and scoring 20 points off turnovers. Senior point guard Chrisstasia Walter, who scored a game-high 26 points on 7-of-12 shooting and a perfect 11-of-11 at the free throw line, led the Bulldogs offensively.The game featured 13 lead changes and seven ties, including Rice having led for the majority of the first half. Porter earned her fourth double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds while senior guard Nakachi Maduka scored 13 points and added eight rebounds for the Owls. Porter said, despite the six-game losing streak, spirits are high in the locker room and the seniors on the team contribute to keeping things positive. “The locker room has definitely been staying positive,” Porter said. “Senior leadership is important to remind the team of how successful we have been [in past years]. We have been [competitive] in every conference game, so it’s just a matter of keeping up the work.”Freshman guard Shani Rainey has been a spot starter for the Owls and is a key player off the bench. She said she feels she and her teammates need to take advantage of every single possession to revert back to their winning ways. “One thing that we as a team need to do is value every possession,” Rainey said. “We can’t take even one off because that could be the deciding factor on who wins the game [and who loses].”  According to head coach Greg Williams, the Owls need to focus on scoring consistently.“Offensive consistency has been a problem all season,” Williams said. “We do not have a proven scorer in late game situations, so we [find ourselves having] to adjust game to game to find that player.” The Owls return to Tudor Fieldhouse this coming Sunday, Feb. 1 to take on the University of North Texas. Tip off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.


SPORTS 1/28/15 7:35am

Basketball splits weekend conference matchups

The Rice University men’s basketball team (6-12, 3-4 C-USA) went 1-1 last week against the University of Southern Mississippi and Louisiana Tech University. The Owls came back to defeat Southern Miss 58-56 after being down by as many as 10 points. Sophomore guard Marcus Jackson scored the winning free throws after he was fouled when the game was tied with fewer than six seconds left. Jackson led the team with 19 points and senior forward Seth Gearhart added 16.Head Coach Mike Rhoades said he was pleased with how the team was able to come back in the game.“I was really proud of our guys,” Rhoades said. “We got down 10 there, and we could have bagged it. We’ve had a lot of games this season where we were in the position and came back but couldn’t get over the hump, but we [did].”Rice jumped out to an early lead against Louisiana Tech, who is currently second in Conference USA with a record of 15-5. The Owls never recovered after the 28-24 halftime deficit and ultimately lost 45-58. Gearhart scored 16 points for the second consecutive game, making it 12 straight games that he has scored double-digit points. Jackson contributed 12 points in the game.According to Rhoades, Louisiana Tech’s defense played tough and did not allow Rice many scoring opportunities.“It was a hard game to score in today,” Rhoades said. “It wasn’t lack of effort. I thought our guys did a great job of being composed and continuing to fight. We did not shoot the ball well, and their athleticism had something to do with that.”Gearhart is one of the 30 seniors in the country nominated for the national Senior CLASS Award. The award honors student athletes who excel in community, classroom, character and competition. The Owls will begin a four-game road trip on Wednesday, Jan. 28, against the University of Houston, their final non-conference game. The next home game is Thursday, Feb. 12 against Middle Tennessee State University.


SPORTS 1/21/15 2:48pm

Hawkins emerges from injury

Wearing a highly protective metal brace on her surgically repaired left knee, sophomore guard Maya Hawkins has overcome adversity to become one of the central players on the Rice women’s basketball team.Hawkins has spent much of her first two seasons at Rice recovering from an injury to her anterior cruciate ligament. In the first two games of her return from injury, Hawkins posted career-high scoring performances of 25 and 23 points to carry the Owls at the start of conference play.Whether it’s consistently diving on the floor for a loose ball or wrestling with the opposing team for possession, Hawkins said she has a tendency for making the “hustle plays.” “My favorite aspect of the game has to be defense [because] I believe defense is one of the few things in basketball that you can control the entire game,” Hawkins said. “Sometimes, your shot might be off, or you might have a few turnovers, but you can always sprint back and make a stop on defense and play with that edge if you really put your mind to it.”Hawkins has impacted her team in her limited time on the court with her leadership ability. Hawkins said she takes great pride in constantly motivating her teammates and said she attributes this to the perpetual support she received while sidelined with a torn ACL in her left knee. “My teammates have shown me nothing but support throughout the entire process of my rehabilitation,” Hawkins said. “They really showed me what it means to be a part of a team, and their support and confidence in me helped me regain confidence in myself. [My teammates] and other family members really push me to work hard every day so that I can show them that their investment was well worth it.” According to Hawkins, the ACL injury she sustained entering her sophomore year was not her first severe injury. “My first major injury was my freshman year at Rice when I fractured my tibia,” Hawkins said. “Thankfully, it did not require surgery of any kind, but I had to miss [most] of the season. The hardest part about coming back from that injury was coming back with confidence that I could perform well and compete at the college level.” The Owls return to Tudor Fieldhouse Feb. 1, where Maya Hawkins and the rest of the Owls will be in action against the University of North Texas in a nationally-televised game. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. 


SPORTS 1/21/15 2:44pm

Men's tennis opens at home

The newly constructed George R. Brown Tennis Center hosted its first official matches this weekend as the Rice men’s tennis team begins its 2015 season.  On Friday, the Owls (1-1) lost 4-3 to the University of Texas, San Antonio (1-1). On Sunday, the Owls defeated Cornell University (1-1) 4-1. At the beginning of Friday’s game, the UTSA Roadrunners won the doubles round and the Owls were unable to come back. Sophomore Zach Yablon, freshman Jamie Malik and sophomore David Warren won their singles matches, but senior Srikar Alla could not hang on to a 4-1 lead in the third set against UTSA senior Thomas Stillman. Stillman went on to win the match 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (8), and the Roadrunners clinched the 4-3 victory. On Sunday, the Owls faced off against nationally-ranked No. 60 Cornell University. The Owls took control and won the match when Alla delivered the clinching point against Cornell senior Sam Fleck.  Head coach Efe Ustundag said the Owls were disappointed after losing their home opener in Rice’s new venue. “The nerves just got too much out of us,” Ustundag said. “The energy that was built up since last semester just came out differently than we had hoped for.” According to Ustundag, the team was able to rebound on Sunday by focusing less on previous mistakes and more on what could be improved. “We got better at not letting those opportunities that got away from us affect us,” Ustundag said. “Today, having that first match out of the way, we could come out and focus on the small details like the energy and intensity.”  According to Ustundag, the Owls have a long a way to go before they can consistently compete with teams like Cornell’s. “We still [need] a lot of improvements,” Ustundag said. “I think this was a nice preview of how good we can be when we are clicking on all cylinders.” The $8 million George R. Brown Center differs in its design from the Owls’ previous home at the Jake Hess Tennis Stadium. Instead of having a concentrated seating area around the center court, the new center allows fans to move from one court to another as dictated by the play. Ustundag said the fan-friendly design contributed to the Owls’ success. “I think it’s phenomenal,” Ustundag said. “Just being able to turn around and have four guys and three roommates of each [player] just standing right behind them and supporting and pushing, I feel like it makes a huge difference.” The Owls now go on to face another two games next weekend against Incarnate Word University on Friday and Old Dominion University on Sunday.


SPORTS 1/21/15 2:41pm

Women's tennis looks to defend title

Following a successful 18-7 record last year and an NCAA Championship Regional Round berth, the Rice women’s tennis team adds two new faces but continues their vision for excellence.  From last year to this year, there have been several personnel changes including a new assistant coach, Taylor Fogleman, who joined Rice after spending the past few seasons at Tulane University.Finally, the team has added two American-born players who have continued to impress their upperclassmen teammates throughout the preseason and heading into the first match. Senior Natalie Beazant said the two players, Lindsey Hodge and Savannah Durkin, fit in with the team early on. According to Beazant, Hodge and Durkin being American does not negatively impact the team’s dynamic, which consists of five international players out of eight total.“They fit into the team really well, but they are great girls to be around and work hard every day so the team respects them for that,” Beazant said.  “Besides them and one more girl, the rest of the team is international mainly because tennis is an international sport, but even with this team makeup, everybody has the same goal so it all works out.”  The women’s tennis program believes the closeness between the players themselves and with the coaching staff will be a defining characteristic. With four upperclassmen taking the helm and mentoring the younger players, combined with joint offseason workouts and team activities such as Top Golf, those teammate bonds will carry them far into the season.  Beazant said the team’s success will be derived from their chemistry off the court.“Knowing how close we are already is wonderful,” Beazant said. “Having [Fogleman] as an assistant coach and especially [Schmidt] as a head coach [whom] you can trust both on and off the court and wants the best for you in life, makes us some of the luckiest student athletes in the world.”According to Beazant, playing in the new $8 million dollar George R. Brown Tennis Facility is an exciting prospect and will motivate the team throughout the season.“I think it is simply amazing being at a school ranked as high as it is academically and also have brand new facilities that we have now,” Beazant said.  “I remember when I was told a few years ago that the school was planning on building new courts, so it has been really exciting to see that entire process take place.”The Owls shut out Lamar University 7-0 last Saturday, Jan. 17, and hope to continue that momentum into next weekend’s matchup against the University of Kentucky. The match will take place in Evanston, Illinois on Jan. 24 at 2 p.m.


SPORTS 1/14/15 10:40am

Defense leads Rice to bowl victory

Two touchdown passes from redshirt junior quarterback Driphus Jackson in the last 19 seconds of the first quarter gave Rice all the momentum it needed. After throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor with 23 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Fresno State University junior quarterback Brian Burrell threw an interception to sophomore cornerback J.T. Blasingame on Fresno’s first play back. Jackson threw his second touchdown pass in as many plays on the next down, a 69-yard strike to senior wide receiver Mario Hull with four seconds remaining in the quarter.The two touchdowns took Rice’s lead to 16-3 at the end of the first quarter, and the Owls never looked back. Rice went on to cap its 2014 season with a postseason bowl victory in the Hawai’i Bowl, defeating Fresno State 30-6 Dec. 24. The win took Rice’s record to 8-5 overall, including winning eight of their last 10. Rice earned its second bowl victory in three years and its 18th win over the last two seasons, the best two-season stretch in school history.The offense stagnated in the second quarter, but went on to score a touchdown in the third and fourth quarters, while only sacrificing two field goals in the game. It marked the first time since 2011 Rice did not allow a touchdown from the opposing team.Coming off a 71-36 loss against Louisiana Tech in which they allowed 677 yards of offense, the Owls’ defense looked to rebound against Fresno State, allowing 27 yards through three quarters. Fresno State finished with 93 yards passing on 38 attempts, and Burrell completed 10 of 20 passes for 44 yards and two interceptions. The defense also added four sacks on its way to holding Fresno State to 158 yards and 22 points under its season average.Senior safety Julius White said the team was out to prove something after the school’s worst defensive performance since allowing 77 points to Louisiana State University in 1977.“Defensively, everybody had a kind of chip on their shoulder,” White said. “[The Louisiana Tech game] wasn’t the way we wanted to go out in the regular season. We didn’t really play much like ourselves that game, so wemade this game like there was something we had to prove. We needed to make a statement on national television that that’s not the defense that Rice wants to be.”According to Head Coach David Bailiff, the team saved its best defensive performance for last.”[It was] probably one of the best defensive performances we’ve had all year,” Bailiff said. “I thought our front four was very disruptive and really thought our secondary was just outstanding. I thought we tackled really well.”Jackson won the game’s Most Valuable Player award after having his best statistical game of the season, completing 15 of 24 passes for a school bowl-record 318 yards, three touchdowns and zero turnovers. Jackson also added 41 yards rushing and finished the season with 2,842 yards passing and 24 touchdown passes, good for the third-best mark in Rice single season history.Senior wide receivers Mario Hull and Jordan Taylor and junior wide receiver Dennis Parks each had a touchdown catch in the game. Parks recorded his first career 100-yard receiving performance, catching five passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. In Taylor’s final game, he caught five passes for 61 yards and a score. The senior finished his career with 176 receptions, 2,588 yards and 20 touchdowns. Taylor finished his career third in Rice history in receptions, second in receiving yards and second in receiving touchdowns.According to Jackson, his passing statistics were inflated by the play of his wide receivers.“I had to be on point when it came to reading coverages, but the receivers did a great job of adjusting to balls,” Jackson said. “I get a lot of praise for the touchdown to [Mario Hull], but Mario made a great adjustment to that ball because it was short and he ended up making a play on it. I get a lot of praise for what’s going on, but I’m just doing my one-eleventh and everybody else did their part and it came out the way it was supposed to.”Bailiff, however, had more praise for the quarterback. Bailiff said Jackson led the team to victory through his play and decision making.“I thought Driphus did an incredible job of not only managing the game, but at times taking it over,” Bailiff said. “With his big plays and some of the reads he was able to do, we’re really excited he’s coming back next season. It really seemed every time we needed a play Driphus made one for us.”The bowl victory was Bailiff’s third win in four attempts, and he is now currently tied with Jess Neely for the most bowl wins by a Rice head coach. Rice will now shift its focus to the offseason and preparing for the 2015 season. The team will lose five starters from this year’s offense and seven from the defense. The team will look to reload around rising senior quarterback Jackson, who will look to build upon his first year starting. 


SPORTS 1/14/15 10:39am

Women's basketball opens conference play

The Rice University women’s basketball team entered conference play with a 5-6 record, including a 5-2 record at home. During the non-conference portion of the schedule, Rice competed against two of the top women’s college basketball programs in the nation, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas, Austin. Ranked No. 5 and No. 3 respectively at the time Rice played them, both teams defeated Rice in the non-conference portion of the season.To mark the beginning of conference play, the Owls went on the road for three consecutive games. In the first game, the Owls defeated the University of Texas, San Antonio in overtime with a final score of 62-58. Sophomore guard Maya Hawkins scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the game to earn the first double-double of her career. She was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line and committed just one turnover in 37 minutes of play off the bench. As a whole, the Owls bench outscored UTSA 37-15 over the course of the game. Rice then went on to play the University of Texas, El Paso Jan. 4. Despite another team-leading performance by Hawkins, the Owls could not complete a late second half comeback and lost 54-51. Hawkins scored a team-high 23 points for the Owls, which included three three-pointers. The rest of the offense struggled, as no other Owl scored more than six points in the contest. Senior post player Christal Porter and sophomore post player Adaeze Obinnah tied for the team high in rebounds with nine each. After a five-day layoff, the Owls competed in their final game of the road trip against the University of North Texas. After a slow start from the Owls, the team went on a 15-5 run to close the first half and take a 27-23 lead into the break. With just 4:23 remaining in the game, Rice held a narrow 43-42 lead, but was unable to hold on and lost by a final score of 53-48. Junior forward Megan Palmer led Rice in scoring and rebounding, recording nine points and eight rebounds. Rice committed a season-high 23 turnovers in the game, which UNT turned into 21 points. Hawkins said her recent success should be attributed to her teammates and how they have supported her during her comeback after suffering an injury last year.“My performance at the beginning of conference play was largely due to my teammates,” Hawkins said. “Their encouragement before, during and after my recovery process has helped me to regain my confidence … and I couldn’t have accomplished anything without them.” Hawkins said playing on the road was a challenge, but also said she was proud of the way the team fought. “Playing on the road was very tough, but I was proud of how our team played while away, even though some of the games didn’t go as we would have liked,” Hawkins said. “Our team will be working hard all week long to ensure that we secure these next two games in front of our fans at home.” Head Coach Greg Williams said Hawkins’s return from injury will hopefully spark the team in the games to come. “We are glad to have Maya back on the court,” Williams said. “She adds defensive quickness at the point position and is our most consistent three-point shooter.”Williams said the team needs to prepare for their next two games at home to get the season back on track.“Both [Old Dominion University and Louisiana Tech University] are athletic with most of their scoring coming from their perimeter players,” Williams said. “Every game is different, as are the decisions players make on the floor, [and] we are ready to come out strong on our home court.” Rice returns to action this Thursday, Jan. 15 at Tudor Fieldhouse to face Old Dominion. Old Dominio currnelty boasts an overall record of 8-6, incluidng 1-2 in Conference USA. Tip-off for the game is scheduled for 6 p.m. 


SPORTS 1/14/15 10:38am

Men’s basketball begins conference play with win

The Rice University men’s basketball team opened conference play on Friday, Jan. 2 with a 15-point win over the University of Texas at San Antonio. They then dropped two games to the University of Texas, El Paso and University of North Texas. The Owls are currently 1-2 in conference play and 4-10 overall. Before conference play began, Rice played the University of Texas, Austin, which was ranked No. 10 nationally at the time of the game.Although UT won the game 66-55 with a late run, Head Coach Mike Rhoades said even though they did not win, the game showed them they could compete at a high level.“We really played well,” Rhoades said. “We played well enough to win ... We were right there. We have to keep getting better so we can learn to win games. The Texas game showed us that we can play with a lot of people if we’re on our game, follow the game plan, and play together.”Over the past three conference games, sophomore guard Marcus Jackson has averaged 23 points per game on 60.5 percent shooting from the field. Rhoades said Jackson’s increase in scoring is not the only thing that has changed about Jackson’s game and praised him as an emerging leader in the team.”It’s not even a scoring streak as much as it is [experience],” Rhoades said. “Early in the year, he was really pressuring himself to do everything. All we talked to him about was [playing] better defense — just keep playing better defense and your offense will come. He’s a good player and he’s taking the right shots. What we see is that he’s [taken] a leadership role.”Rhoades said he was proud of the team’s commitment to practice over winter break. “I’m really proud of this team, [mainly] the effort and the approach they’ve had over break,” Rhoades said. “We’ve been [on campus] for a long time just by ourselves and we’ve gotten better and closer as a team. I’m really proud of them. We’ve come up short in some games but we won our first [conference] game against UTSA. I think it was the first time in four years we started off the league with a win. We played well enough to have UTEP on the ropes. The other day against North Texas, we didn’t play very well, … but we found a way to get back in it and almost pull it out.” Rice has road games against Old Dominion University and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte in the upcoming week. The next home game will be on Jan. 22 against the University of Southern Mississippi at 7 p.m.Old Dominion currently has the best record in the conference, going 13-2 over the course of the season, and 2-1 in conference play. UNC-Charlotte is sitting in the middle of the pack with an overall record of 7-8. Old Dominion has the No. 1 scoring defense in C-USA, allowing 55.9 points per game. Converseley, Rice allows an average of 65.4. The game against ODU will tip off on Thursday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m.


SPORTS 1/14/15 10:36am

Covington to forgo final season for NFL Draft

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Christian Covington has decided to forgo his senior year and declare for the NFL Draft. Covington is a native of Vancouver, Canada and three-year starter for the Owls. He is on track to graduate in May. Covington is projected to be a late round draft pick by CBSSports.com after missing most of the season due to injury. On Nov. 1, he sustained another injury when he dislocated his left kneecap against Florida International University. This injury required surgery and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.  In the seven games he played this season, Covington recorded 20 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks. In his 2013 All-Conference USA season, Covington recorded 59 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and four sacks, including a memorable sack of Texas A&M University quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.  At the time of injury, his timetable for return was six months, which would keep him out of play until April. He projects to be unavailable for the NFL Combine in February and Rice’s Pro Day, which is usually held in March.  The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Covington entered the 2014-15 season as a consensus All-Conference USA selection. Early mock drafts and draft projections expected him to enter the draft after this season. He received some late first round and second round chatter from various draft analysts including CBS Sport’s Dane Bugler, who compared his skill set to that of former Florida State University defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. After the injury setbacks that he suffered this year, however, his spot in mock drafts has fallen significantly. Draftsite.com projects him as a 5th round pick. He is currently rated the seventh best defensive tackle in the draft by CBS Sports.  Covington asked for an evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which issues one of three grades to underclassmen prospects — first- round projection, second-round, or a recommendation to stay in school for another year. According to the Houston Chronicle, Covington received a recommendation to stay in school for another year. The change is part of an effort from the NFL to urge underclassmen to stay in school longer after an all-time high of 98 underclassmen declared for last year’s draft.  In an official statement released by Covington, he thanked the football program, his coaches, friends and teammates for his time at Rice. “I want to thank Rice University and the Rice football program for the honor and privilege of suiting up for the Owls,” Covington said. “My four years at Rice have marked some of the best years of my life, and I am truly blessed to have been able to attend such a prestigious university with amazing people and play with such incredible teammates.” Covington, whose decision to forgo his senior year could cost him a significant difference in his draft selection and rookie contract, said his choice was not easy or taken lightly by him. “The decision for me to leave was not an easy one,” Covington said. “Through the help of a lot of prayer and the help of family, my decision to declare became clear.” For the Rice football team, this means another starting spot to fill for Defensive Coordinator Chris Thurmond, who will lose seven other defensive starters to graduation. According to Thurmond, Covington’s departure will be a setback for the team, but the defense will adjust and prepare for next season with other personnel. “We’ll just continue to move forward,” Thurmond said. “ Any time you lose good players, it is just something that is part of the business and something you have to deal with.” Thurmond, who learned of Covington’s decision in the days following the 30-6 victory over Fresno State University in the Hawai’i Bowl, said he believes that Covington is ready for the challenges of the NFL. “Christian is a talented guy,” Thurmond said. “He has good athletic ability and I’m sure he’ll make a place for himself.” If Covington is selected in the NFL draft, which will be held April 30 through May 2, it will mark the fourth consecutive year that a Rice player is selected. Covington is the first player to leave early for the draft since tight end James Casey in 2009.


SPORTS 1/14/15 10:34am

Vandalism, theft strike club crew team boathouse

This winter break, burglars broke into the Rice Crew team’s boathouse, tagging their boat with graffiti and stealing solar light panels. The vandalism and theft occurred some time between Dec. 24 and Dec. 26. The boathouse is located in the Buffalo Bayou/East End area, a location known for its graffiti culture. This incident of graffiti and theft marks the fourth burglary of the team’s first semester on the Bayou.Coach Mike Matson told ABC13 that professional paint repair costs for the tagged boat could be anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500.The team looks forward to the completion of their new permanent structure, which will have high-tech security features. In the meantime, the team is seeking assistance from the local Houston Police Department, along with support from other rowing teams in the Houston area and the Rice community. Vespoli, manufacturer of the team’s tagged boat, has reached out to the team as well.“It sure is sad that these people are that desperate to be breaking into our boathouse to try to steal what few things we have and even go so far as to vandalize our boats,” Laura Nicholson, a McMurtry College freshman, said. “But in the words of our coaches Mike and David, Rice Crew will continue to push [forward] and rise and rise again through these challenges.”Coach Mike Matson has been a strong voice of support for the team, addressing this issue while keeping the team focused on the future championships. Matson said the burglary will not affect the team’s performance.“This was an unfortunate occurrence, but certainly not a setback,” Matson said. “We learned from the experience and have properly adapted our security working in conjunction with the police. Our focus now shifts to the championship season ahead and sending Rice’s first boat to the SIRA championships in over a decade to proudly represent the Owls.”The team is set to meet with the East End Graffiti Abatement team on Friday to remove the graffiti from their boat.


SPORTS 1/14/15 10:31am

Athletics unveils $31.5 million training facility

The Rice Athletic Department recently announced the proposed construction of a new student athlete development building. The Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center will be located at the north end of Rice Stadium and will cost $31.5 million to build. The 60,000 square-foot building will house a weight room, a home team locker room, staff offices, an auditorium, a football team lounge and areas dedicated to training and sports medicine. These facilities will be available to all Rice student athletes.According to Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard, these renovations will benefit students and coaches on and off the field.“The Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center affords our student athletes and coaches a better environment for training and medical care than we currently offer,” Karlgaard said. “I believe our football players and other athletes will be better prepared and healthier as a result of the new building.”Karlgaard said that these facilities will also help recruitment efforts.“I hope young men and women who seek a world class academic and athletic experience will see this facility as a key component of their skill development,” Karlgaard said. The tarp-covered area that encompasses the north end of the stadium will be demolished to make room for the building. The existing scoreboard will also be removed and will be replaced by a new one that will be on top of the new center.According to Karlgaard, however, these renovations will not reduce seating capacity.“I’m not sure this facility will have a tremendous impact on our fan experience,” Karlgaard said. “We are working towards further renovations that will create an excellent atmosphere for spectators in our stadium.”The Dallas-based architecture firm HKS will be designing the new building. HKS designed Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas and Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts.Donors have pledged the funding necessary for construction, which will begin in early 2015 and will be completed in time for fall 2016.


SPORTS 12/7/14 7:12pm

Football accepts bid to Hawai'i Bowl

The Rice University football team has accepted a bid to play in the 2014 Hawai’i Bowl, according to reports. The Owls (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) will head to Honolulu, Hawaii for their third consecutive bowl appearance, a school record.Rice will take on Fresno State University (6-7), who lost to No. 22 Boise State University on Saturday, Dec. 6, in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Junior quarterback Brian Burrell leads the Bulldogs offensively and has thrown for 2,576 yards and 22 touchdowns, good for second in conference. Junior running back Marteze Waller is third in the MWC in rushing, recording 1,292 yards and 11 touchdowns for the season.Fresno State has the No. 101 ranked defensive unit in the country, allowing 32.6 points per game, and has given up at least 20 points in each of their last seven games.The Hawai’i Bowl is scheduled for Christmas Eve (Wednesday, Dec. 24) at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and will air nationally on ESPN.


SPORTS 12/3/14 2:44pm

Women's basketball wins three of first five games

The Rice University women’s basketball team began the 2014-15 season by winning three of their first five games, including four of five at home.After an opening day victory over Prairie View A&M University, the Owls lost to Associated Press No. 5 Texas A&M University on the road despite trailing less than 10 points for the majority of the game. Since then, the Owls have won two of their last three games.On Monday, Nov. 24, the Owls defeated Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi with a final score of 59-54. Following the victory, Rice defeated Alcorn State University 61-33 on Friday evening. With the wins, the Owls improved to 3-2 on the season. Ten of the 11 Owls who entered the game against Alcorn State recorded points. Sophomore forward Jasmine Goodwine led the team in scoring with 15 points while junior forward Megan Palmer snagged a season-high 13 rebounds. Rice won the battle of the paint with a 40-18 point margin, thanks in part to a balanced attack of post play and drives to the basket.The offense built an early lead due in part to Rice’s best defensive performance of the season. Rice allowed just seven points to the Lady Braves throughout the entire first half. Alcorn State shot 3-32 from the field (9 percent) and 1-8 from three-point range. The seven points allowed in the first half tied a Rice record, and the 33 points for the game were the sixth-fewest points allowed in school history. With a mix of returning players and new additions to the squad, Head Coach Greg Williams said he was pleased with the balanced attack the offense showed on Friday night. “We feel we are able to play nine or 10 players each game and figure out who is playing well on any given night,” Williams said. “Hopefully as we play more games we can get some more consistency, individually and as a team.” Williams said the team will rely heavily on the play of seniors, especially forward Christal Porter, in order to be successful this season.“We have five seniors, and [we] are counting on them to finish their Rice careers with strong seasons,” Williams said. “Christal [Porter] is our most experienced returning player, and we are hoping she has a breakout year. She has been rebounding well to start the season, and we hope her scoring will follow suit as she is capable of being a double-double performer each game.”Williams said he is also optimistic about the incoming crew of freshman in his arsenal. “Freshman Shani Rainey has started our first five games, so she has made an immediate impact,” Williams said. “Wendy Knight has been solid in practice, and we have a lot of confidence in her.”The Owls next face off against the University of Houston on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. on the road. The Owls will then return to Tudor Fieldhouse on Saturday, Dec. 6 to face Stephen F. Austin University before taking a two-week recess for final exams. 


SPORTS 12/3/14 2:44pm

Men’s basketball loses three in Alaska tourny

The Rice University men’s basketball team lost all three games this past weekend in the Great Alaskan Shootout, an annual early-season tournament held in Anchorage, Alaska. In the first match, Rice played Mercer University, who beat No. 2 ranked Duke University in the NCAA Tournament last year. The game went into overtime, with Rice eventually losing 77-71. The next day, Rice lost 76-74 to Washington State University. Rice lost its final game on Saturday, their third in less than 40 hours, to Division II University of Alaska, Anchorage 65-54. Senior forward Seth Gearhart led the team in scoring over the weekend, with 49 points total, including a season-high 22 against aWashington State.Head Coach Mike Rhoades said the team continually got better throughout the tournament but was stunted by fatigue at the end of the week.“The crazy thing about [the tournament] is we got better, we just didn’t get the results we wanted,” Rhoades said. “We played three nights in a row, with our last two games being real quick turn arounds. We didn’t have much left in the tank on the third night. No excuses, we still have to find a way and overcome being tired.”Rhoades also said the team had trouble closing out games.“We just couldn’t put 40 minutes together to pull out a win,” Rhoades said. “That was disappointing. ... This is going to be a process. One thing I can say about our guys is they have a great attitude about it. They know this process is going to take time, but we’re close.”The Owls’ next game is Wednesday, Dec. 3 against Houston Baptist University, followed by a game against St. Edward’s University Saturday, Dec. 6.


SPORTS 12/3/14 2:43pm

Bowl destination difficult to predict despite eligibility

With Rice University’s regular football season in the books, the Owls now await their postseason bowl destination. For the first time in school history, Rice will head to its third consecutive bowl appearance after winning the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl over the Air Force Academy 33-14 and losing last season in the Liberty Bowl to Mississippi State University 44-7.According to NCAA Bowl regulations, a team must earn six wins to become bowl eligible, although it does not ensure a bowl appearance. Seven wins in a season essentially guarantees that a team will earn a bid to a bowl game. With Rice’s seventh victory against the University of Texas, El Paso on Nov. 21, Rice practically guaranteed itself a position to play in a number of possible bowl games.According to postseason bowl procedures, the winner of the Conference USA Championship automatically chooses which C-USA-affiliated bowl game to participate in. This season, Marshall University and Louisiana Tech University will play for that right in the C-USA Championship Game in Huntington, West Virginia on Saturday, Dec. 6. C-USA is one of the only conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision that does not have a pecking order for bowl games. Typically, teams are assigned to bowl games depending on their final rankings within their conference. For C-USA, however, bowl-eligible teams (programs with six or more wins) must wait for an invitation from each bowl’s representatives and accept or decline the invitation. Each of the bowls will typically offer invitations to the schools that they believe will bring in the most revenue via ticket sales and television deals. Therefore, larger schools will usually receive invites from more prestigious bowls over smaller programs, even if they have fewer wins, because of their larger fan bases that are often willing to travel to bowl games.C-USA has five primary bowl tie-ins: the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl, the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl, the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, and is secondarily affiliated with the Duck Commander Independence Bowl. The Boca Raton and Bahamas Bowls are both in their inaugural seasons, and this is the first year the New Mexico Bowl has been affiliated with C-USA.For Rice, any of those bowl games are possible destinations, although some think certain bowls are more likely than others. Rice football beat writer Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle said he believes Rice’s most likely bowl destinations are the New Mexico or the Hawai’i Bowls. According to Phil Steele, a college football pundit with the most accurate bowl predictions for the past 16 years, Rice will most likely head to the Hawaii Bowl to face Fresno State University on Dec. 24.  The article originally stated that the winner of Conference USA could choose the Liberty Bowl, which is no longer accurate as of 2014. Furthermore, the Independence Bowl is only secondarily affiliated with C-USA.


SPORTS 12/3/14 2:42pm

Not Your Average Joe: Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard hopes for big payoff from four-point athletics initiative

When he came to Rice University in the summer of 2013, Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard knew the limitations he had to work with. Having worked in the athletic departments at Stanford University and Oberlin College, Karlgaard knows what it takes to run an athletic department at a school that values academics as its first priority.Karlgaard said Rice was an appealing destination to him due to the school’s emphasis on academics as well as the potential to increase the visibility of the athletic programs.“What brought me here was the academic profile first and foremost and the fact that Rice has a long and very storied history of competing at a high level in Division 1 athletics,” Karlgaard said. “Those two things together coupled with the idea that athletics is a little undervalued and that we could be a bit better than we are now — all of those things in equal amounts drew me to the program.”Karlgaard released a new “Vision for Rice Athletics” this past summer. Upon being hired from Stanford where he was an assistant athletic director, Karlgaard came to Rice as the university’s new athletic director in September 2013. Since coming to Rice, Karlgaard has made his goals for the program publicly clear. In his “Vision for Rice Athletics,” Karlgaard listed four principles that he hopes will drive the future of Rice Athletics. First, Karlgaard said he wants Rice to have athletic competitiveness. That is, all 16 varsity sports should compete for conference championships and national Top 25 rankings. Second, there should be an emphasis on academic success. According to Karlgaard, Rice student-athletes should graduate at or above the Rice average percentage.The third principle is life education and achievement. According to Karlgaard, this will work to prepare student-athletes for life after collegiate athletics.The fourth and final component of the Vision is what Karlgaard refers to as “Rice Values.” This will consist of having the athletic department’s goals remain consistent with the goals of the university and the “Vision for the Second Century” outlined by President David Leebron.According to Karlgaard, he has spent his first year acquainting himself with Rice students, student-athletes, alumni and fans to gauge interest and get ideas on how to move the athletic department forward. Karlgaard said while he had goals coming into Rice, he wants to make sure his actions reflect the interests of the Rice community.“I had one overarching original goal, and that was to make the place better,” Karlgaard said. “But I didn’t quite have a feel of how to do that and what would be important to our community and people in the surrounding community.”According to Karlgaard, his plan on gauging the interest of the Rice community has lasted longer than he originally anticipated.“I thought I’d spend 90 days going around talking to people, finding out what was important to them, testing things then synthesizing that information,” Karlgaard said. “It turns out, it took way longer than 90 days. I wanted to make sure I got it as right as I could get it.”According to Karlgaard, talking to people in the Rice community has increased belief in the future of athletics.“I think there’s a healthy sense of optimism around Rice,” Karlgaard said. “People believe in the vision we have for Rice athletics, and people believe things can get better.”With Karlgaard’s Vision in place, the Rice athletic department will be looking to conduct fundraising and employ new economic strategies to help programs succeed. Karlgaard said his goals include generating revenue, which will in turn help programs achieve athletic success.“My main goals include putting new facilities and endowments in place, selling more tickets, arming coaches with the tools they need to be successful and developing better relationships with our students athletes,” Karlgaard said.With such a small student body and alumni base, Karlgaard said raising funds for athletics can be a challenge. However, Karlgaard said he embraces the challenge and believes he can achieve his goals.“I think it’s challenging to try and fund what we do given our size,” Karlgaard said. “If you’re at a large state institution, you’re the beneficiary of tax dollars and student fees. However, when we’re out raising money from our alumni, we only have around 45,000 living alumni. In order to raise enough funds, we have to think about how we sell Rice athletics to other people in the Houston community. The funding issue is not insurmountable, but it’s challenging.”Despite the challenges of fundraising, Karlgaard has extensive experience in the field. At Stanford, Karlgaard was responsible for balancing a $90 million annual budget and led the Athletics Department’s efforts in raising $52 million in 2012, the greatest single-year increase in the school’s fundraising history.One of Karlgaard’s primary concerns for the near future is the renovation of Rice Stadium, a 64-year old facility that has not had improvements in decades. The plan for renovation includes a $30 million dollar project that calls for a new North end zone facility that will replace the otherwise empty endzone and scoreboard on that side of the field, in addition to other minor improvements. The design calls for a 60,000 square foot facility in the end zone that will attract recruits and fans.Karlgaard said the fundraising for the project is almost complete.“We are 85 to 90 percent through fundraising with this,” Karlgaard said. “We just have a few verbal commitments we need to button up.”Other tangible accomplishments during Karlgaard’s tenure include the hiring of new men’s basketball Head Coach Mike Rhoades from Virginia Commonwealth University and generating a new five-year contract for head football coach David Bailiff. Rice has also claimed six conference titles during Karlgaard’s tenure. Last academic year, Rice won five conference titles, a school record. This year, Rice has already claimed a conference title in soccer after winning the Conference USA Tournament. According to Karlgaard, the end goal is to have athletic programs that are competitive on the local and national stages. Karlgaard said he believes that goal is attainable in the near future.“Everyone has a chance to win the conference,” Karlgaard said. “We won five conference titles last year and I think we have a chance to win five more. We are a relevant player on the national level; we want to be in a conversation with our peer institutions both regionally and academically.” 


SPORTS 12/3/14 2:40pm

Louisiana Tech reels of 42 unanswered in win

The Rice University football team (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) had its worst defensive outing of the season against Louisiana Tech University on Saturday, Nov. 29, losing 76-31 in a game that decided the victor of the Conference USA West Division.The Owls struck first in the game on a field goal from senior kicker James Hairston on their first offensive drive but would not hold a lead for the remainder of the game. Louisiana Tech went on to score three touchdowns in the first quarter and added another in the second. The game went to halftime with Louisiana Tech up 28-17.Despite narrowing the lead to 28-24 early in the second half, Louisiana Tech scored 42 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters to give the Bulldogs their season-high score, while also giving Rice its third-worst defensive performance in school history and the worst since surrendering 77 points to Louisiana State University in 1977.Louisiana Tech recorded 677 yards of total offense. The Bulldogs had three receivers — junior Paul Turner (122), sophomore Trent Taylor (120) and freshman Carlos Henderson (114) — record at least 100 yards receiving on the day. Junior running back Kenneth Dixon finished with 137 rushing yards and three touchdowns.The Rice defense allowed multiple big plays, allowing touchdowns of 72, 35, 31, 58 and 35 yards.Junior quarterback Driphus Jackson had his best statistical day of the season in the loss. Jackson completed 25 of 40 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns, along with three interceptions. Jackson now has 2,524 yards and 21 touchdowns on the season.Senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor had 10 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown, and senior wide receiver Mario Hull added a pair of touchdowns for the Owls. Rice recorded only 34 yards rushing on the day, one-fifth of the season average of 170 yards per game on the ground. Sophomore running backs Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard led the rushing attack, and had 19 and 16 yards rushing, respectively. The rest of the team combined for -1 yard.Rice must now wait to find out its bowl destination. Possible bowl games are the Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Hawaii Bowl and the Boca Raton Bowl, among others. Rice has had three consecutive winning seasons for the first time in school history and will be going to its third straight bowl game.


SPORTS 11/29/14 1:07pm

Football loses final regular season game

The Rice University football team (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) had its worst defensive outing of the season on Saturday, Nov. 29, losing to Louisiana Tech University 76-31 in a game that decided the victor of the Conference USA West Division.


SPORTS 11/25/14 10:18am

Volleyball ends season in conference final

Last weekend, the Rice University volleyball team (23-10, 11-5 C-USA) lost in the final round of the Conference USA tournament in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. In Friday’s quarterfinal match, the fourth-seeded Owls swept Marshall University 3-0 behind sophomore setter Chelsey Harris’s 15 kills and sophomore setter Sara Blasier’s 41 assists. The next day, the Owls took on the tournament’s top seed, the University of Texas, San Antonio. The Owls, who had lost in both regular season matches against UTSA, began the game strong and never lost a set. With a 3-0 sweep of the Roadrunners, the Owls advanced to the C-USA Championship for the first time since 2009. The championship match against the tournament’s second seed saw the Owls lose to Western Kentucky University (30-5, C-USA 15-1). After trading the first four sets, the Owls took a 13-11 lead in the final set. However, WKU capitalized on Rice’s errors and managed to pull ahead 14-13. After a kill by senior middle blocker Jillian Humphrey off an assist from  Blasier, the score once again was tied at 15-15. However, WKU scored three of the final points and won the set 18-16. WKU, led by  tournament MVP Heather Boyan, now advances to the NCAA Tournament held in Oklahoma City. Despite the tournament loss, many Owls earned individual accolades over the weekend. Harris and senior defensive specialist Daniela Arenas were named to the All-Tournament team for their performances in the conference tournament. Humphrey was named to the All Conference-USA first team, while sophomores outside hitter Leah Mikesky, Harris and Blasier were all named to the second team. Freshman middle blocker Portia Okafor was named to the All-Freshman C-USA team. 


SPORTS 11/25/14 8:34am

Marshall snaps football's win streak at six games

The Rice University football team (6-4, 4-2 C-USA) lost to Conference USA leader and Associated Press No. 18 Marshall University 41-14 on Saturday, Nov. 15.The loss marked the first for the Owls since a 45-42 loss against Old Dominion University on Sept. 20. Rice won six consecutive games prior to losing to Marshall, including four conference matchups.Rice fell behind early in the game, going down 3-0 at the end of the first quarter and 20-7 at the end of the half. Marshall added two more touchdowns in the third quarter and an additional in the fourth. Rice scored its second touchdown of the game with 5:16 in the game on a 10-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Darik Dillard to finalize the score at 41-14. Rice recorded a season-low 180 yards on offense with 99 yards passing and 81 on the ground. Junior quarterback Driphus Jackson completed 11 of 23 passes for 99 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Sophomore running back Jowan Davis rushed the ball 19 times for 76 yards and a touchdown, while Dillard added 24 yards and a score. Senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor contributed the bulk of the receiving yards, catching nine passes for 88 yards on the day. With the receptions, Taylor moved past David Houser and James Casey for fourth on the program’s career receptions list with 158 catches.Marshall’s offense recorded 581 total yards. Marshall senior quarterback Rakeem Cato completed 23 of 37 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns on his way to passing Chad Pennington for the school’s all-time passing touchdown record. Junior running back Devon Johnson also gained 199 yards on 27 carries for a 7.4 yards per carry average and a touchdown.With the loss, Rice is now 6-4 overall and 4-2 in conference play. In order to win the C-USA West Division and earn a rematch against Marshall in the Conference Championship, Rice needs to win the two remaining games and Louisiana Tech University must lose to Old Dominion next weekend. If Louisiana Tech loses to Old Dominion, and Rice defeats the University of Texas, El Paso next week, the Rice versus Louisiana Tech game on Nov. 29 will determine who gets to go up against Marshall in the championship game. If Rice loses or Louisiana Tech wins, however, Rice will be eliminated from contention for the C-USA title.Rice will play its next game against UTEP at home on Friday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. UTEP currently shares the same record as Rice at 6-4 overall and 4-2 in conference play. UTEP has the No. 26 rushing offense in the country, averaging just shy of 225 yards per game on the ground. Conversely, the Miners have the No. 121 passing offense in the nation, averaging just over 141 yards per game. The Miners’ rushing attack is led by sophomore running back Aaron Jones, who has 1063 yards to go with 10 touchdowns on the year. Marshall’s quarterback, senior Jameill Showers, has 1417 yards passing to go with 11 touchdowns. Showers has also rushed for 228 yards and two touchdowns on the year.The matchup will be the first of the season to not be held on a Saturday and will be the first night game at Rice Stadium this year. It will also be the last home game of the season and will mark the final time the seniors play in Rice Stadium.