HOUSTON - To say the Rice Owls women's basketball team went the extra mile on Sunday would be an understatement. The Owls endured three overtimes, 275 minutes of action and countless crunch-time moments in a dramatic 100-97 victory over the North Texas Mean Green at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Rice junior guard Maya Hawkins poured in a team and career-high 27 points (9-of-17 shooting, 5-of-11 from three-point territory) and hit countless clutch shots for the Owls in the victory. Forward Jasmine Goodwine also tied her career-high with 25 points on 9-of-20 shooting (7-of-10 from the free throw line) while playing 48 minutes. Sophomore guard Wendy Knight (16 points) and freshman forward Lexie Ducat (8 points) also established career-highs.
"This was a great battle between two teams and hats off to North Texas, they played a great game," Rice head coach Tina Langley said. "We spent a tremendous amount of time yesterday in practice on late game situations so it was great to see them execute in those situations. It's neat to see how selfless this team has become. Whatever their role is, everyone is buying in and Maya was a tremendous example of that today after she fouled out and was still helping and giving instructions from the bench. Everyone is putting the team ahead of themselves."
The Owls (3-11, 2-1) won their second overtime meeting versus the Mean Green in as many meetings dating back to last year and recorded their second straight OT victory overall by setting season-highs in field goals made (32), three-pointers made (9), free throws made (27), points in the paint (44), points off turnovers (22) and bench points (20).
"Our team showed so much mental toughness in this game," Hawkins said afterwards. "I think that's the number one thing I'm proud of tonight. I could see it in their eyes that everyone wanted it. We would have gone to four or five overtimes if that's what it took."
North Texas (6-7, 1-2) got a huge performance from Kelsey Criner in the loss, recording 34 points in the loss.
In a triple overtime that saw seven lead changes, the Owls outscored the Mean Green 17-14 in the period led by eight points from Goodwine. After Hawkins fouled out at the end of the second overtime, it was freshman guard Gabrielle Stanton that stepped in and delivered the difference for the Owls. The Kingwood, Texas native scored six of her eight points in the final OT, including the eventual game-winning three-pointer with 42 seconds remaining to put the Owls up 97-95.
The Owls wouldn't have reached triple overtime without two made clutch free throws from Knight that tied the game at 83-83 with three seconds remaining in double OT. Hawkins scored six points in the double OT while Criner scored eight of the 12 North Texas points. Criner would score 24 points in the three overtimes alone on 9-of-15 shooting.
Rice scored just 22 first half points and trailed 31-22 at halftime, committing 11 turnovers in the game's first 20 minutes. Incredibly, the Owls would turn the ball over only five times over the next 35 minutes of play.
The Owls faced their biggest deficit (38-29) of the afternoon with 7:03 remaining in the third quarter but managed to close the gap to 44-42 with a strong finish that would carry over into the fourth. Rice used a 13-0 run from the 1:11 mark of the third to the 7:23 mark of the fourth to establish a 51-44 lead. During that stretch sophomore guard Shani Rainey scored four points while Knight also chipped in four points.
Over the final two minutes of regulation Hawkins scored the Owls final six points but the game was sent to overtime after North Texas' Candice Adams hit two critical free throws to tie the game at 61-61.
The 100 points marked the sixth time in school history the Owls reached the century mark and the first time since a 115-point performance versus Texas Southern on Nov. 14, 1997. Sunday's contest was also the first triple overtime game (fourth overall) by the Owls since a 71-61 loss to Illinois State in the WNIT on March 15, 2007.
Rice will now play five of their next seven games on the road, beginning next Thursday, Jan. 14 (7 p.m. CT) at WKU. The Owls will then travel to Huntington, WV to face Marshall on Saturday at 12 p.m. (CT).