By Kenny Bybee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rice 47-North Texas 45 (PDF Box Score) | C-USA Championship Bracket
HOUSTON – It was only fitting that Rice senior guard Wendy Knight played an integral role on the final possession of Saturday’s 47-45 victory over North Texas on Senior Day.
The Owls’ captain forced North Texas’ Terriell Bradley into a difficult, fadeaway jumper that clanged off the rim as time expired to preserve Rice’s 20th win of the season and give her team momentum entering next week’s Conference USA Championship tournament in Frisco, Texas.
“Tonight was a great battle by both teams,” Rice head coach Tina Langley said. “I’m really happy for Wendy, that we could send her off with a win for all that she’s done for our program and for Rice.”
With the victory, the Owls (20-8, 10-6) secured the No. 5 seed at the C-USA Championship tournament and will face No. 12 seed Old Dominion (8-22, 6-10) on Wednesday, Mar. 7 at 11:30 a.m. on Court B at The Star in Frisco. The Owls defeated the Monarchs 53-45 back on Jan. 28 in Houston. Should the Owls advance in the single-elimination tournament, they would face No. 4 Middle Tennessee on Thursday, Mar. 8 at 11:30 a.m.
The Owls secured back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since last accomplishing the feat in 2003-04 (22-10) and 2004-05 (24-9).
Rice redshirt sophomore guard Erica Ogwumike registered her team-leading 11th double-double of the season with a game-high 17 points and 15 rebounds in 35 minutes of action. The Cypress, Texas scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including Rice’s final three points on made free throws.
Freshman Sydne Wiggins had a sensational performance for Rice by tying a season-high with 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field (4-of-5 at the free throw line) in 24 minutes off the bench.
The Owls dominated the Mean Green (15-13, 6-10) on the boards by a 39-19 margin, improving to 17-1 when outgaining their opponents in that category.
Rice led for a majority of the game and took a 23-21 lead to the locker room at halftime on a layup at the buzzer from Alexah Chrisman. In the third quarter, the Owls limited NT to just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting and Ogwumike’s three-pointer with 29 seconds remaining pushed the Rice advantage to 35-29 going to the fourth.
The Owls extended their lead to 42-31 with a quick 7-2 run to open the final period, but the Mean Green used a 10-0 run to trim the Rice lead down to 44-43 with 2:38 remaining. Ogwumike gave the Owls a 46-43 cushion after a pair of makes at the free throw line with 1:09 to go, but NT answered back on a made jumper from Grace Goodhart, making it 46-45 (0:49).
After a Rice turnover, the Owls made one of two critical late stops and Ogwumike was fouled intentionally, leading to a split at the line. Up 47-45, Knight contested Bradley’s jumper at the buzzer as time expired and Rice was triumphant.