By: Kenny Bybee (email@example.com)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Throughout the 2015-16 season the Rice Owls women's basketball team has lived by the motto of "Overtime is Owl time". So when the Owls found themselves playing an additional five minutes Wednesday evening versus the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters in the second round of the C-USA Championships, a fifth overtime contest of the season was welcomed with open arms.
The No. 10 seed Owls (9-21, 7-11) embraced the overtime opportunity at Bartow Arena by outscoring the No. 7 seed Lady Techsters (14-16, 9-9) 11-6 in the extra frame en route to a thrilling 72-67 overtime victory and advance to the C-USA Championship quarterfinals for the first time since the 2012 season.
The Owls draw a Thursday matchup (5 p.m.) versus No. 2 seed Middle Tennessee, who defeated the Owls 61-60 back on Jan. 23 in the only meeting this season between the two schools.
"I thought LA Tech played a heck of a game and battled to the very end," Rice head coach Tina Langley said. "I've got a lot of respect for Tyler Summitt and what he's doing with his team. But I could not be prouder of our team. This group of young women has been working incredibly hard all year and this is what we've talked about all season, is being ready for this point of the year and it feels like we're coming together at the right time."
Rice junior forward Jasmine Goodwine led a group of four Owls who scored in double-figures with a team-high 22 points (6 of which came in OT), her seventh 20-plus point performance of the season. Other Owls to score in double-figures included sophomore guard Shani Rainey (16 points), senior forward Alyssa Lang (11 points) and freshman guard Lauren Grigsby (career-high 10 points).
Tech was led by 24 points from senior guard Brooke Pumroy.
In a game that saw 16 ties and 19 lead changes, Rice took the lead for good by using a 7-1 run late in OT to erase a 65-63 deficit with just 2:41 remaining. Goodwine broke a 66-66 tie on a layup with 1:10 remaining and then scored on another layup with 1:10 left following a steal from Megan Palmer.
Leading 70-67, Rice forced LA tech into a turnover with 33 seconds remaining on one of Grigsby's career-high four steals, leading to two made Grigsby free throws to put the game away.
"I feel like we were ready for overtime," Goodwine said after the Owls improved to 4-1 in OT this season. "We were just happy to play another five minutes. I didn't see any fear in my teammates' eyes."
The Owls caught a fortunate break at the end of regulation when Pumroy was fouled while shooting a fadeaway jumper with less than a second remaining and Rice leading 61-60. However after making the first free throw Pumroy, an 88 percent free throw shooter, missed the second attempt at the stripe and time expired on the rebound.
Thursday's contest against Middle Tennessee will be streamed for free at AmericanSportsNet.com.