By: Kenny Bybee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Middle Tennessee 61-Rice 59 (PDF Box Score)
BIRMINGHAM, AL - The No. 10 seeded Rice Owls women's basketball team battled No. 2 seed Middle Tennessee down to the final second in Thursday's quarterfinals of the C-USA Championships, but ultimately fell just short in a 61-59 loss.
Rice (18-13, 8-10) was led in scoring by redshirt sophomore guard Nicole Iademarco (14 points), followed by junior guard Shani Rainey (13 points) and senior forward Jasmine Goodwine (11 points). Iademarco had a chance to send the game into overtime but her three-point attempt with six seconds remaining and the Owls trailing 59-56 was off the mark.
The Owls won the battle of the board against the Lady Raiders (21-9, 15-3) by a 38-26 margin and both teams shot an identical 42 percent from the field. Middle Tennessee outgained Rice in points off turnovers (17-13) and was led in scoring by Ty Petty (26 points), who scored 14 of her points in the fourth quarter.
"I was really proud of our team's fight tonight," Rice head coach Tina Langley said. "I'm proud of the seniors and the way they led us. We played a really good team today that's extremely well coached. I was proud of the way we defended and rebounded but I think as the game wore on they (MT) used their experience down the stretch that was the difference."
Rice controlled the opening quarter by outscoring MT 14-11 and limiting the Lady Raiders to just 33 percent shooting. Iademarco, Rainey and Goodwine all scored four points apiece in the quarter.
MT answered back with a 12-3 spurt to open the second quarter and take a 23-16 lead following one of Petty's four made three-pointers on the night. The Lady Raiders would take a lead as large as 28-20 with 2:53 left in the half but the Owls closed strong and Iademarco drained a three-pointer with three seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 30-25 at halftime.
The Owls came out the aggressors in the third period, outscoring MT 16-9 in the quarter to take a 41-39 lead to the fourth. Hawkins and Rainey each scored five points in the third and on the defensive end the Owls limited MT to just 33 percent shooting. Rice came up with a huge play at the end of the quarter when Rainey picked off a MT inbounds pass and took it the distance for a layup right before the quarter horn to give the Owls the lead.
However, the Lady Raiders would outscore the Owls 22-18 in the fourth quarter and Goodwine's three-pointer with 9:21 remaining marked the last time Rice would have a lead (44-42).With just 4:28 remaining Rice trailed 53-52 after a Wendy Knight (4 points, 10 rebounds) layup only for the Lady Raiders to answer back with a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 59-52 after a Petty three-pointer.
Rice scored four quick points to trim the deficit to 59-56 with 1:26 to play but Knight had a three-pointer blocked and Iademarco proceeded to miss in the final seconds before Petty iced the game with a pair of free throws.
The Owls will now await the weekend selection shows to find out their postseason fate. Be sure to visit RiceOwls.com for more information.