HOUSTON - Senior guard Maya Hawkins led a potent Rice offensive attack as one of five Owls to score in double-figures in a thrilling 86-80 victory over Idaho Thursday evening at Tudor Fieldhouse to advance to the Women's Basketball Invitational championship.
The Owls (21-13) will host UNC-Greensboro (20-14) in the title game on Sunday, March 26 at 4 p.m. in the team's first-ever postseason title game outside of a conference tournament. Sunday's championship game will be streamed for free on CUSAtv.
Hawkins tied a season-high with 25 points on 11-of-20 shooting and also pulled down a game-high nine rebounds along with a team-best five assists in 39 minutes of action. In addition to Hawkins the Owls received double-figure scoring performances from Nicole Iademarco (17 points), Wendy Knight (14 points), Shani Rainey (11 points) and Lauren Grigsby (10 points).
Rice shot 52 percent from the field as a team and dominated Idaho (19-15) on the glass by a 40-22 margin. The Owls also outscored the Vandals 16-0 in second chance opportunities.
"I couldn't be more proud of our team," Rice head coach Tina Langley said. "We had some incredible moments person for person. Maya Hawkins was huge tonight and has been a phenomenal leader for us all year. I'm just happy for our team to have this moment and to be able to play for a championship. We're very grateful for the opportunity to be here."
Idaho was led in scoring by Mikayla Ferenz, who scored a game-high 26 points, and Taylor Pierce (24 points).
Rice led for 37 of the 40 minutes on Thursday in a game that saw just four lead changes. Idaho remained close throughout though in part to 54 percent shooting from the field and 12 made three-pointers.
The Owls led for a majority of the first half before Idaho made a run to take a 43-39 lead with 1:08 left in the second quarter. Rice was able to answer quickly though, grabbing back the momentum with a 5-0 spurt on a made free throw from Goodwine, a layup from Lexie Ducat on a putback and a Goodwine field goal off a Idaho turnover with just four seconds remaining.
Out of the locker room Knight scored Rice's first eight points of the third quarter and although Idaho trimmed the Rice lead to 57-55 midway through the period, Rice kept answering and closed out another quarter with momentum on a 6-0 run to take a 71-63 lead to the fourth.
In the fourth quarter Idaho pulled to within 83-80 with 1:43 remaining but Rice responded with a score from Goodwine on a driving layup with 55 seconds remaining to create an 85-80 cushion. The Owls would then get the necessary stops the rest of the way to seal the victory and advance.