HOUSTON - Relentless indeed. The Rice Owls women's basketball team capped off a stellar 2016-17 campaign in style by winning the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) by a 74-62 margin over the UNC-Greensboro Spartans Sunday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse.
"I couldn't be more proud of these young women," Rice second year head coach Tina Langley said. "It's such a blessing to be their coach. I'm so tremendously happy for our seniors to be able to go out with a championship."
Rice (22-13) won its first ever postseason title outside of a conference tournament with a balanced scoring effort in which five Owls registered double-figure points, led by senior guard Maya Hawkins (17 points). The Mansfield, Texas native went out in style by becoming the 17th player in Rice history to surpass 1,000 career points and was named the WBI Most Valuable Player.
In addition to Hawkins, senior teammate Jasmine Goodwine was named to the WBI All-Tournament Team and scored 13 points on Sunday to finish with 1,211 career points. Joining Goodwine and Hawkins in double-figure scoring was Shani Rainey (13 points), Lexie Ducat (12 points) and Wendy Knight (10 points).
With the win Rice notched their 22nd victory of the season, tying the 1999-00 and 2003-04 Owls' teams for the second-most victories in a season.
Rice rallied from a 38-30 halftime deficit by using a big third quarter in which they outscored the Spartans 24-11. Rainey spearheaded the comeback by scoring 12 of her 13 points in the third quarter alone, making 3-of-4 shots from the field and 5-of-9 attempts at the free throw line. Thanks to a 12-1 close to third quarter the Owls entered the fourth with a 54-49 lead.
The Rice defense shined in the second half by holding UNC-Greensboro (20-15) to just 20 percent shooting (8-of-41) and allowing just 24 second half points. The Owls outscored the Spartans 20-14 in the final quarter and never relinquished the lead after the period.
For Hawkins and Goodwine, it was a moment of vindication and the perfect way to pass the torch to future Rice teams.
"I wouldn't have wanted my career to end any other way," Hawkins said. "Ending my career with a championship, on our home court in front of all our fans that love us and support us, I just feel very blessed right now."
WBI All-Tournament Team
Maya Hawkins- Rice (MVP)
Jasmine Goodwine - Rice
Nadine Solomon- UNCG
Mikayla Ferenez - Idaho
Stephanie Kostowicz - Milwaukee
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