Through the Rice women’s basketball team trailed No. 24 Texas A&M 49-30 at halftime of Tuesday’s final non-conference game in College Station, it’s doubtful any of the players thought the game was over.
That’s because Rice had stormed back from sizable second half deficits three times to defeat McNeese State, UTSA and Lamar as part of an undefeated December.
Sure enough the Owls used a 12-4 run in the first three minutes of the second half to close the gap against the Aggies on Tuesday. Texas A&M responded to the challenge and eventually downed Rice 80-57.
“They are an outstanding basketball team,” said Rice coach Greg Williams after the game. “We knew it would be a challenge coming in here. …The game came down to turnover points. They (A&M) had 33 and we had five.”
The loss snapped a six-game win streak and left the Owls 8-5 heading into the conference portion of the schedule. The eight wins tied the school record for most victories entering conference play.
The Owls rallies began Dec. 1 with McNeese State in town. Rice trailed by nine at halftime, but outscored McNeese State 38-20 in the second half. Freshman Megan Palmer scored 18 of those second half points to give her a career high 24. The Katy native also notched her first double-double of her college career as she registered 14 rebounds.
Rice trailed future conference opponent UTSA 33-24 in the second half of a Dec. 20 game. The lead was erased by a 15-2 run, but the Roadrunners tied it back up with 28 seconds left. After the Owls missed two late shots, sophomore forward Nakachi Maduka was fouled at the last possible tenth of a second. She hit both free throws with 0.1 showing on the clock to give Rice the win.
Against Lamar 10 days later, the Owls fell behind 48-35 with 11:13 left. Rice scored 21 of the next 29 points over the next nine minutes to tie the game at 54.
“That’s the third time we’ve had to battle back from pretty big second half deficits,” Williams said after the game. “I thought we hung tough. We were struggling to score early, but our defense kept us in the game.”
The game was even at 56 when freshman guard Elena Gumbs swished a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left. Gumbs then added a free-throw and lay-up as Rice won 62-56.
“It was Elena’s best game,” Williams said. “She’s got ice in her veins and isn’t afraid to step up. We don’t win the game without her.”
The Owls’ 13-point comeback was the largest since Jan. 11, 2007, when the team rallied from down 54-40 against Marshall.
Rice has nine days off from competition before opening Conference USA play at East Carolina Jan. 10. The team faces Tulsa in the conference home opener Jan. 13.