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Rice women troubled by 36-point loss to Old Dominion

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The first ever matchup between the women’s basketball teams from Rice and Old Dominion on Wednesday figured to be a close game.

“Coming into the game, both teams were almost statistically even,” Rice coach Greg Williams said. “We had identical conference records and similar shooting percentages and rebounds, and also were close on points per game. We were almost mirror images of each other. To come out unaggressive was very disappointing and disheartening.”

The Owls fell behind early and played arguably its worst game of the season in an 85-49 loss Wednesday at Tudor Fieldhouse. While Jessica Kuster notched another double-double, the rest of the team combined for 20 points. Rice shot 32 percent from the field and 8 percent from beyond the arc. The Lady Monarchs converted 18 Rice turnovers into 24 points.

Two other Rice statistics that displeased Williams were only grabbing 8 offensive rebounds and getting to the line just a dozen times.

“We got pounded on rebounds, and we didn’t shoot very well,” Williams said at his post-game news conference. “One way to counteract poor shooting is by offensive rebounding to get second chance opportunities or get to the free throw line.”

Rice (11-14) and Old Dominion (12-14) entered the game 4-7 in Conference USA play. The top eight finishers receive a first-round bye in the C-USA Tournament next month. The Lady Monarchs are now tied for 8th (with North Texas and FIU) while the Owls are tied with Tulsa for 11th place.

Old Dominion scored 14 points against Rice before the first media timeout and led 40-14 by the final media timeout of the first half. They were up 49-16 at halftime. Junior forward Shae Kelley almost outscored Rice on her own in the first half (14 points).

“I give Old Dominion a lot of credit,” Williams said. “They played a good basketball game. We knew they would be aggressive. We talked to our team before the game about trying to match their aggressiveness. We did not do that. They had us on our heels from the get go. We were tentative and hesitant, and that was reflective on them jumping out to a 14-2 lead.”

Kelley finished with a career high 30 points. Kuster was close behind for Rice. She finished with 29 points, though 19 came in the second half when the game outcome wasn’t in doubt. Megan Palmer added 13 points on 6 of 11 shooting. The rest of the Owls scored two baskets combined.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Williams said. “We have a lot of players who are down in the dumps right now. They are feeling sorry for themselves. That’s now what we need to have. We have to go to La Tech on Saturday, a team we beat here, though they outscored us by two in the second half.”

Rice has dropped 7 of its past 8 games after a 3-1 start in C-USA play. Louisiana Tech comes into Saturday’s game 8-17, 3-9. Game time is 6 p.m. in Ruston.

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