Megan Elliott

Women's Basketball

Owls' Aggression Pays Dividens in 63-56 Win Over Tulsa

Jan. 30, 2010

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By MoiseKapenda Bower

These are the type of games Rice would lose last season, contests where the plague of poor shooting stealthily infects every member of the team.

From start to finish the Owls shot miserably against Tulsa, but their lack of success at putting the basketball in the basket didn't stifle their aggression. And, no matter how many times Tulsa forward Larrissa Williams redirected one of their shots, the Owls relentlessly pressed on.

Twenty games into the 2009-10 season, there is no denying that the Owls project a persona of grit that, on their home court, is irrepressible. So, after the Golden Hurricane turned a startling 16-2 run bridging the intermission into a five-point lead, it came as little surprise when the Owls clawed back to take a 63-56 win at Tudor Fieldhouse on Saturday.

"I thought they responded when it was 36-31, called a timeout, and got on them pretty good," Rice coach Greg Williams said. "This team has a tendency to do that. This team is starting to show that we've got some pretty good leaders on the team. They don't fold up if we get on them a little bit. Part of that is a little more maturity with some of our players."

The Owls (10-10, 4-3 Conference USA) evened their overall record for the first time after failing to do so on two previous occasions while rebounding from an 0-6 start to the season. Rice shot just 26.8 percent from the floor and had 10 shots blocked by Tulsa (6-12, 0-7), including seven by Williams, a 6-3 senior who added 22 points and 10 rebounds.

But the Owls didn't allow their errant shooting or Williams' intimidating presence inside deter their assault on the rim. And their aggression was rewarded in the form of Tulsa being whistled for 25 personal fouls, which Rice parlayed into 30-for-36 shooting from the charity stripe.

"We did stay aggressive; I was glad of that," Williams said. "That was the key to us winning was getting to the free-throw line."

As has been the case of the late, the Owls' reserves played a significant role in the win. Sophomore forward Jackie Stanley paced the Owls with 19 points and eight rebounds, but she shot just 3-of-12 from the floor and had her hands full guarding Williams on the low block. In stepped freshman Opal Taskila, who delivered six points, three rebounds and a steal in four active minutes, including consecutive baskets just past the halfway point of the second half to snap the game's fourth and final tie.

Reserve forward Megan Elliott delivered the offensive dagger when she drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to boost the lead to 55-47 with 4:34 left. The Owls added one more basket, salting away the win at the line.

"The bench has been doing awesome," Stanley said. "Not only are they doing well, but it's a huge energy boost when they come in doing great."

Added Elliott: "We've learned this year what we really didn't understand last year is that when we're in there we have to be productive. A lot of times last year I felt like when the bench went in there was a big drop off from when the starters were in, and we know that this year that when we're in there we need to be productive on both ends of the court. We really want to get in there and prove ourselves."

Stanley and D'Frantz Smart missed 16 of their 20 attempts, but they combined to shoot 19-for-21 from the line. Smart finished with eight points, seven rebounds and six assists, but of greater importance was her effort on the defensive end, where she harassed Tulsa freshman point guard Taleya Mayberry into a 1-for-11 shooting performance.

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