MU Women hand Rice 1st CUSA loss

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Marshall University Logo(AP Images)
Published: Feb. 21, 2021 at 4:41 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The Marshall women’s basketball team allowed just four fourth-quarter points en route to a 68-56 Senior Day win over Rice Sunday afternoon at the Cam Henderson Center.

The Thundering Herd improved to 6-8 overall and 5-7 in Conference USA, while Rice suffered its first league defeat, falling to 13-2 and 9-1.

Marshall’s Savannah Wheeler made four of six 3-point attempts on her way to a game-high 25 points and four assists with no turnovers. She was one of four MU players in double figures as Kennedi Colclough had 14 and Kristen Mayo and Taylor Pearson added 10 apiece. Pearson also had a team-high seven rebounds.

Rice’s 6′9″ center Nancy Mulkey narrowly missed a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds and Lauren Schwartz used an 8-for-8 free throw effort to post 14 points. Sydne Wiggins also finished in double figures with 12.

The Thundering Herd got out a much better start, offensively, than it did Saturday. Marshall jumped out to a seven-point advantage (13-6) on a three-point play by Wheeler at the 4:58 mark of the first quarter. Rice, though, responded with a 25-10 run the rest of the first half and grabbed a 31-23 lead at the break.

The visitors kept the home team at arm’s length by getting to the free throw line throughout the third period, despite Marshall making five of its seven 3-point attempts. However, the final stanza proved to be a much different story.

The Thundering Herd ratcheted up the defensive intensity and limited the Owls to a 2-for-13 effort from the floor, which included an 0-for-6 showing from 3-point range. When all was said and done, Marshall’s game-clinching run was 18-0 over the game’s final three minutes, 53 seconds. The Owls made just one of their last 11 field goal attempts and turned it over six times in the period.

The defeat was just the third in league play for Rice’s program since 2018-19. The Owls, who entered the weekend last in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio, struggled again in that regard Sunday. Rice assisted on eight baskets but were also charged with 18 miscues, which resulted in 17 Thundering Herd points.

Rice did hold a commanding 24-10 edge on points in the paint, however.

The perimeter stats were not close. Marshall went 10-for-20 from downtown (50 percent) to Rice’s 20 percent (3-for-15), the Owls’ lowest clip of the season.

Seniors Mayo and Pearson were also honored in a pregame ceremony before Sunday’s game.

“Obviously, that was a much needed win,” said Marshall head coach Tony Kemper. “I thought we were really tough at the end. They (Rice) had us in a really bad way (down nine at the beginning of the fourth quarter). We got tons of stops at the end. I thought we were finally physical without fouling and I’ve been on our team about that. Rice is really physical too. Rebounding, it wasn’t like they (Rice) weren’t going for them. We were just a little quicker to the ball.”

“They (Rice) were receiving votes in the Top 25. I have a lot of respect for that program. They (Rice) haven’t lost very much in our league the last three years. I know it feels good for our team that they (Rice) came into Huntington and it didn’t go the way they (Rice) thought it was going to go.”

The Thundering Herd will be back in action Friday (7:30 p.m. ET/6:30 CT) and Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 CT) at North Texas. The Mean Green is 11-4 and 8-2 this season.

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