The North Texas women’s basketball team will face a team this week that has represented a runaway freight train in Conference USA play over the past two seasons.
Rice (13-6, 8-0 C-USA) hasn’t lost a conference game since the 2017-18 campaign and will roll into a 3 p.m. game on Saturday at the Super Pit having won 27 straight in league play.
The game will mark the opening of one of the Mean Green’s most challenging stretches of the season. UNT will host traditional C-USA power Middle Tennessee and UAB next week. Both are 13-7.
How the Mean Green handle the series will go a long way toward determining if UNT (9-11, 3-5 C-USA) can make a run at its first winning season in C-USA play in its seventh year in the league.
“This will be a tough homestand,” UNT forward Madison Townley said. “It’s going to take us coming together as a team physically, mentally and emotionally.”
Rice returned several of the core members of its championship team from last season, including senior guard Erica Ogwumike and 6-foot-9 center Nancy Mulkey.
Ogwumike, last season’s C-USA Player of the Year, is averaging 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Mulkey is adding 10.4 points per game and continues to be a matchup nightmare for the rest of the league.
“We will approach it the same way as we did last year,” Townley said. “We have to keep Mulkey away from the block and paint and make her shoot even though she is a good shooter. If we contest it, the odds for us will be better.”
UNT appeared as if it would roll into its game against Rice when it grabbed a five-point lead with 3:10 left in the fourth quarter at UTEP on Saturday. That lead slipped away in a 67-63 loss that snapped the Mean Green’s two-game winning streak.
“That last game came down to the small things, a couple of missed box-outs and a couple of missed layups,” Townley said.
UNT will look to fix those mistakes in one of its most challenging stretches of the season behind Anisha George. The senior post is averaging 12.9 points per game to lead the Mean Green.
Men’s basketball Hamlet picks up pair of honors
UNT guard Javion Hamlet picked up a pair of honors for his performance while leading the Mean Green to three wins last week.
The junior guard was named the College Sports Madness High-Major Player of the Week as well as the C-USA Player of the Week. Hamlet averaged 20 points and 5.3 assists without committing a turnover in wins over Rice, UTSA and UTEP.
Hamlet hasn’t committed a turnover in his last 197 minutes of playing time.
“What I love about Javion is that he felt his teammates believed in him and needed him to be more aggressive,” UNT coach Grant McCasland said. “The belief of his teammates pushed him over the top.”
Hamlet’s performance has provided UNT a boost during an eight-game winning streak, a run the Mean Green will look to extend when they travel to Rice for a 2 p.m. game on Saturday.
UNT (14-8) is 8-1 in C-USA play and is atop the C-USA standings, just ahead of Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers are 7-1 in league play and handed UNT its lone loss in C-USA play.
Tennis UNT aiming to extend season-opening streak
UNT will host Northwestern State at noon on Saturday, when the Mean Green will look to build on a three-match winning streak to open the season.
UNT has beaten Stephen F. Austin, New Mexico State and Lamar while winning all but two of its 27 individual matches with a largely revamped lineup. UNT has five new players.
“I made the schedule knowing we would need some time to grow,” UNT coach Sujay Lama said. “We had a great preseason. I’m happy to see them enjoying success.
“Everyone had to step up. That is what we are seeing.”
UNT’s latest win was a 6-1 victory over Lamar.
The Mean Green will see the level of competition increase in its next two matches. UNT will take on Sam Houston State on Tuesday after taking on Northwestern State.
“Northwestern and Sam Houston are both good,” Lama said. “We will see in the next couple of matches where we are.”
Track and field Scott named C-USA athlete of the week
Aneesa Scott was named the C-USA female track athlete of the week on Tuesday.
The junior set a UNT record in the 400-meter dash when she posted a time of 53.86 seconds in the Red Raider Invitational in Lubbock over the weekend. Scott finished third and broke the previous school record of 54.49 recorded by Ciara Smith in 2011.
Scott’s time ranks 16th nationally. She has earned athlete of the week honors from C-USA in each of the past two weeks.