The runaway train better known as Rice rolled through Denton on Saturday.
The Owls didn’t show any signs of slowing down soon.
Rice trailed for all of 62 seconds in the opening moments of its game against North Texas. It was all Owls from that point on in a 67-52 win at the Super Pit that extended their winning streak in Conference USA play to 28 games.
Rice hasn’t lost a conference game since 2018 and is on course to defend its conference title behind the potent duo of Erica Ogwumike and Nancy Mulkey.
Ogwumike, the reigning C-USA Player of the Year, and Mulkey, the Owls’ 6-foot-9 matchup nightmare, were as dominant as ever against the Mean Green.
Mulkey scored 21 points, while Ogwumike posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“They are unlike anyone else in the conference from a matchup standpoint,” UNT coach Jalie Mitchell said. “There are possessions where size is a factor. They can just throw it up. If Mulkey can catch it and finish it, there is nothing you can do. That can be tough to deal with. You have to get a bucket, get back on defense and try again.”
UNT (9-12, 3-6 C-USA) became the latest C-USA team to follow that plan only to come up short against the Owls (14-6, 9-0).
N’Yah Boyd scored 20 points but was the Mean Green’s only player to finish in double figures. The rest of UNT’s players struggled offensively on a night the Mean Green shot just 39.7% (23 of 58) from the field and made just one of their 10 shots from 3-point range.
“We have to put the ball in the hole,” Mitchell said. “That’s the game. You have to get stops and buckets. People have off nights. It happens, but someone else has to pick it up and get it done.”
UNT is quickly running out of options when it comes to finding someone who is playing well offensively. The Mean Green have been without freshman forward Destinee McDowell, who is out indefinitely, since early January.
UNT was also without junior guard Callie Owens for the third straight game when it took on Rice. Mitchell said Owens has a lingering injury and is uncertain of when she will return.
“We have had eight players for a few games,” Mitchell said. “We have our fingers crossed that we will get to finish the season with 10.”
UNT didn’t have much of a chance against Rice while playing shorthanded, despite a solid game from Boyd.
UNT trailed 35-27 at halftime even after its starting point guard hit all but one of her six shots from the field on her way to scoring 10 points in the first half.
UNT took its short-lived lead on a Randi Thompson 3 that put the Mean Green up 5-2.
Rice answered with an 11-2 run in the first quarter and never looked back. Mulkey scored nine of Rice’s points during the run and 11 in the first half.
Any chance UNT had of a comeback quickly came to an end when Mulkey came back to score the first eight points of the third quarter. Rice outscored UNT 22-6 in the period.
“We didn’t take a lot of bad shots but settled,” Mitchell said. “The good shots we took didn’t fall for us. That was a rough quarter.”
UNT opened the fourth quarter with an 11-1 run. That burst did little to change the complexion of a game the Owls controlled nearly the entire way, despite the Mean Green’s best efforts to turn the tide on C-USA’s hottest team.
“We pulled Mulkey away from the rim so that we could attack,” Mitchell said. “When you have the chance, you have to convert.”
UNT didn’t to that often enough on a night Rice continued to roll.
Rice 67, North Texas 52
RICE (14-6, 9-0) – Schwartz 2-4 3-4 8, Mulkey 8-11 5-5 21, Wiggins 3-5 0-0 6, Smith 1-1 2-2 4, Ogwumike 4-9 5-7 13, Jackson 0-2 1-2 1, Ellig 3-3 0-2 6, Swayze 2-4 0-0 5, Bellamy 0-0 0-0 0, Crosthwait 1-1 0-0 2, Alao 0-1 1-2 1, Austin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-41 17-24 67.
NORTH TEXAS (9-12, 3-6) – Townley 1-6 0-0 2, George 3-8 1-2 7, Boyd 9-13 2-4 20, Thompson 3-9 0-0 7, Mims 2-4 1-2 5, Jones 1-5 0-0 2, Shepherd 3-9 1-2 7, Jackson 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 23-58 5-10 52.
Rice 15 20 22 10 — 67
North Texas 10 17 6 19 — 52
Three-point goals – Rice 2-8 (Schwartz 1-3, Ogumike 0-2, Swayze 1-3) UNT 1-10 (Boyd 0-2, Thompson 1-5, Jones 0-2, Shepherd 0-1). Fouled out – George, Thompson. Rebounds – Rice 38 (Ogumike 11), UNT 20 (Shepherd 7). Assists – Rice 16 (Wiggins 5), UNT 3 (Boyd 3). Total fouls – Rice 10, UNT 20. A – 1,394.