The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Women’s hoops top Rice 80-68 in front of home crowd

Janielle Dodds scores 24 in her second-to-last home game as a Mustang
SMUs Brittany Gilliam fights for the ball.
Lindsey Perkins
SMU’s Brittany Gilliam fights for the ball.

SMU’s Brittany Gilliam fights for the ball. (Lindsey Perkins)

The SMU women’s basketball team defeated the Rice Owls for the second time this season in an 80-68 victory Thursday night in Moody Coliseum to tie the school record for 20 wins during the regular season.

The Mustangs previously defeated Rice in Houston in a 70-68 overtime victory on Feb. 7.

With the win, the Mustangs improve to 10-3 in the conference, securing them in the No. 2 spot in Conference USA. The team is now two wins above Houston and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Clutching onto the No. 2 spot in conference polls prior to Thursday’s match-up, both 8-4 Houston and UAB needed one win each to tie SMU in the rankings if the Mustangs had lost to the Owls. Rice fell to 3-10 in C-USA and 10-17 overall, to keep them as the No. 11 seed, only two wins above last place Central Florida.

The Mustangs struggled on defense in the first half, allowing Rice to steal nine rebounds from an array of missed field goals and threes. Struggling on second chances, SMU was unable to regain possession and salvaged only five rebounds on offense, paving the way for the Owls to pull into a seven-point lead.

Senior post Janielle Dodds led the Mustangs with 24, marking her ninth game this season to shoot over the 20-point mark. Dodds also hit her seventh double double of the season, and now holds 37 in her career. Dodds now needs only 35 more points to break into first place over Karlin Kennedy in most career points.

“People keep telling me I’m close, but I try not to think about it,” explained Dodds. “I’d rather get to the NCAA tournament. If it happens, it happens, but I rather the team go to the tournament since no one on this team ever has.”

Sophomore guard Jillian Samuels contributed with 20 points, 12 of which were threes to put her at four or more three pointers in a game for the sixth time this season. Valeriy Berezhynska led her team with the game-high score of 26 points and 15 rebounds after shooting 11-20 from the field.

Dodds had a strong presence in the first half, draining three of her four shots in the first half, with three coming in the first five minutes of play. Coupled with eight points in the first half, Dodds posted five rebounds on defense, one assist and two points from the line.

Surrendering the lead as the clock continued to wind down, SMU allowed Rice’s season-leading scorer Berezhynska eight points in the first, but were defiant in keeping Rice 0-7 in threes.

“We have been learning to finish. We knew rice was going to be tough, they always are. [Berezhynska] is very good. She’s full strength since last time we played them. She’s tough to guard. You have to have two people on her,” Rompola said.

Senior forward Sharee Shepherd helped calm the Owl’s defense, posting two steals in the half. But with little help from the bench, the pressure was on Dodds, Gilliam and Samuels to put the Mustangs back on top.

Sophomore guard Jillian Samuels put the Mustangs back in the game after drilling a three from the top of the key to tie the score at 31-31 with just 18 seconds left. Racing down the court, Samuels buried her second three of the night, followed by a layup by sophomore forward Brittany Gilliam at the buzzer.

“[Gilliam’s} shot gave us the momentum,” said head coach Rhonda Rompola. “We just talked about getting our running game going. That’s when we got our lead when we got the running game going.”

Closing out the half at 36-33, SMU retreated to the locker room, averaging just over half of its field goals and three-pointers.

Applying pressure on the Owls, the Mustangs were able to prevent the Owls from scoring on two opportunities by blocking a path to the basket and running out the shot clock.

“It’s on,” were Shepherd’s words as she passed the ball back in action for the start of the second half. Opening with a jumper by Gilliam to put SMU up by five, the heat was put on both teams as they continued to battle back and forth for the lead.

When Rice’s second leading scorer, Morgan Mayse, fouled out, the Mustangs lit up the board, pulling ahead by as many as 11 points with 1:13 left.

The Mustangs and Owls struggled on both ends of the court to gain a lead, but it wasn’t until almost 10 minutes in that SMU pulled through with a layup by Dodds to put the game away.

Closing out the game averaging 70 percent from the line, 55.6 percent from the field and 37.5 percent in threes, the Mustangs gathered only 10 from their bench, led by sophomore post Alice Severin with five points.

The Mustangs will return to Moody Coliseum on Saturday, Feb. 23 to host the University of Houston (14-13, 8-5) for Senior Day. Tip-off for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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