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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 C-USA run ends early

SMU falls to Rice in semifinals, 57-52
 Womens C-USA run ends early
Photo by John Schreiber, The Daily Campus
Women’s C-USA run ends early

Women’s C-USA run ends early (Photo by John Schreiber, The Daily Campus )

After winning a draining triple-overtime thriller Friday, SMU fought dead legs and a hot-shooting Rice team in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament Saturday, falling 57-52.

SMU could not find an answer for Rice junior Lauren Neaves, who finished with 36 points and 10 rebounds. The Mustangs were led by senior guard Kendall Shead, who played inspired ball in what may well have been her final collegiate game.

“During a timeout in the first half, coach said, ‘Who’s going to take it over?'” Shead said. “And I looked around and nobody looked like they wanted to, so I was like, I might as well and give it all I got.”

Shead’s 22 second-half points helped the Mustangs close a Rice lead that reached 16 with less than a minute remaining in the first half.

SMU came out flat in the first half, with Rice opening the game with a 7-0 run. SMU did not score until almost five minutes of game time had elapsed.

“The slow start hurt us,” coach Rhonda Rompola said after the game. “We dug ourselves a hole against a very, very good team.”

Most of that digging was done with poor shooting. The Mustangs hit only 24 percent of their shots in the first half, and as a team were outscored by Neaves alone. Of all SMU players, only Shead shot more than 30 percent in the first half.

“We struggled to defend Neaves,” Rompola said. “It was sort of the Neaves and Shead show.”

Effectively shut down for most of the game was SMU’s leading scorer Janielle Dodds. She finished with only eight points and six boards.

“We did a great job on Dodds,” Rice coach Greg Williams said. “She had problems scoring. Shead didn’t.”

Williams likened the game to the shootout at the OK Corral, and in that analogy the second half was the real gun fight.

SMU started off the second frame with a 7-0 run that cut the Rice lead to four points. At one point early in the second, Neaves and Shead traded baskets, scoring 15 points between them before another player scored. Neaves took shots mostly from the paint, getting assists mainly from guard Katie Riverin.

Shead did more solo work, often taking the ball door-to-door on her own and laying it in. In the final minutes SMU had two three-pointers just miss that could have tied up the game.

Guard Katy Cobb also took and missed a three as Rompola was attempting to call timeout. The game concluded with SMU trying to foul its way back in, but Rice was able to hit 79 percent from the line in the second to close out the game.

Saturday’s crowd of 2,077, one of the largest the Mustangs have drawn all season, also factored in SMU overcoming fatigue from Friday’s triple-overtime win against Tulane to challenge Rice in the second half.

“The crowd played a huge part in the second half. We didn’t give them anything to get excited about in the first,” Rompola said. “We were playing a mental game, and in the second half it’s almost like we woke up.”

While the wake up may have come too late to help SMU in the conference tournament, the season might not yet be over.

Not winning or making the finals of the tournament, along with a 16-14 final record, will preclude SMU from an NCAA tournament bid, but the WNIT is still a possibility.

SMU made the second round of the preseason WNIT, falling to eventual champion Oklahoma.

The WNIT also expanded its postseason format from 32 to 40 teams, further improving the chances SMU will receive a bid.

Invites to the WNIT will be announced Monday, March 13. Rompola remains hopeful SMU will be one of the teams called.

“We’re right there,” Rompola said of her team’s postseason prospects. “We’re by no means out of it.”

Women’s C-USA run ends early (Photo by John Schreiber, The Daily Campus )

Women’s C-USA run ends early (Photo by Brittany Oswald, The Daily Campus)

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