HOUSTON – Kiandra Bowers recorded her 17th double-double of the season, but the Lamar University Cardinals saw their comeback bid fall just short as they dropped a 73-72 decision to the host Rice Owls in the first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational on Thursday.
Bowers had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Cardinals (22-8), who were making their fifth appearance in a national postseason tournament in the past eight years. Chastadie Barrs had 16 points and three steals, extending her steals streak to all 61 games in her career.
The Cardinals trailed by 11 points, 62-51, with 6:50 remaining in the fourth quarter before cutting the Rice lead to 68-66 with 1:00 remaining on a pair of Kiara Desamours free throws. The Owls (19-13) increased the lead to 72-66 with 10 seconds remaining as Maya Hawkins hit four free throws.
LU’s Baileigh O’Dell drained a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds remaining to trim the Rice advantage to 72-69. The Cardinals then quickly fouled Hawkins, who missed her first free throw before sinking the second to put the Owls up 73-69 with 2.7 seconds remaining.
O’Dell drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it wasn’t enough for LU.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” LU coach Robin Harmony said. “But we missed too many layups and too many free throws tonight. Our free-throw shooting came back to haunt us.”
LU shot just 44 percent (11-of-25) from the line for the game, going 0-of-4 in the first half.
LU led 15-12 after one quarter, before being outscored 23-12 in the second period as Rice took a 35-27 lead into halftime.
“I thought we played a good first quarter, but we let down a little bit in the second quarter,” Harmony said. “We picked up our intensity in the second half.”
LU outscored the Owls 45-38 after intermission, as Barrs scored all of her points in the second half to get LU back into the game. Moe Kinard finished with 11 points for LU.
Jasmine Goodwine led Rice with 21 points. Hawkins had 14 points and seven assists, while Shani Rainey also had 14 points for the Owls.
“This was a good experience for us,” Harmony said. “Our young players gained a lot of experience this season. Playing in a game like this is definitely something they can learn from. Our sophomores are now juniors and will be counted on even more next season.
“We have to work hard in the offseason and come back even stronger next year. We have some good recruits coming in, so I think the future of LU basketball is bright.”
Thursday’s game marked the end of the LU career of senior Teleshia Riley. Bowers, who redshirted last season due to injury, has the option of returning next season.
“No matter what, they’re Cardinals for life,” Harmony said.