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Mulkey, Schwartz lead Rice past Ole Miss for WNIT title


MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 11: Rice guard Jasmine Smith (10) handles the ball in the first half as the Rice University Owls faced the FIU Golden Panthers, on January 11, 2020, at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Nancy Mulkey had 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks, Lauren Schwartz also scored 19 points and added five assists, and Rice beat Mississippi 71-58 on Sunday in the championship game of the WNIT.

Rice (23-4), which won the 2017 WBI, won its first WNIT title.

Mulkey, the back-to-back-to-back Conference USA defensive player of the year, made 9 of 11 from the field. Jasmine Smith added 11 points, nine rebounds and four steals for the Owls.

Donetta Johnson made a layup that gave Ole Miss (15-12) its first lead with 6:12 left in the first quarter but Schwartz answered with a layup on the other end just 18 seconds later and Rice led the rest of the way.

Shakira Austin, the only Rebels player to score in double figures, finished with 25 points on 10-of-25 shooting. The rest of the Ole Miss team combined to make 11 of 45 (24.4%) from the field.

Rice overcame its 24 turnovers by shooting 50% (25 of 50) from the field and making all its 17 free-throw attempts, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

After India Bellamy made two free throws to give the Owls a 58-44 lead with 7:21 to play, Ole Miss used a 10-0 run to trim its deficit to four points about three minutes later. Smith sandwiched two pairs of foul shots around two free throws by Katelyn Crosthwait to push Rice’s lead back into double figures with three minutes to go and the Rebels never again threatened.

The previous two WNIT champions, Arizona and Indiana, are in the Elite Eight of the 2021 Women’s NCAA Tournament.