C-USA: Williams, Rice Ready To Go

By Jean Neuberger - October 12, 2006

Tulsa might have won the conference last year, and might feature the best player in the league, but it's the Lady Owls from Rice who were picked to win Conference USA. It's the second straight year for Rice to be picked at the top, and Greg Williams hopes this year, Rice will live up to expectations.

"It's our second straight year to be picked to win," Williams said. "We fell short last year, but we'll give it another try this year. We've got a nice veteran group returning."

The Owls return the majority of their players from last year's squad, who went 11-5 in conference play last year.

"We return 82 percent of our scoring, and I think 79 percent of our rebounding," Williams said. "This is good news, because they'll receive about 50 percent of coaching from me."

The previous quote drew a roar of laughter from the room, and a bigger smile from the Rice coach.

"We're returning six of our top scorers from a winning season," said Williams. "I'll tell you, there are very few teams that ever return their top six scorers from a winning season. We're battling through injuries though. Crystal Frazier isn't 100 percent right now, but she is ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, we're going to have 9 1/2 players for our first practice to begin our season in a very competitive conference."

Williams lamented over the Lady Owls having to play four of the first five conference games on the road.

"It's definitely an early test," Williams said. "We had four of our first six conference games on the road last year, and we went 2-4 to start conference play. We weren't a very good road team at the start of last season. We got better though at the end of the season, and hopefully that will carry over into the start of conference play this year."

The key to success this year, according to Williams, is also his biggest concern for the year.

"Leadership," said Williams. "We have lots of talent on this team, but we need team chemisty to be successful this season."

Rice is counting on All-Conference player Lauren Neaves to lead them this year. Neaves, a 6-2 forward, averaged 15.7 points a game, while pulling down an average of 10.8 rebounds/game.

Among other things, Williams is also involved in the upcoming renovations of Autry Court, where the Lady Owls call home.

"The athletic department has made it clear that the renovation of Autry Court is next on the list," said Williams. "Although the renovation will make our facilities that much better, it also means that next season, we will not be able to play a game at home. We'll literally be playing 29 road games."

However, that's for the future. Right now, this season is priority for Williams and Rice.

"We've got the chance to be a pretty good team," Williams said.

Posted by Jean Neuberger at 10:43 PM on October 12, 2006

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