Can the Rice women stay with UTSA on the boards today?

Elyssa Coleman. UTSA women's basketball beat No. 21 Middle Tennessee 58-53 on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Six-foot-three center Elyssa Coleman figures prominently in UTSA’s stature as one of Conference USA’s best rebounding teams. – File photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The sixth-seeded UTSA Roadrunners will meet No. 3 Rice Owls today at 2 p.m. in Frisco in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA women’s basketball tournament.

Both the Roadrunners and the Owls have won five games in a row, setting up an intriguing third matchup between the teams this season.

Rice won by two points in the first meeting at Houston. UTSA returned the favor last month with a 13-point victory in San Antonio.

I’ll leave the coaching to UTSA’s Karen Aston and Rice’s Lindsay Edmonds. But as I sit in the living room waiting to watch this one on television, here are a few thoughts:

Can Rice stay with UTSA on the boards?

As one of the dominant rebounding teams in the C-USA, the Roadrunners out-muscled the Owls on the glass in both games this season. Even though Rice won 78-76 on its homecourt on Jan. 16, UTSA prevailed on the glass, 43-30. In UTSA’s 66-53 victory in San Antonio on Feb. 16, the Roadrunners won the boards battle again, 45-23. If the Owls plan to hold their seeding and win today, they’ll need to do a better job in this department.

Is UTSA’s turnover issue under control?

The Roadrunners need to be prepared to deal with pressure on the ball. They hurt themselves in both games against the Owls with turnovers. In fact, they turned the ball over 20 times in each game. UTSA had been doing a much better job in that department coming down the stretch of the regular season. But in the Roadrunners’ victory over the FAU Owls Wednesday, the turnover bug reared its head once again. They had eight miscues in the first quarter. UTSA will need to get it under control if they hope to beat the Owls.

Katelyn Crosthwait — Rice’s secret weapon?

Rice guard Katelyn Crosthwait averages only 9.4 points per game, so her name usually doesn’t jump out on the statistics sheet. But in Rice’s first game with UTSA this season, she buried seven 3-pointers and scored a season high 23 points. Don’t look now, but Crosthwait is getting hot again. The 5-10 senior from Purcell, Okla., has scored 11, 17, 6, 22 and 22 in her last five games. In her last two games, she’s hit nine 3-point shots combined. The Roadrunners may need to make her put it on the floor and, ideally, force her to take tough two-point field goals.

C-USA women’s tournament

Thursday’s quarterfinals

Middle Tennessee State beats Charlotte, 84-53
UTEP beats Louisiana Tech, 64-54

Friday’s semifinals

No. 1 Middle Tennessee (26-4) vs. No. 4 UTEP (20-10)