COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Rice coach Greg Williams said there's a single best way to guard Texas A&M guard Courtney Walker.
''Pray,'' Williams said.
Walker scored 18 points and the fifth-ranked Aggies shoved aside the Owls' otherworldly requests on Wednesday night, in dispatching Rice 76-55.
The Aggies kept the Owls at arms' length for most of the contest, and led 50-40 a little more than midway through the second half before closing out the scoring on a 26-15 run. A&M coach Gary Blair said he was disappointed the Aggies had to move away from their patented man defense for a time in the second half to ensure the victory.
''This team is a work in progress,'' Blair said, adding that his players appeared a ''step slow'' at times. ''I hate to say we had to shift to a zone to stop them, but that's what we had to do with about 10 minutes to go. We're also not creating turnovers, not even close.''
The Aggies shot 48 percent (29 of 60) from the floor compared to 30 percent (21 of 69) for the Owls, but Rice edged A&M in rebounding 42-40, including snaring 20 offensive boards compared to 11 for the Aggies.
''We have to improve that, for when we go against some of the quicker, bigger teams we play,'' Walker said of the Aggies' oft-inability to block out the Owls.
Sophomore forward Jasmine Goodwine led the Owls (1-1), who opened the season with a home victory over Prairie View A&M, with 12 points. She was the lone Owl to score in double figures. Point guard Jordan Jones (11 points) and forward Achiri Ade (10 points) also scored in double digits for the Aggies (4-0), along with Walker.
Jones downplayed the Aggies' showing in their home opener.
''We went out and won by 20-plus points, but we're still not where we want to be,'' she said. ''Boxing out is still a problem, and taking care of the ball is still a problem, starting with myself. . Ultimately, we're trying to get better, day by day.''
With her 10th point on the night, Walker became the 26th player in program history to tally 1,000 career points - and she's led the way so far this season without standout teammate Courtney Williams.
Blair said he anticipates the return of Williams ''sooner than later'' after she's missed the season's first four games because of a violation of team rules and athletic department policy. Williams averaged 14 points per game last season for an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight squad.
''She can post up, she can stretch the defense, and she can take it (to the basket) off the dribble,'' Jones said. ''When she returns, that will be some offense added to what we already have.''
Texas A&M plays host to Prairie View A&M on Monday.
Rice plays host to Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday.
The Aggies led 50-40 with 9:23 remaining in the game when A&M forward Achiri Ade helped put away the Owls by scoring the Aggies' next four points, on two free throws and then a layup on the ensuing possession, in lifting A&M to a 54-42 lead with 8:42 remaining.
The athletic Aggies outscored the Owls 15-4 in fast-break points. . A&M coach Gary Blair had griped that A&M turned the ball over too much in its first three games (62 total), and the Aggies responded with a season-low 10 miscues. . A&M is 11-1 in its last dozen home openers.