Thompson-Boling Arena erupted with cheers.
But the applause wasn't directed toward Tennessee. The Lady Vols were still pacing in the tunnel.
It was a homecoming cheer for a point guard wearing blue and white rather than orange and white.
"It was unforgettable," Jessica Goswitz said.
With signs bobbing in the crowd that read, "Welcome Home Jessica," the Webb School graduate and current Rice senior said Thursday's contest against the Lady Vols rivaled any game played at the Owls' home Tudor Fieldhouse.
"I was stunned when I saw how many people were actually here," she said.
Goswitz exited the tunnel with a gleaming smile as she was the last Rice starter announced.
Her father, Frank, had bought and distributed 60 tickets to friends and family.
And their presence was certainly felt.
A standing ovation greeted Goswitz as she took the court for pregame warm-ups.
"I felt blessed," Goswitz said. "I'll admit it, I tried to play my best game ever."
While the Owls fell 101-48 to the Lady Vols (2-1), the same smile Goswitz entered the floor with crept onto her face with 3:55 left in the game.
Wide open, Goswitz corralled a pass at the top of the key, eyed the basket and fired a 3-pointer that tickled the twine.
Again, she was greeted with an
"Scoring, It was a really special moment," she said.
While the four-time All-State performer claims she didn't grow up a UT fan, Goswitz said she has always respected the Lady Vols, and with good reason.
Goswitz won two state championships at Webb under coach Shelley Collier, who played point guard for Pat Summitt's first national championship team at UT in 1987.
"I've always admired them," Goswitz said. "It was great getting to play against the best. It's sad Pat (Summitt) wasn't coaching, though."
Rice coach Greg Williams has a tradition of promising his seniors a game in their respective hometowns. When Williams scheduled the UT game, Summitt was still the Lady Vols' coach.
"She was always an idol of mine," Goswitz said.
Weaving her way to her parents in the stands after the game, Goswitz passed Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick.
Glancing over her shoulder, Warlick shouted at Goswitz with a grin.
"Hey, welcome home," Warlick said.
When Goswitz finally reached her family and friends in the emptied stands, she looked at her mother, Jennifer.
Smirking, Goswitz said the best part of her homecoming had yet to happen.
"I get to sleep in my own bed, eat homemade food, see my dogs — that's the best," she said. "The only thing I'm not looking forward to is tomorrow. We are going to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, as if I haven't been there 1,000 times."
Riley Blevins is a freelance contributor.