Rice and Sam Houston State renew their women's basketball rivalry in a unique setting Wednesday night when the Owls and the Bearkats meet in the first round of the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) at 6:30 p.m. at Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.

The game marks the first NCAA Division I post-season competition for the Bearkat women's basketball team and represents the culmination of a rebuilding effort by SHSU head coach Brenda Nicholls that has resulted in back-to-back 17-victory seasons. The 34 victories are the most wins in a two-year period the program's 25 years at the NCAA level.

Rice is making its fourth post-season tournament appearance under head coach Greg Williams. The Owls played  in the WNIT in 2006, 2007 and 2011.

The WBI, operated by Sports Tours International, is a 16-team event that takes place over two weeks with all games played on campus sites. The winner of the SHSU-Rice matchup will face the winner of the Stephen F. Austin-Northern Iowa game in the WBI quarterfinals this weekend.

Rice posted a 16-15 season record and tied for third place in the 2012 Conference USA record with a 9-7 league mark. The Owls won five of their last seven games before falling to UAB in the Conference USA tournament. One of those victories was over the UTEP Miners who will face Penn State in the first round of the 2012 NCAA women's championship.

Sam Houston's 17-11 record includes two victories over teams ranked among the top 200 in NCAA RPI (South Alabama and Stephen F. Austin).

The Owls and the Bearkats have several common opponents. Both own wins over Houston Baptist, Texas State and UTSA. Sam Houston defeated A&M-Corpus Christi twice and Lamar once while the Owls fell to the Islanders in a 64-61 thriller and dropped a 61-54 loss at Lamar.

"This is a big opportunity for us," SHSU head coach Brenda Nichols said. "Rice has a good team. They've got some quick guards. They've got an inside game that's going to be demanding. We've got to play simple basketball; we've got to be between them and the goal."

The Bearkats and the Owls have met 19 times in women's basketball with Rice holding a 14-5 advantage in the series. Rice defeated the Kats 82-62 in their last meeting in 2009-10. Sam Houston won 65-60 in 1993-94 and 75-64 in 1989-90 in Huntsville.

Sam Houston State earned its second consecutive Southland West Division championship with a 12-4 league record in 2012. The .750 winning percentage in Southland action this year is the program's highest in 25 years in the league. The 1996 team posted a 13-5 record for a .722 winning mark.

Sam Houston earned the No. 3 seed at the 2012 Southland Conference post-season tournament in Katy, the program's highest in their 25 years in the league.

Junior forwards Britni Martin and Sequeena Thomas both earned All-Southland Conference honors for the second year in a row. Martin has been a first team selection and Thomas a second team honoree both years. Both rank among the top 10 scorers in the Southland Conference.

The Owls' offensive leader is 6-2 sophomore forward Jessica Kuster who is averaging 17.3 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest.

Tickets priced at $10 each are on sale online at www.gobearkats.com/tickets  or at the Sam Houston State athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House at Bowers Stadium.