Women's Basketball Opens Conference Play at Central Arkansas

FULL GAME NOTES

TEXAS A&M - CORPUS CHRISTI AT CENTRAL ARKANSAS
Thursday, Jan. 2 • 5:30 p.m. CT
Farris Center • Conway, Ark.


THE OPENING TIP

The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team kicks off Southland Conference play, as it travels to Conway, Ark., for a Thursday night pairing with Central Arkansas at 5:30 p.m.

QUICK HITS

• This Islanders dropped their first road game of the season, losing to UT Arlington 75-64 on Dec. 21 to snap a four-game road win streak. However, they came back to beat Huston-Tillotson after the Christmas break to finish the nonconference portion of the schedule with a 7-4 record.

• As a team, A&M – Corpus Christi is third in the Southland Conference in three-point percentage, shooting at a 33.3 clip from behind the arc. Brittany Mbamalu and Jasmine Shaw have recorded a majority of the treys, combining for 58 of the team's 73 made shots from deep. In the last three games, the duo has accounted for 26 of the teams 27 threes.
• A&M – Corpus Christi has drastically improved its rebounding performance after its opponents pulled down 27 more than the Islanders in the first three games. The squad has outrebounded seven of its last eight opponents and is now first in the Southland with a +5.5 rebounding margin.

• The Islanders came into the 2013-14 season with the Southland's top-ranked recruiting class, and it has proved its talent, with the top two scores on the team being new faces.

• The win against UTPA marked the 200th victory in program history.

• After struggling to find offense last year, Marshall transfer Jasmine Shaw has become the main offensive threat for the Islanders. Last season, no Islander had more than two 20-point games. Shaw already has four and is averaging 16.6 points a game at the end of nonconference play.

ALL-TIME SERIES

This meeting will mark the ninth matchup between the Islanders and Central Arkansas. Every meeting between the two schools has been during Southland play. Texas A&M – Corpus Christi holds a 5-3 lead in the overall series. However, after the Islanders took the first four games between the two schools, the Sugar Bears have won three out of the last four.

The teams have faced off every season since the 2006-07 campaign. Last season marked the first year the teams played twice in a year. After UCA took the first game last season, the Islanders came back to knock off the Sugar Bears in Conway by two for their fourth and final win of the season. The win snapped a three-game winning streak in the series for UCA.

SCOUTING REPORT

Central Arkansas enters the game with a 6-5 record after nonconference play. However, it has dropped four out of its last five games. The Sugar Bears did pick up a win against SEC foe Ole Miss earlier in the season though.

The Sugar Bears boast the only scoring defense better than A&M – Corpus Christi, allowing just 59 points a game. They have also had some large margin of victories on the season, giving them a +5.7 scoring margin, ranking them second in the conference in that category. Despite being ninth in the conference with 64.7 points per game, the Sugar Bears like to get into a half court offense and take high percentage looks, shooting at nearly 42 percent. They also crash the defensive boards, ranking second in the conference with 27 defensive rebounds a game.

Both the leading scorer and rebounder for UCA has been Courtney Duever. She has nearly averaged a double-double 12.2 points a game to go along with an average of 8.3 rebounds per contest, which is seventh best in the league. Another threat for the Sugar Bears has been Maggie Proffitt with 11.3 points a game. She has made nearly half of her shots, knocking down 44.1 percent of her attempts.

LAST TIME OUT

After the Islanders dropped their first road game of the season, the squad came back home after Christmas break and returned to the win column with a 84-64 victory against Huston-Tillotson to conclude nonconference play.

The Islanders had a solid performance from several players, as four players posted double figures. Huff lead the way with a career-high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the season. Darley also achieved the same feat with a career-high 14 boards and 10 points to boot.

Seniors Jasmine Shaw and Taryn Gregory were the other two with double-digit scoring performances, tallying 16 and 10, respectively.

The team as a whole shot the ball well, shooting above a 50 percent clip for the first time this season, going 29-of-56 from the field. The Islanders dominated the Lady Rams on the glass, pulling down 52 boards compared to HTU's 35. The only area the Islanders struggled with were turnovers, coughing it up 27 times on the night. However, they did have a season-high 24 team assists.

CRASHING THE BOARDS

Heading into their two games in Nashville, the Islanders had been outrebounded by 27 total boards. However, A&M – Corpus Christi dominated the rebounding stats in its trip to the Volunteer State, outrebounding both Belmont and Tennessee State by 13. The Islanders then finished off the roadtrip by outrebounding Texas State by 19, while also snatching up 23 offensive rebounds compared to the Bobcats' seven.

The Islanders once again cleaned up everything on the board when they returned home, snatching up 15 more rebounds than UTSA and then pulled down 11 more than UTPA.

After getting outrebounded for the first time in five games at Texas Southern, the Islanders won the rebound battle against UTA despite losing the game. They then backed it up with 17 more boards than the Lady Rams. The Islanders are still first in the Southland with a +5.5 rebounding margin.

DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU SHAW?

Jasmine Shaw, a senior transfer from Marshall, has tallied four games of 20 or more points this season and is averaging 16.6 points a game. Last season, no Islander had more than two games exceeding 20 points throughout the entire campaign.

In the game against Tennessee State, Shaw struggled from the field, going just 3-of-12 and 1-of-6 from downtown. However, she still made a huge impact on the team, setting a career high in rebounds with 13 — seven offensively — and in assists with nine. She also knocked down seven of her nine free throws to give her 14 points on the night, meaning she came just one assist short of picking up the first triple-double in Islanders' history. For good measure in that game she also hit the game-winning jumper with five seconds left and recorded four steals in the matchup.

She then struggled in her next two games, scoring a total of just seven points, making just three of her 20 attempts from the field, missing all seven of her three point attempts. However, she bounced back against UTPA with 17 points, going 6-for-9 from the field, including two threes.

Shaw then followed up that performance with an even bigger one, scoring a career-high 28 points against Texas Southern, including seven threes, which tied a school record. Shaw kept rolling heading into the Christmas break, knocking down another five threes and a total of 19 points at UTA. She then added 16 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists against Huston-Tillotson.

BREAKING BRANDI

Senior Brandi Huff had a breakthrough performance in the matchup against Tennessee State, setting a career high in rebounds while matching her top scoring outing. The Rockport-Fulton native notched her first career double-double, pulling down 11 boards to go along with a team high 15 points. She then matched her career high in rebounds against UTSA, picking up five on offense and six on defense. Against UTPA, she hit double figures in the scoring column for the third time of the season with 12 points. Then at Texas Southern, Huff had seven points and six rebounds and tied career-highs in blocks (2) and steals (2).

Huff then had arguably the biggest game of her tenure with a career-high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds against Huston-Tillotson for her second double-double of the season. She went 7-of-9 from the field and made all seven of her shots from the charity stripe. Huff also blocked two shots and dished out two assists.

RAIN MAKER

Freshman Brittany Mbamalu has made a significant impact on the team, especially with her pinpoint shooting ability from three-point range.

In her first two games, she only saw two minutes of action combined. However, she logged 19 minutes of play against Southern Utah, and went 3-of-8 from behind the arc for nine points, earning herself a spot in the starting rotation.

In her first seven games as a starter, Mbmamlu hit double figures in each outing. She now ranks 10th in the Southland in three-point percentage (.367) and second in three pointers made (2.6 per game, 29 total). Mbamalu also shattered a school record with 18 three-point attempts in the game at UTA with the previous high being 13 — which she had tied in the game at Texas Southern.

Her streak of double figure performances was brought to a halt against Huston-Tillotson where she only had nine points. However, this was only in 16 minutes of play after she suffered an injury in the first half of play.

WITHIN REACH

In each of its first three loses, A&M – Corpus Christi has come up just short, losing by an average of just five points. In its loss against Fairfield in the championship game of the Emerald Beach Islanders Classic, the Islanders were just one play away from tying the game up. However, down three, they were not able to get a three-pointer off before the buzzer sounded. Then in the matchup with Southern Utah, the Islanders trailed by just four late in the game before the Thunderbirds pushed the lead back to seven before the final horn sounded.

A&M – Corpus Christi saw a four-point lead against UTSA dwindle away over the final 3:22 of regulation before being outscored 6-1 in overtime to fall 55-50. However, in their last loss, the Islanders were downed by double-digits for the first time this season in a 75-64 defeat by UTA. They did keep it close though, as it was just a three-point game with less than three minutes left to play.

INCOMING CLASS

During the early signing period, the Islanders received National Letters of Intent from Emmeri Archer (Brooklyn, N.Y./ South Shore HS), Daryon Fields (Spring, Texas/St. Pius High School), Ashley James (Highland Village, Texas/Marcus High School) and Jennifer Ramirez (Brooklyn, N.Y./ASA Junior College).

A 5-foot-7 guard, Archer comes to the Islanders as a three-star recruit with a 90 ranking from ESPN. It also ranks her as the 18th player nationally at her position.

Coming from Spring, Texas, Fields will bring some inside presence to the Coastal Bend. The 6-foot-2 post is ranked 42nd in the nation at her position and 309th nationally overall. In her junior year at St. Pius, Fields nearly averaged a double-double with 10 points a game to go along with eight rebounds each time out.

James, a 5-foot-4 point guard from Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas. In her junior year, she was named first team all-district and the defensive player of the year in her district. That season, James averaged 10 points, four steals and three assists per game. She has also picked up district MVP and offensive player of the year awards during her high school career.

Ramirez, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., comes to the Island University from ASA Junior College in New York City. Ramirez played her high school basketball at New York City Lab School. In her junior season she averaged 18.8 points, including a 35-point performance in her team's playoff game, as well as 6.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds a game.

FINAL FOUR

With the departure of eight players from last year's squad, the Islanders only have four returners for the 2013-14 season made up of three seniors and one sophomore. The leading scorer out of the bunch was Ashley Darley, who was second on the team in points scored with 7.9 a game. Darley also ranked second on the team in rebounds per game and steals per game last year.

Taryn Gregory also returns for her final season after starting in 20 games last year. She comes into the year ranking fourth in career free-throw percentage with a .764 overall mark her first three years. Brandi Huff rounds out the trio of seniors after ranking third on the team in rebounds a year ago.

The lone sophomore on A&M – Corpus Christi's roster is Ashanti Plummer. The Manhattan, N.Y., native enters play this year after making an impact on the team her freshman year, ranking second on the team in games started with 22 and first in the team in blocks and 11th in the Southland in the same category.

TOP-NOTCH TRANSFERS

The Islanders enter this season with the top-ranked recruiting class in the Southland after signing 10 newcomers. However, five of them join the Island University with collegiate experience – three at the Division I level.

Two of the transfers have played for coach Royce Chadwick, as Shay Weaver and Jasmine Shaw come to the Island University after playing for him at Marshall. Shaw will look to make an immediate impact, while Weaver will sit out this season because of NCAA transfer rules.

Alissa Campanero will look to get the ball in the hands of shooters as she dished out 4.9 assists per game last season with Odessa College and has experience in Division I after playing her freshman season at Hawaii.

Adebayo played at Eastern Oklahoma State Community College and averaged 16 points and seven rebounds per game, while securing 12 double-doubles, picking up First Team All-Conference, First Team All-Region and Third Team NJCAA All-American honors.

Lexy Harris joins the Islanders after averaging a double-double with Angelina Community College, averaging 12.8 points per game and 10.9 rebounds to go along with 2.1 blocks per game.

FRESHMAN FOUR

Rounding off the highly touted recruiting class are four freshmen, with all but one of those coming from Texas. Ranked No. 63 in the ESPN Girls Recruiting National Rankings was Camesha Davis who averaged 16 points and 8.5 rebounds at Desoto High School. Another freshman that comes to the Coastal Bend almost averaging a double-double is Doshi Davis who averaged 11 points and 8.3 rebounds as a senior at Memorial High School in Port Arthur, Texas.

A freshman that managed to average a double-double her senior season of high school was Brittany Mbamalu, pulling down 10.1 rebounds a game to go along with 20.8 points. She was also named first team all-district her junior and senior seasons. Looking to help out a team that averaged less than 50 points a game last season is Kassie Jones, who was ranked 10th in Texas in scoring her senior year, averaging 24 points a game.

PRESEASON PREDICTIONS

After finishing last season 3-15 in conference play, the Islanders have been picked by the Southland coaches to finish ninth in the conference, while the SID Poll has A&M – Corpus Christi occupying the 10th spot.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Islanders will then make a 250-mile trek over to Tulsa, Okla., for a Saturday afternoon tilt with Oral Roberts before heading back to Corpus Christi.