January 3, 2014

Women's Basketball Prepares For Tilt With Oral Roberts

FULL GAME NOTES

TEXAS A&M - CORPUS CHRISTI AT CENTRAL ARKANSAS
Saturday, Jan. 4 • 3 p.m. CT
Mabee Center • Tulsa, Okla.


THE OPENING TIP

The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team finishes up its first Southland Conference roadtrip, as it takes on Oral Roberts at 3 p.m. on Saturday in the Mabee Center.

QUICK HITS

• This Islanders dropped their first conference game of the season, losing to Central Arkansas by just four on Thursday to open up Southland play. Each of the five losses on the schedule have been close, as the Islanders have an average margin of defeat of just six points.

• As a team, A&M – Corpus Christi is second in the Southland in three-point percentage, shooting at a 34.3 clip from behind the arc. Brittany Mbamalu and Jasmine Shaw have recorded a majority of the treys, combining for 63 of the team's 79 made shots from deep. In the last four games, the duo has accounted for 31 of the teams 33 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 nine opponents and is now first in the Southland with a +4.2 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, senior 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 leads the team with 16.3 points per game.

ALL-TIME SERIES

This meeting will mark the fifth matchup between the Islanders and Oral Roberts. Thus far in the series the Golden Eagles hold a 3-1 advantage over A&M – Corpus Christi. ORU has won the last three after the Islanders took a 60-58 victory in the first matchup between the schools on Dec. 11, 1999, during A&M – Corpus Christi's inaugural season.

ORU won in Tulsa the following year before the two sides went until last season without meeting back up. The Golden Eagles joined the Southland last year and beat the Islanders by double digits in both outings. However, this might be the last time in a while that the two squads will face off, with ORU announcing its departure back to the Summit next season.

SCOUTING REPORT

ORU comes into the matchup after defeating Houston Baptist 85-73 to open up Southland play with a win. The victory snapped a nine-game losing streak after the Golden Eagles had lost every game following an opening season win against the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

However, ORU faced a very difficult schedule, playing at Kansas, at Arkansas, at Missouri, at Northwestern, at Marquette and at Nebraska. In fact, its nonconference schedule was ranked the eighth toughest in the country, according to RealTimeRPI.com. So, its 2-9 record is not indicative of a team that is picked to finished second in the Southland.

Playing such a tough nonconference slate has resulted in some paltry numbers for the Golden Eagles, ranking 13th in the conference in scoring (62.2), 12th in scoring defense (78.9), 13th in rebounding margin (-7.6), 13th in assists (9.1) and 12th in turnover margin (-4.2).

The Golden Eagles are paced offensively by Christian Key who leads the team in points (13.7 per game), assists (32) and minutes (34 per game). She is shooting 38 percent from the field, and is nearly automatic at the line, draining 20 of her 24 attempts. She does turn the ball over though, giving it away 52 times this season.

Freshman Dorottya Balla has come on as of late for ORU, starting in the last three games after coming off the bench to begin the season. In two of her starts, she has had games of 19 against Marquette, and most recently 30 against Houston Baptist to bring her scoring average up to 11.

LAST TIME OUT

The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team came up just short in its Southland Conference opener, falling to Central Arkansas 66-62.

The Islanders held a five point-advantage in the second half, but saw it dwindle away, failing to make a field goal in the final 7:20. The Sugar Bears also went on a field goal drought, not hitting a shot in the final 5:20. The final 13 points of the game were scored at the free throw line, but nine of them were from the home team.

Once again, Jasmine Shaw led the way for the Islanders with 13 points, including making three of six from behind the arc. However, she failed to hit a three to tie it with seven seconds left.

Kassie Jones set a career high with 12 points, going 4-of-5 from both the field and the free throw line. Brittany Mbamalu got back in double digits, after failing to get in double figures for the first time in seven games last time out against Huston-Tillotson. She notched 10 points to go along with four rebounds on the night.

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 boards 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.

However, the Islanders ran into a physical Central Arkansas team, that held A&M- Corpus Christi to a season-low 27 boards compared to its 38. Courtney Duever had 15 of the Sugar Bears' rebounds – all on the defensive end. Despite this, the Islanders are still first in the Southland with a +4.2 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. In her first Southland game, Shaw racked up 13 points against the Sugar Bears.

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 hit three threes 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 (.373) and second in three pointers made (2.6 per game, 31 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. She then got back in double figures with 10 points against UCA in her first conference game.

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. 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. The Islanders were downed by double-digits for the first time this season in a 75-64 defeat by UTA before losing a four-point game to UCA. Combined, the five losses for the team this season have come by an average of just six points.

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. No. 63 in the ESPN Girls Recruiting National Rankings is 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 return to the Coastal Bend for their home conference opener, as they take on Northwestern State at 5 p.m. in the American Bank Center.