January 8, 2014

Women's Basketball Readies For First Home Southland Game

ISLANDERS (8-5, 1-1) VS.
NORTHWESTERN STATE (8-6, 1-1)

Thursday, Jan. 9 • 5 p.m.
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GAME NOTES: ISLANDERS | DEMONS

   

THE OPENING TIP

After splitting a pair on the road, Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team will play its first home Southland Conference game, taking on Northwestern State at 5 p.m. in the American Bank Center.

QUICK HITS

• After it took 11 games last season for A&M – Corpus Christi to pick up its first conference win, the Islanders got their first Southland win just two games into conference play against Oral Roberts, who was picked to finish second in the conference.

• The 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 though, 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 34 percent from behind the arc. Brittany Mbamalu and Jasmine Shaw have recorded a majority of the treys, combining for 66 of the team's 85 made shots from deep. In the last four games, the duo has accounted for 34 of the teams 39 threes.

• After averaging 21.5 turnovers in nonconference play, the Islanders have done a much better job of holding on to the ball with just 10 turnovers in each of their first two Southland games.

• 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 leads the team with 16.5 points per game.

ALL-TIME SERIES

This meeting will mark the 10th matchup between the Islanders and Northwestern State with the Islanders holding a 7-2 advantage. A&M – Corpus Christi has matched up with the Lady Demons every year since 2006 as part of Southland play.

After the Islanders took the first five matchups in the series, the Lady Demons came back to split wins in the last four meetings. Last year was the first season the teams played each other twice in regular season play, with NSU winning the first meeting by 10 in Corpus Christi. The Islanders came back to win at NSU later in the season.

SCOUTING REPORT

Northwestern State comes into this contest with just as many wins as the Islanders, as they have knocked off eight opponents. The Lady Demons also split their first two Southland games, as they defeated Sam Houston State before dropping a matchup with Lamar. The loss against the Cardinals marked the first home loss for NSU.

Despite being nearly perfect in Natchitoches, the Lady Demons have been the exact opposite in other team's arenas, as they are still in search of their first win in a true road game. However, their road schedule has not been particularly easy, as those losses are to Baylor, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana Tech. They do have three neutral site wins, though.

The Lady Demons feature two dynamic scoring threats, as Keisha Lee and Trudy Armstead both average double figures. Lee is the leader with 15.8 points a game, shooting 44.6 percent from the field. Armstead has notched 14.9 points a game and is also the teams leading rebounder with 6.3 boards a game.

She has been the only bright spot on the glass for the Lady Demons, as they have a rebound margin of -5.1, which ranks 11th in the Southland. However, they have excelled in keeping possession of the ball, turning it over just 13.9 times a game. They have a turnover margin of +1.8, which is second best in the conference.

Coming into the season, NSU was picked to finish eighth in the Southland by both the coaches and SIDs.

LAST TIME OUT

A&M – Corpus Christi picked up its first Southland Conference win of the season with a thrilling 58-53 victory against Oral Roberts on Saturday.

After it took 11 games last season for the Islanders to secure their first win in conference play, it only took two this season for A&M – Corpus Christi to pick up a Southland victory.

With a dominating performance down the stretch, Jasmine Shaw finished with 19 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. She was the only Islander in double digits, as Alissa Campanero and Brandi Huff both finished with nine.

Camesha Davis had a strong game coming off the bench, finishing with just six points, but cleaned up on the glass for a career-high eight rebounds.

The Islanders turned up the heat defensively in the second half, forcing 11 turnovers and holding ORU to just 7-of-21 from the field after it shot 40 percent in the first half. A&M – Corpus Christi's defense also kept Dorottya Balla — who scored 30 in ORU's conference opener — from scoring in the second half after she notched 11 points in the first 20 minutes of play.

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 have had troubles on the boards against Southland foes, getting outrebounded at UCA by 11 and at Oral Roberts by a 16. Despite this, the Islanders are still second in the Southland with a +3.3 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 16.5 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 two Southland games, Shaw racked up 13 points against the Sugar Bears, followed by 19 points, five rebounds and three assists against Oral Roberts

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.

After struggling in the Southland opener, Huff bounced back to score nine points against Oral Roberts. She also set career-highs in the game with three steals and four blocks.

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 11th in the Southland in three-point percentage (.367) and first in three pointers made (2.5 per game, 33 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 close out the week with another game in the American Bank Center, as they host Stephen F. Austin at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

FOLLOW US

For the latest team information, like the team on Facebook (Islanders Women's Basketball), and follow the Islanders on Twitter and Instagram (@IslandersWBB).