Women's Basketball Heads To Louisiana, McNeese Up First

ISLANDERS (8-7, 1-3) AT
  McNEESE STATE (9-6, 2-2)

Thursday, Jan. 16 • 5:30 p.m.
Burton Coliseum


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GAME NOTES: ISLANDERS | COWGIRLS

   

THE OPENING TIP

The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team will look avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season, as it heads to McNeese State for a 5:30 p.m. tilt on Thursday in the Burton Coliseum.

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' loss to Stephen F. Austin marked their seventh loss of the season. However, each of the seven 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 34.3 percent from behind the arc. Brittany Mbamalu and Jasmine Shaw have recorded a majority of the treys, combining for 82 of the team's 102 made shots from deep. In the last six games, the duo has accounted for 50 of the teams' 56 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 13.3 turnovers a game in their four 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 five and leads the team with 17.5 points per game. She is currently tied for ninth for the most threes in a season for any Islander, with 43.

ALL-TIME SERIES

This will be the ninth meeting all time between the Islanders and McNeese State, as this matchup will be a tiebreaker with the teams currently holding four wins apiece in the series.

Every matchup between A&M – Corpus Christi and the Cowgirls has been a part of Southland Conference play with the first game coming on Jan. 6, 2007, followed by the two sides meeting every subsequent season since.

Last year was the first in which the two schools played each other twice, as each squad protected its home court. The Islanders picked up a thrilling 60-59 win in Corpus Christi, while the Cowgirls knocked off A&M – Corpus Christi in Lake Charles last season, 68-39.

SCOUTING REPORT

McNeese State heads into this contest boasting a 9-6 record overall, while sitting in a tie for sixth place in the conference with a 2-2 record in conference play. After dropping their first game to Southeastern La. by 17, the Cowgirls bounced back to win their next two Southland matchups between newcomer New Orleans and Sam Houston State, before falling to Lamar last time out.

It will be tough matchup for the Islanders, as McNeese was picked in both the Coaches' and the SID poll to finish fourth in the Southland. Furthermore, the Cowgirls are extremely tough at home, as they have lost only one game all season in the Burton Coliseum. They also boast big wins against Rice and Louisiana Tech in nonconference play. However, McNeese did drop its one game with a common opponent as the Islanders, falling to Texas Southern by 16, while A&M – Corpus Christi hit a buzzer beater to knock off the Lady Tigers.

The Cowgirls rank in the middle of most statistical categories in the Southland, but will make their opponents pay if they let them get to the free throw line, as they rank first in the Southland, knocking down 74.2 percent from the charity stripe. McNeese also crashes the boards hard with a second-best 41.1 rebounds a game, including a conference-best 27.5 per game on the defensive end.

McNeese doesn't particularly shoot the ball well from the field, as it ranks ninth in the Southland with a 37.6 percent mark. The Cowgirls are even worse from long range, knocking down just 26.4 percent of their shots from downtown, which is the fourth worst percentage in the conference. McNeese only averages 3.8 threes a game, putting them three behind A&M – Corpus Christi's average of 6.8.

The Cowgirls feature the league's second-best scorer, as Allison Baggett has been averaging a little more than 18 each time out. She has already eclipsed the 100 field-goal-mark this season with 102, including 21 from downtown. She also does a pretty good job of crashing the boards, pulling down 4.5 per game.

However, McNeese's best rebounder is Cecilia Okoye, who pulls down 8.3 caroms on a nightly basis, and is the team's only other player to average double figures in points per game with 11.4.

LAST TIME OUT

For the third time in conference play, the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team lost by single digits, falling to Stephen F. Austin 58-51 on Saturday in the American Bank Center.

Once again, Jasmine Shaw led the way offensively for the Islanders (8-7, 1-3 in Southland Conference play), hitting 7 of her 13 shots for 19 points. No other Islanders were able to post double digits on the night.

However, two SFA (10-6, 4-0) players were able to score in double figures, as Brittney Matthew had three treys en route to 16 points, while Tierany Henderson had 15 points with most of them coming via her four threes.

On the night, a team that averages just 28.8 percent from downtown, the Ladyjacks went 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) from behind the arc to propel them to the win.

On the flip side, A&M – Corpus Christi was only able to connect on five threes on 18 attempts, and shot just 33.9 percent from the field overall.

CRASHING THE BOARDS

Heading into their two games in Nashville in November, 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 Huston-Tillotson.

The Islanders have had troubles on the boards against Southland foes, getting outrebounded at UCA by 11 and at Oral Roberts by 16. They did bounce back against Northwestern State, though, pulling down five more rebounds than the Lady Demons before the size of SFA got to the squad with the Ladyjacks outrebounding the Islanders by 12. However, A&M – Corpus Christi still holds a rebounding margin of +2.4, ranking the Islanders third in the conference in that category.

DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU SHAW?

Jasmine Shaw, a senior transfer from Marshall, has tallied five games of 20 or more points this season and is averaging 17.5 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. Then, in her third game in the conference, she exploded to best her career high by one point for 29 points, once again tying the school record with seven threes. She also crashed the boards for 10 rebounds to pick up her second double-double of the season. She then added 19 more against SFA to raise her to the third leading scorer in the conference.

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. Then, against Northwestern State she helped crash the boards with seven rebounds, as well as going a perfect 3-for-3 from the field for six points.

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 second in the Southland in three pointers made (2.6 per game, 39 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.

Mbamalu then posted her ninth game in double digits with four three pointers against the Lady Demons for 12 points.

WITHIN REACH

In each of its first three losses, A&M – Corpus Christi came 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. It was another close loss in the last two matchups, as the Islanders fell to Northwestern State by six and SFA to seven to keep their average margin of defeat at six.

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 their Louisiana roadtrip on Saturday, as they continue their trek east for a matchup in Thibodaux against Nicholls with tip set for 1 p.m.