NICHOLLS STATE (16-12, 11-6) AT ISLANDERS (17-11, 10-7)
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team will close out its regular season by hosting Nicholls State at noon Saturday in the American Bank Center. The game will recognize the seniors Ashley Darley, Taryn Gregory, Brandi Huff and Jasmine Shaw, as they will be playing in their final home game.
• The Islanders are currently on a seven game winning streak, the longest since the 2003-04 season. With the win against McNeese State giving the Islanders their 17th win of the season, the team has now exceeded its win total over the previous three years combined by two.
• The win also clinched a spot in the Southland Conference Tournament for the first time in four years. Currently sitting in a three-way tie for fifth with McNeese and Northwestern State the Islanders are guaranteed to grab the fifth, sixth or seventh seed.
• With their 17 wins this season compared to four a year ago, the Islanders now have a +13 win differential, which is the best in the nation through play on Thursday.
• Brittany Mbamalu now holds the record for threes made in a single season, as she hit three more against HBU last week to give her 78, breaking the previous record of 78. Jasmine Shaw is right behind her at 73, meaning the duo has combined for 151 of the team's 186 treys.
• The magic numbers for the team this season have been 40 and 70. The Islanders are 11-1 when shooting 40 percent or better and 10-1 when scoring at least 70 points.
LAST TIME OUT
The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team secured its spot in the Southland Conference Tournament on Thursday with a 74-69 win against McNeese State in the American Bank Center.
The Islanders made their final seven free throws in the last 1:19 to clinch their first trip to the tournament in four years. It also notched their seventh consecutive victory. This is the longest such streak since the 2003-04 season.
For the first time since Jan. 30 against Sam Houston State, four different Islanders had double-digit scoring performances. Shola Adebayo led the way for the second time in the last three games, hitting six field goals and six free throws for 18 points.
Ashley Darley tied a season high with 13, while fellow seniors Jasmine Shaw and Brandi Huff each contributed 11. Huff came up just short of a double-double, pulling down a team-high nine rebounds.
Leading the way for the Cowgirls was Allison Bagget who went 9-of-24 from the field for a game-high 24 points. Cecilia Okoye also had a big game, securing 12 boards to go along with 15 points for a double-double.
With wins in the last seven games the Islanders now boast their longest win streak since the 2003-04 season. During the streak, the Islanders win margin has been more than eight despite the fact that three of the seven have been decided by four points or less. Both games against HBU have caused the number to be inflated, as the Islanders beat the Huskies by 12 and then 25. They have also outrebounded teams by a total of 45 caroms.
A FRESH LOOK
An obvious aspect when looking at the box scores over the second half of the conference season is the presence of Islanders freshmen in the starting lineup. Coach Chadwick and his staff infused Camesha Davis and Kassie Jones into the lineup for the first time together on Jan. 23 and the freshmen flourished, as the duo combined for 29 in the Southeastern win, followed by a combined 31 against New Orleans with Davis notching her first double-double as well as career highs with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Against SHSU, Jones kept rolling for her third consecutive game with double figures in the scoring column to go along with a career-high five rebounds. On the other hand, Camesha Davis made her only field goal attempt and pulled down five rebounds, but was limited due to foul trouble and picked up her fifth with more than 10 minutes left on the clock. The next time out against Lamar, the duo combined for 22 points, with Jones picking up 14 of those points. Fellow freshman Brittany Mbamalu tallied 22 points by herself, meaning the trio of freshmen accounted for 61.1 percent of the team's points.
All of the freshmen had a tough go of it against UIW with a combined 14 points, while senior Jasmine Shaw led the way with 28 points. Once again, Shaw took over against ACU for a game-high 26 points, but Jones came off the bench four eight points, going 4-of-8 from the field.
In the last four outings, the Islanders have implemented JUCO transfer Alissa Campanero into the lineup. She has been a major contributor, setting a career high with seven assists against Oral Roberts followed by a high of 14 points at Houston Baptist. She then continued the upward trend, setting yet another career high in assists with 13, which was the second-most in school history.
The Islanders had a wealth of distribution when it came to their contributions against New Orleans. All 12 players on the roster not only played in the game, but all of them also recorded double-digit minutes. Eleven of the 12 grabbed rebounds, 10 of the 12 scored points and nine of the 12 recorded assists in the ballgame.
Against SHSU all 12 players once again saw playing time with 10 different players getting in the scoring column and just as many pulling down at least one rebound.
Only 10 players saw action against the Lady Cardinals, but each of those players played double-digit minutes and nine of the 10 scored. Half of those players also recorded at least eight points. Only seven players scored in the win against UIW, but nine played at least 10 minutes. Despite Shaw's dominating offensive performance, everyone chipped in for the Islanders, as 10 players saw at least 14 minutes of play with each of them recording points.
However, against Oral Roberts, they had a consistent group on the floor with each of the starters recording at least 23 minutes. They also had 45 of the team's 61 points.
In the game one against the Huskies, 10 players saw action with all 10 recording double-digit minutes. The Islanders also had a huge contribution from Shola Adebayo, who took advantage of her second career start with a career-high 26 points. Alissa Campanero (14) and Brittany Mbamalu (11) also chipped in for more than 10 of the points on the scoreboard. In the next game against HBU all 11 players saw action, while Brandi Huff (21) and Jasmine Shaw (20) combined to be the first Islanders duo to score 20 or more in the same game this season.
For the first time since Jan. 30 against Sam Houston State, four different Islanders had double-digit scoring performances in the win against McNeese. Shola Adebayo led the way for the second time in the last three games, hitting six field goals and six free throws for 18 points. Seniors Darley (13), Shaw (11) and Huff (11) were the other to hit at least 10.
STOPPING ON DIMES
The Islanders now have 231 dimes against Southland foes, averaging 13.6 a game. In all of conference play last season, the Islanders only mustered a total of 176 assists.
The Islanders dropped 27 dimes against the Lady Lions, which marked the most against a Southland opponent and were just three off the school record of 30 that was set against Huston-Tillotson on Feb. 19, 2001. The three games prior to the game at Lamar represented three of the top four assist games on the season.
This season, the Islanders have already tallied four games with at least 20 assists after not having any in the last three seasons combined.
At home against HBU, Alissa Campanero registered one of the best nights for any Islander in terms of assists, as she tallied 13 to give her the second most in a single game in Islanders' history.
ROLLING UP THE POINTS
The 180 points in the wins against Southeastern La. and UNO were the most since the Islanders scored a combined 181 points on Dec. 9, 2006 and Dec. 16, 2006 with 85 vs. Huston-Tillotson followed by 96 against St. Mary's. The last time A&M – Corpus Christi scored that many against two D-I opponents was during the last two games of 2002-03 season, as it scored a combined 181 against IPFW and Lipscomb.
With the 97 points scored against UNO, as well as the 90 points the Islanders hung on Houston Baptist in their second meeting, A&M – Corpus Christi now scored at least 90 in two games for the first time since the 2009-10 season in which that squad did so twice. This also comes after the team failed to even score 70 in any game a year ago.
When the Islanders have put the numbers up in bunches this season they have had a high win percentage, tallying a 10-1 record when scoring at least 70 points.
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 road trip 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.
However, the Islanders had poor rebounding results as the first games of the season. In the first six games in Southland Conference play, the rebounding difference has led to several of the Islanders' losses, as they were outrebounded by an average margin of 6.2, dropping them from first to fourth in that category at that time.
Their work on the boards helped lead the Islanders to their massive wins against Southeastern and New Orleans though, as they outrebounded the Lady Lions 44-34 and then pulled down an incredible 29 more boards than the Privateers.
In the loss to SHSU the Islanders fought hard on the boards against a team that has a lot of size, but ended up with two boards less than the Bearkats. Then, despite the loss to Lamar, A&M – Corpus Christi outrebounded the Lady Cardinals by eight.
The battle of the boards has been huge for the Islanders on their current seven-game winning streak, as they have outrebounded their opponent by an average of seven caroms a game.
YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU SHAW?
Jasmine Shaw, a senior transfer from Marshall, has tallied eight games of 20 or more points this season and is averaging 15.6 points a game, which ranks sixth in the Southland. 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 for a career-high 29 points, while 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.
She struggled against McNeese, though, as the Cowgirls held Shaw to just 2-of-6 from the field with no threes and just four points — her second lowest total of the season. Then, despite scoring 11 at Nicholls, she struggled from deep once again, making just one of her seven three-point attempts.
It was an all-around solid performance from the senior against Southeastern, as she scored 12 points to go along with eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block.
Against UIW, Shaw busted out for her first 20-point game in eight games, as she went 11-of-18 from the field, including three triples to come just one point shy of her career high with 28 points. She then nearly matched that performance with another that was nearly flawless, as she went 8-of-12 from the field, including 6-of-7 from three-point distance for 26 points against ACU in just 23 minutes of play. Shaw battled foul trouble in the first half, scoring just six points, but busted loose for 20 in the second half. Her performance on the week led her to being named the Southland Conference Player of the Week.
Despite UCA's lock down defense, Shaw still rattled off 19 points to go along with seven rebounds. She also featured a flair for the dramatic against the Sugar Bears, drilling the game-winning three with just two seconds left to play. She then ended the week with her third double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
After seeing limited playing time because of an injury in the first game against Houston Baptist, Shaw came back to score 20 points the second time around against the Huskies. She went 6-of-9 from long range in the performance. She added one more triple against McNeese to give her 73 on the year, while posting 11 points against the Cowgirls.
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 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. She followed that up with nine points against SFA.
Despite coming off the bench against Southeastern, Huff had one of her biggest games in conference, going 8-of-13 from the field for 18 points to go along with six rebounds in a big win. Then, once again off the bench, Huff scored 14 in the dominant win against New Orleans. She then kept rolling with her third consecutive game with double digits in the score column with 13 against SHSU, giving her 45 points over that three-game stretch.
Despite Shaw's big performance against UIW and ACU, Huff had two terrific games to supplement Shaw with seven rebounds to go along with five points against UIW, and then followed it up with eight points and six rebounds against the Wildcats. After failing to pull down any rebounds against ORU, the senior came back to snare seven boards against HBU.
Huff then joined up with Shaw to become the first duo this season to each score at least 20 points in a game, as she scored the first nine points of the game for the Islanders to eventually tie a career high with 21 points.
She was then just one rebound shy of a double-double against McNeese State, as she pulled down nine rebounds and scored 11 points.
Freshman Brittany Mbamalu has made a significant impact on the team, especially with her pinpoint shooting ability from three-point range. With 78 threes this season, she now sits atop the Islanders' record book for single-season threes made and has even entered the career top 10 in her first collegiate season of play.
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 first in the Southland in three pointers made (3.0 per game, 62 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, she only recorded 16 minutes of play after she suffered an injury in the first half. She then got back in double figures with 10 points against UCA in her first conference game.
Mbamalu posted her ninth and 10th games in double digits with four three pointers against the Lady Demons for 12 points before knocking down five from deep for a game-high 15 points at McNeese.
She had the biggest game of her young career against Nicholls with 23 points to go along with seven threes, tying a school record. Amazingly, 20 of those points came in the first half, as well as six of the threes before the Colonels did a better job guarding her in the final 20 minutes of play.
Heading into the Lamar game, Mbamalu was just 4-of-25 in her previous three games before exploding against the Lady Cardinals to tie a school record once again with seven made threes in the game for 22 points. However, much like the game against Nicholls most of those points came in the first half, as she made six of those threes in the first 20 minutes of play before the Lamar defense tightened up on her in the second half. However, she finished off the road trip on a bit of a sour note, going a combined 4-of-15 from deep.
That negative momentum carried over back at home, as the UCA defense face guarded Mbamalu the entire game and held her to her first scoreless game since her career debut. She came out with a vengeance the following game, coming up with her fourth game of the season with at least six threes, drilling as many for 18 points against ORU. She then came back for three buckets from long range in both games against HBU to break the single-season record for threes made with two games still to be played.
Time after time the Islanders have been involved in nail bitters with a few going their way, but several of them ending up with them coming up just short. Eight of the Islanders' 11 losses this season have come by single digits. The only game in which they really were blown out was a 28-point loss at McNeese. Against Lamar, another of the team's double-digit losses, the Islanders held a three-point lead before turnovers caused a tough second half of play. If you exclude those two games from the equation, the Islanders have lost their other nine games by a combined total of 53 points, an average of just 5.9 points.
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.
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.
The Islanders will head to Katy for the first time in four years to compete in the 2014 Southland Conference Tournament. With A&M – Corpus Christi guaranteed to take the fifth, sixth or seventh seed, it is assured to play on Thursday in the Leonard E. Merrell Center at either 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.