KATY, Texas – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team saw an eight-game win streak come to an end, as well as its departure from Southland Conference Tournament, falling to McNeese State, 78-73, on Thursday in the Merrell Center.
The Islanders saw a remarkable turnaround from the last three years, when they won a combined 15 games. A&M – Corpus Christi recorded 18 victories this season. With only four wins a year ago, that gave the Islanders a regular season win differential of plus-14, which was the best in the nation. The win streak of eight also tied the school record for consecutive wins.
Also, with just three Southland victories a year ago, the Islanders earned 11 this season, as they finished in a tie for fourth to clinch a spot in the league's tournament for the first time in four years.
Despite the loss in the first round of action, the Islanders got a wealth of contribution offensively on Thursday, as they saw five different players score at least 10 points for the first time since their match up with New Orleans on Jan. 25.
Leading the way for A&M – Corpus Christi was Jasmine Shaw, who had 17 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists. Once again, Brandi Huff flirted with a double-double, notching 13 points as well as eight rebounds — five on offense.
MccNeese also saw several strong efforts from its team, as four different Cowgirls hit double digits in scoring. But their best performance came out of their leader, as Allison Baggett went 10-of-25 from the field, including 5-of-12 from deep to score a game-high 27 points. Jaylen Johnson and NeTanya Jones tied with Shaw for the second-most points, as they each notched 17 as well.
McNeese got the scoring started in the game, as Baggett got the ball in her hand after the opening tip and drove to the paint for a runner to put the Cowgirls up two just eight seconds into the game.
It was Campanero who hit the first bucket for the Islanders, as she made a pump fake at the arc and took it to the hoop to knot the game up at two. A Shaw three then gave the Islanders their first lead of the game with the score sitting 5-2 just under a minute into the game.
However, the Cowgirls went on a 17-5 run, which included seven points of Baggett's 15 in the first half to put McNeese up 19-10 at the 13:09 mark.
It was Shaw who put the end to the seven-minute run by the Cowgirls, as she drove up the right baseline in transition for two before Mbamalu got her first points of the game on a three in transition to pull the Islanders within four at 11:39.
It was Kassie Jones who then got hot for A&M – Corpus Christi, as she made the next three buckets for the Islanders. McNeese was able to score five points during Jones' run, though, and held on to a three-point lead with the clock at just under nine minutes to play.
With the lead for the Cowgirls still sitting at three after Huff made a strong move in the paint, McNeese converted on an and-one play as well as a layup off of a turnover to extend their lead up to eight, 33-25 with 5:29 left in the half.
Adebayo came right back with a three-point play before Baggett hit another three to push the lead back up to eight for the Cowgirls.
With the score at 41-33 after Baggett hit her third three of the game, the Islanders closed out the half with a 6-0 run, finishing with a Huff layup with 31 seconds left to pull the Islanders within two, 41-39, at the half.
Both offenses were rolling in that first half, as the Islanders shot 57.1 percent from the field, while the Cowgirls made half of their shots. Both teams hit 16 field goals, with the difference coming off McNeese making two more threes.
After Cecilia Okoye scored the first points of the half for McNeese, the Islanders went on a 7-2 run, including a three from Mbamalu, to jump out to their first lead since it was 7-6, going up 46-45 with 17:17 remaining.
After McNeese jumped back on top with a bucket off an offensive rebound, Mbamalu hit another three that sparked an 11-2 run, culminating on back-to-back three-point plays from Campanero and Huff to see the Islanders jump out to an eight-point lead — their largest of the game — with 14:16 to play.
However, the Cowgirls stormed back to go on a run of their own, holding the Islanders to just one point over the next seven minutes while they scored 14 to jump back up by five with 7:19 to play.
The play continued to go back and forth, as Huff stopped the field-goal drought with a layup in transition before Adebayo scored four consecutive points to put the Islanders back up by one, 64-63, with the clock sitting at just over six.
McNeese's leader came back to hit a huge three to put her team back up two, and then got a another bucket after the Islanders tied it up to give her 25 points on the night to make it 68-66 with just over five to play.
Campanero came right back with two free throws to tie the game at 68, but McNeese pushed its lead back up to four with two buckets, the second coming off of Hannah Cupit throwing up a shot with the shot clock winding down and seeing it fall.
It was then that Ashanti Plummer pulled down a huge offensive rebound and got it in the hands of Shaw, who drilled a runner while getting fouled, and then hit the free throw to pull the Islanders within one with 3:21 to play.
After two free throws for the Cowgirls, Shaw nailed a jumper from just inside the arc to pull her team back within one with 2:44 to go.
She then had a chance to put her team on top, going to the line for a one-and-one, but missed the front end.
The Cowgirls came down on the next possession and hit two free throws after drawing a foul with three seconds left on the shot clock to go back up three with 1:32 to play.
The door was left open, as Okoye missed a pair of free throws to keep McNeese's lead at three, but Baggett came up with another big play, blocking Mbamalu's tying three attempt before hitting a pair of free throws to seal the win and advance her team to the next round.
At 18-12 on the season, the Islanders are eligible for a spot in the postseason, as the Women's National Invitation Tournament and Women's Basketball Invitational could potentially invite the team to continue their season. Both tournaments select their participants on Monday, March 17.