CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team defeated Western Illinois in a 66-60 overtime thriller Friday night as part of the Emerald Beach Islanders Classic.
This was the first time since the 2009-10 season that the Islanders won their season opener.
In her first regular season game with the Islanders, Jasmine Shaw made a huge impact on the team offensively, knocking down one key three after the other en route to a team-high 20 points.
Darley, who is the team's leading scorer from last year, picked up right where she left off to register a double-double with 13 points to go along with 11 boards. After knocking down 10 points in the exhibition, freshman Shola Adebayo performed even better in the regular season opener with an impressive stat line with 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and six steals.
One of the key factors in the Islanders picking up the victory stemmed from the Leathernecks inability to knock down shots from behind the arc. Western Illinois only knocked down two threes on 20 attempts, including several key misses in overtime that would have tied the game up with the clock running down.
On the flipside, the Islanders went 7-20 from deep, seeming to knock down a trey every time the team was in need of one. For the game, A&M – Corpus Christi shot 37 percent from the field.
After giving up the first five points of the game, Ashanti Plummer scooped up a three-point attempt by Shaw that rattled in and out and put it in to give the Islanders their first points of the 2013-14 season.
The Islanders then cut the lead down to one at the 17:36 mark before both teams went cold during the next three minutes and 29 seconds. When the scoring resumed, it was mostly one sided, as Western Illinois scored the next eight points to jump out to a 12-4 lead with 12:16 left to play in the first half.
It was then that the Islanders mounted a run of their own, which was spearheaded by Adebayo. After three points by A&M – Corpus Christi, Adebayo picked a pass off and took it the other way for an easy layup. Shortly after, the Islanders forced a turnover and Adebayo busted one from behind the arc to put her team within one possession.
Shortly thereafter, Adebayo made an impact on the game via an assist to junior Lexy Harris to tie the game up for the first time since it was 0-0.
However, once again, both sides could not find any offensive rhythm during the next three minutes, including three turnovers by Western Illinois. Finally the Leatherneck's preseason all-conference pick Ashley Luke snapped the scoreless streak, putting them back up by two.
Once again, it was Adebayo reeking havoc for the Islanders, as she picked off another pass and dished it off to Darley to make it an 18-16 game with 4:06 left in the first.
The game would then go back and forth the rest of the half with the Islanders pulling within two three times before a three by Adebayo with 36 seconds left would give the Islanders their first lead of the game, going up 25-24. The score at the half would remain that way.
At the start of the second half the Leathernecks would quickly retain the lead, as a jumper just 39 seconds in would make the score 26-25 in favor of Western Illinois.
The momentum would not stay on their side though, as the Islanders got into a rhythm offensively, and would go on a 13-4 run to gain a six point lead with 11:58 remaining in regulation.
A layup by Marley Hall, who finished with the second-most points for her team with 14, pulled the Leathernecks within four halfway through the second half.
While it was the Islanders who were battling to tie the game up or take the lead in the first half, Western Illinois shared the same fate in the second half, as A&M – Corpus Christi seemed to answer after every Leatherneck bucket. After Luke knocked down two free throws to make it a one possession game with five minutes left on the clock, Adebayo knocked down another huge three to extend the lead back out to five. Taryn Gregory would knock down a free throw shortly after to push the lead up to six.
However, the Leathernecks would not go away quietly, as they continually chipped away at the lead before a three by Liz Skotowski tied the game up for the third time in the game, this time with 2:16 left to play.
Shaw responded in a big way, knocking down a three of her own on the next possession, extending the lead back out to three. There was no continued momentum though, with the Leathernecks scoring six of the next eight points to take their first lead in more than 17 minutes of play.
Next came another clutch shot by Shaw, as she drained her fifth and final three of the game to put the Islanders up two with only 30 seconds left in regulation. However, more than just the regulation clock would be needed on this night, as after a layup by the Leathernecks to tie it up, Adebayo missed a three as time expired to send the game into overtime.
The Islanders would tally the first four points of the half, with the second bucket coming in transition after Alissa Campanero stole the ball and then found Shaw with 3:10 left to play.
Just 14 seconds later though, Hall was able to convert on a layup to cut the lead to two as the clock ticked under three minutes.
This would be as close as the Leathernecks would get though, as they missed three threes down the stretch while the Islanders knocked down four free throws to secure the 66-60 win.
With the victory, A&M – Corpus Christi will now be set to take on Fairfield in the Emerald Beach Islanders Classic championship game at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Dugan Wellness Center. The consolation game between UAB and Western Illinois will be played at 4 p.m.
A link to live stats and video for the game can be found at http://livestats.prestosports.com/tamucc/. For all the information regarding the Emerald Beach Islanders Classic you can visit the tournament central page at http://goislanders.com/sports/wbkb/2013-14/files/Tournament_Central.
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