THE OPENING TIP
The Islanders women's basketball team will wrap up a three-game homestand, as it takes on Southern Utah on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Dugan Wellness Center. The Islanders are coming off of a strong performance during the Emerald Beach Islanders Classic.
In its first game of the season the team picked its first win in an opener since the 2009-10 season, defeating Western Illinois in a 66-60 overtime thriller to advance the championship game in the tournament. However, the Islanders would only be crowned the runners-up, coming up just one play away against Fairfield in the final game of the tournament, falling 58-55.
• For the first time since the 2009-10 season, the Islanders opened the season with a win.
• The Emerald Beach Islanders Classic marked the first time since 2010-11 that the Islanders hosted a tournament at home. A win against Western Illinois led the Islanders to an appearance in the championship game of the tournament.
• The Islanders come into the 2013-14 season with the Southland's top-ranked recruiting class.
• The team features 10 newcomers this season after losing three starters and eight total letterwinners.
• Senior Ashley Darley returns as the team's leading point scorer. Last season Darley averaged 7.9 points a game after sitting out the 2011-12 campaign with a medical redshirt.
• After struggling to find offense last year, the Islanders have already had four different players have double-digit scoring performances in their first two games. Jasmine Shaw paced the Islanders offense, putting up 42 points thus far in the season.
This will mark the first matchup between the Islanders and the Thunderbirds. Southern Utah won its season opener by a score of 90-86 against Boise State. With its exhibitions included, SUU has put up 90 or more points in all three of its games.
Last season the Thunderbirds were picked to finish last in the Big Sky, but they finished well above where the preseason polls had them, notching a 15-16 overall record and a 8-6 conference record to finish sixth in the league.
The preseason polls for the 2013-14 season have SUU finishing in sixth this season with Eastern Washington, Montana and Northern Colorado picked as the top three in the Big Sky.
The Thunderbirds' strength comes from down low. In their season opener against Boise State, Southern Utah managed to score 90 points despite going just 1-10 from behind the arc. In the game, the Thunderbirds were still able to shoot 45.8 percent from the field.
Another strength for SUU is its ability to get to the free-throw line. In its win against the Broncos, SUU attempted 44 free throws, connecting on 35 of them. During the entire 2013-14 season the Islanders have been unable to even get to the line more than 26 times, and have only attempted a total of 42 free throws in their first two games.
DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU SHAW?
Jasmine Shaw, a senior transfer from Marshall, scored a total of 42 points in her first two games as an Islander. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native shot 48 percent from the field and knocked down 10-of-11 free throws during the Emerald Beach Islanders Classic.
Shaw and senior Ashley Darley were named to the Emerald Beach Islanders Classic All-Tournament Team. Darley was also a major cog in the offense throughout the week, picking up a double-double against Western Illinois with 13 points and 11 rebounds to help the Islanders advance to the championship game.
Another transfer that made a significant impact on the team was Shola Adebayo, coming from Eastern Oklahoma State. She became the first player at A&M – Corpus Christi to record six steals in her first game, just one shy of tying an all-time record.
Adebayo also added 14 points, five rebounds and four assists to help the Islanders make it to the championship game.
The Islanders dominated in their exhibition matchup with Texas A&M International, coasting to a 76-50 win. During the game A&M – Corpus Christi put it's defense on display holding the Dustdevils scoreless during a stretch of more than eight minutes.
The offense also showed up in the exhibition, as the Islanders went on a 31-4 run in the final 12 minutes of the first half. A total of four A&M-Corpus Christi players hit double digits in the scoring column, while all but one Islander scored.
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. 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.
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.
Rounding off the highly touted recruiting class are five freshmen, with all but one of those coming from Texas. Ranked No. 63 in the ESPN Girls Recruiting National Rankings was 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, 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. The lone freshman from outside of Texas is Rau Jau' Terry who comes to A&M – Corpus Christi from Louisville, Ky., and was rated one of the top 250 players in the country by Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
FILLING THE VOID
The Islanders will have to find a way to make up for losing its top scorer with Jessica Jammer departing after tallying 8.4 points a game last year. It also loses its assists leader, as Verne'Qua Taylor leaves after climbing to fifth in the Islanders record book, while ranking ninth in the Southland with 3.31 assists per game. Taylor also ranked first on the team and 11th in the conference in steals.
After finishing last season 3-15, 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.
After finishing up their homestand on Thursday night, the Islanders will head to Nashville, Tenn., to play two games in the Volunteer State. They will take on Belmont at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, and Tennessee State at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21.
The Islanders will then round out their three-game road trip — their longest in nonconference play — by travelling to San Marcos, Texas, for a Wednesday night tilt with Texas State the night before Thanksgiving.