THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team will play its first game of the season in the American Bank Center on Thursday, as it hosts UTSA for a 7 p.m. tilt.
• The Islanders are coming off a roadtrip in which they went 3-0 with wins against Belmont (72-62), Tennessee State (76-74) and Texas State (68-60). This is the first time since the 2004-05 season that the team has had three straight road wins.
• As a team, A&M – Corpus Christi is first in the Southland Conference in three-point percentage, shooting at a .365 clip from behind the arc. Brittany Mbamalu and Jasmine Shaw have recorded a majority of the treys, combining for 26 of the teams 38 made shots from deep.
• 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.
• After struggling to find offense last year, Marshall 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 three and is averaging 16.8 points a game through the first six this season.
This will be the 18th meeting between the Roadrunners and the Islanders with UTSA leading the series 11-6. The Roadrunners have especially had the upper hand as of late, winning the last 11 of 12 games after A&M – Corpus Christi won the first five. Last season, the Islanders dropped a road game to UTSA, falling 52-40. The last time the Islanders beat UTSA was a 52-48 win on Jan. 23, 2010.
Most of the matchups between the two came in Southland Conference play, with 12 of the games played in conference. The Islanders had the most success against UTSA in nonconference play, with A&M – Corpus Christi winning all four games before both schools were part of the Southland in the 2006-07 season. The Roadrunners got their first nonconference win against the Islanders last season though, as the two schools still scheduled a matchup with the departure of UTSA to Conference USA.
The Roadrunners are 4-4 on the season, as well as 1-1 against Southland opponents with a win against Northwestern State (62-49) and a loss against Lamar (63-59). UTSA has also been knocked off by two Big 12 teams, as it fell to Texas 63-43 in the Roadrunners' season opener and to No. 9 Baylor 92-62. They have struggled on the road so far this year, losing both games they have played on the road. UTSA is also 1-1 in neutral site games.
While the Islanders have been hot from behind the arc, the Roadrunners have had a hard time knocking down shots from outside, shooting just 20.9 percent from downtown.
LAST TIME OUT
For the second straight game the Islanders overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half to comeback to beat Texas State 68-60. With just 10:47 left to play the Islanders were in trouble, trailing the Bobcats by 16. However, that is when A&M – Corpus Christi made its run, storming back to go on a 25-4 run over a stretch of nine and a half minutes to take the lead en route to its third consecutive victory.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Heading into their two games in Nashville, 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 came back last week to outrebound Texas State by 19, while also snatching up 23 offensive rebounds compared to the Bobcats' seven.
A&M – Corpus Christi has now vaulted to third in the conference in offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds and rebounding margin.
DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU SHAW?
Jasmine Shaw, a senior transfer from Marshall, has tallied three games of 20 or more points this season and is almost averaging 16.8 points a game. Last season, no Islander had more than two games with more than 20 throughout the entire 2012-13 campaign. She currently ranks seventh in the Southland in scoring and first in the conference in free-throw percentage at 87.5 percent.
In the game against Tennessee State, she 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.
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.
Freshman Brittany Mbamalu has mad a significant impact on the team, especially with her pinpoint shooting ability from three-point range. She has contributed more than a third of all of the teams made threes, and 13 out of 15 of her made field goals have come from downtown.
In her first two games she only saw two minutes of action in both games. However, she logged 19 minutes of play against Southern Utah, and went 3-of-8 from behind the arc for nine points, earning herself a spot in the starting rotation.
In her three games as a starter, Mbmamlu has had double-digit scoring performances in each outing with 14 against Belmont and Texas State and 11 against Tennessee State. She also tallied seven boards against the Lady Tigers and five against the Bobcats.
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.
In both of its two loses A&M – Corpus Christi has come 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. However, down three, they were not able to get a three-pointer off before the buzzer sounded. Then 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.
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.
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.
The Islanders will play their final game before a 10-day break for finals on Sunday, as they take on Texas-Pan American at 2 p.m. at the American Bank Center.