CONWAY, Ark. — The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team came up just short in its Southland Conference opener, falling to Central Arkansas 66-62.
The Islanders held a five point-advantage in the second half, but saw it dwindle away, failing to make a field goal in the final 7:20. The Sugar Bears also went on a field goal drought, not hitting a shot in the final 5:20. The final 13 points of the game were scored at the free throw line, but nine of them were from the home team.
Once again, Jasmine Shaw led the way for the Islanders with 13 points, including making three of six from behind the arc. However, she failed to hit a three to tie it with seven seconds left.
Kassie Jones set a career high with 12 points, going 4-of-5 from both the field and the free throw line. Brittany Mbamalu got back in double digits, after failing to get in double figures for the first time in seven games last time out against Huston-Tillotson. She notched 10 points to go along with four rebounds on the night.
UCA's leading scorer and rebounder Courtney Duever proved her worth with a double-double on the evening, scoring 24 points to go along with 15 rebounds — all on the defensive end. Her dominance on the boards forced the Islanders to a season-low 27 rebounds compared to UCA's 38.
On UCA's first possession of the game, the Islanders forced a turnover and turned it into something, as Shaw hit Lexy Harris in the paint and she converted for the first points of the game.
However, the Sugar Bears hit a layup in transition followed by a three to jump out to an early 5-2 lead with 17:40 left to play. The teams then traded buckets, before Shaw hit a triple to tie the game up at seven.
The UCA shooters got hot though, recording the next seven out of nine points to get out to a 14-9 lead with 13:58 left in the first half. The Islanders scored on their offensive possession though, as Ashanti Plummer scooped up a missed three-point attempt by Shaw and put it home to pull the visitors within four.
Ashley Darley came back the next time down the court and got her defender in the air with a pump fake and splashed a jumper right before the shot clock expired to make it a 14-13 score with 12:27 left in the first.
Once again, the Sugar Bears did not let the Islanders get any closer, as a pair of free throws followed by a three put UCA back up by six and forced the Islanders to call their first timeout of the game nearly midway through the half.
A&M – Corpus Christi responded with Shaw hitting a jumper to pull the Islanders within four, but UCA recorded the next four points again to jump out to an eight-point lead — its biggest of the first half.
However, Jones went on a 6-2 run by herself to pull the Islanders back within four, making it a 25-21 with seven minutes left on the clock.
Once again, the Sugar Bears responded with a bucket of their own, but Mbamalu drained her first three of the game to make it a one-possession game with the score set at 27-24 with just a little under six left to play.
Just like the rest of the first half UCA had an answer though, scoring the next six out of eight to push it up to a seven point Sugar Bear lead.
A three by Alissa Campanero pulled the Islanders within four before the team traded a pair of buckets to finish the half with the Sugar Bears leading 35-31.
To start the second half, it was UCA who got on the board first, as Duever hit a jumper to push the Sugar Bears' lead up to six.
However, Shaw got into one of her hot streaks, busting back-to-back triples to tie the game at 39 for the first time since it was 7-7. A Harris layup then put the Islanders up by two for the first time since they scored the first basket of the game.
Another Duever jumper tied the game up at 39, and the score remained knotted three minutes later at the 12:44 mark, this time at 45 a piece.
The Islanders regained the lead just 37 seconds later, as Mbamalu canned one from behind the arc with a hand in her face to put A&M – Corpus Christi up by three. Another 40 seconds later, it was Jones making a layup to extend the Islanders' lead to 50-45 with 11:27 left to go.
Duever kept her point total soaring with a jumper to cut the lead back to three, but Darley hits a pair at the line to push the lead back to five with the clock just under 10 minutes.
UCA then scored the next four to cut the lead down to one, but then Jones set a new career high with a runner to give her 10 points on the game and put the Islanders up 54-51. She then got the next points with a layup in transition to extend the Islanders' lead up to five with 7:20 left on the clock.
However, the Sugar Bears went on a 7-2 run to cut the lead to just one. A free throw by Darley doubled the lead, before UCA came back to hit a pair of free throws to tie the game up at 59 with 5:05 left on the clock.
The Sugar Bears then came back to hit five more free throws in a row to push the lead back up by five, going up 64-59 with 1:56 left to play.
The free throw contest continued, as this time Shaw hit a pair of free throws to pull the Islanders back within striking distance, as it was then a 64-61 game with 1:13 left.
A&M – Corpus Christi shut the Sugar Bears' offense down on the next possession, but bailed it out with a foul right before the shot clock expired. However, the shooter only made one of two from the line. It was then a 65-61 game with 49 ticks left.
The Islanders could not convert on their offensive possession with an offensive foul called on the visitors, but they did force a turnover off the inbound play. After the turnover, Darley drew a foul, but could only hit one of two from the line to pull the Islanders within three with 25 seconds left on the clock.
The press continued to give the Sugar Bears fits, as A&M – Corpus Christi forced another turnover and called a timeout with a chance to tie it with 24 seconds to go. Unfortunately, the three by Shaw was blocked with seven second left, and, fittingly, Duever hit a free throw to seal the win for the Sugar Bears.
The Islanders will now head to Oral Roberts for a Saturday afternoon matchup in Tulsa, Okla., with tip scheduled for 3 p.m.