ISLANDERS (8-8, 1-4) AT
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team will look to snap a current three-game skid, as it matches up with Nicholls on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Thibodaux, La.
• It has been a difficult start to conference play, as the Islanders have dropped four out of their first five meetings. However, after the conclusion of the game against Nicholls the team has faced five of the top six teams in the preseason polls.
• Last time out, A&M – Corpus Christi ran into a team that got hot from downtown, as McNeese shot 52.6 percent from deep after entering the contest with a 26 percent average. The 28-point loss was the biggest of the season after the first seven losses came by a combined total of 43.
• As a team, A&M – Corpus Christi is second in the Southland in three-point percentage, shooting 34.5 percent from behind the arc. Brittany Mbamalu and Jasmine Shaw have recorded a majority of the treys, combining for 87 of the team's 108 made shots from deep. In the last seven games, the duo has accounted for 55 of the teams' 62 threes.
• After averaging 21.5 turnovers in nonconference play, the Islanders have done a much better job of holding on to the ball with just 13.6 turnovers a game in their four Southland games.
• After struggling to find offense last year, senior 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 five and leads the team with 16.7 points per game.
Each of the eight meetings between the two schools has come in Southland Conference play, with the series record deadlocked at four wins for each side.
Last season marked the first year the two squads played each other twice in a season, with Nicholls winning each game. Prior to that, the Islanders had won the previous two meetings. The same pattern had occurred prior to the last four meetings, as the Islanders took the first two games of the series before losing the next two.
The Colonels enter this game on a similar three-game losing skid after dropping Southland games to Lamar, Sam Houston State and Houston Baptist. However, the Colonels did open up conference play with wins against New Orleans and Southeastern Louisiana to come into this game with a 2-3 record in the Southland. Nicholls was picked to finish third in the conference coming into the season.
Coming into the game, one of the biggest hurdles the Islanders need to overcome is stopping their opponents from behind the arc. They will have to do exactly that against the Colonels, as they are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference, ranking first in three-point percentage at 35 percent. The last three games the Islanders have allowed opponents to shoot 52.6, 47.6 and 41.4 percent from deep. Nicholls is also third in the Southland, averaging 7.7 threes a game.
The Colonels also pressure opponents into turning the ball over, as they have a second-best 10.2 steals a game, as well as the best turnover margin at +3.8.
Individually, Nicholls features the conference's most dynamic scorer in the form of Emani White who is averaging a league-best 18.7 points per game. She ranks only behind Mbamalu and Shaw with 2.6 threes a game, and is sixth, shooting 39.4 percent from behind the arc. She also gets after it defensively, as she ranks first in steals per game with 2.6.
The Colonels are a very guard-orientated team, as their leading rebounder, Jenny Nash averages just 5.3 rebounds a game. However, each of the four players who have started each game averages at least four rebounds, as they all crash the boards.
LAST TIME OUT
The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball team fell to McNeese State 79-51 in Lake Charles, La., on Thursday.
The Islanders (8-8, 1-4 in Southland Conference play) ran into another team that stroked it from behind the three-point line, as the Cowgirls (10-6, 3-2) shot 52.6 percent from deep, compared to the Islanders making just 6-of-16 shots from long range.
Five out of the six threes came from Brittany Mbamalu, as she had a game-high 15 points. With the effort, she also passed Jasmine Shaw for threes made this season, giving her 44 to move her into ninth in threes made in a season for the Islanders.
McNeese's defense did a good job of shutting down the Southland's third leading scorer, as Shaw was limited to four points — her second lowest total of the season.
On the other side, the second-highest scorer in the conference, Allison Baggett, hit three of her five triples en route to a team-high 14 points for the Cowgirls. Three other players from McNeese joined Baggett with double digit scoring performances.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Heading into their two games in Nashville in November, 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 finished off the roadtrip by outrebounding Texas State by 19, while also snatching up 23 offensive rebounds compared to the Bobcats' seven.
The Islanders once again cleaned up everything on the boards when they returned home, snatching up 15 more rebounds than UTSA, and then pulled down 11 more than UTPA.
After getting outrebounded for the first time in five games at Texas Southern, the Islanders won the rebound battle against UTA despite losing the game. They then backed it up with 17 more boards than Huston-Tillotson.
The Islanders have had troubles on the boards against Southland foes, getting outrebounded at UCA by 11 and at Oral Roberts by 16. They did bounce back against Northwestern State, though, pulling down five more rebounds than the Lady Demons before the size of both SFA and McNeese got to the squad with the Ladyjacks and Cowgirls each outrebounding the Islanders by 12. However, A&M – Corpus Christi still holds a rebounding margin of +1.5, ranking the Islanders fourth in the conference in that category.
DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU SHAW?
Jasmine Shaw, a senior transfer from Marshall, has tallied five games of 20 or more points this season and is averaging 16.7 points a game. Last season, no Islander had more than two games exceeding 20 points throughout the entire campaign.
In the game against Tennessee State, Shaw 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.
She then struggled in her next two games, scoring a total of just seven points, making just three of her 20 attempts from the field, missing all seven of her three-point attempts. However, she bounced back against UTPA with 17 points, going 6-for-9 from the field, including two threes.
Shaw then followed up that performance with an even bigger one, scoring a career-high 28 points against Texas Southern, including seven threes, which tied a school record. Shaw kept rolling heading into the Christmas break, knocking down another five threes and a total of 19 points at UTA. She then added 16 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists against Huston-Tillotson.
In her first two Southland games, Shaw racked up 13 points against the Sugar Bears, followed by 19 points, five rebounds and three assists against Oral Roberts. Then, in her third game in the conference, she exploded for a career-high 29 points, while once again tying the school record with seven threes. She also crashed the boards for 10 rebounds to pick up her second double-double of the season. She then added 19 more against SFA to raise her to the third leading scorer in the conference.
She struggled against McNeese, though, as the Cowgirls held Shaw to just 2-of-six from the field with no threes for just four points — her second lowest total of the season.
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. She then matched her career high in rebounds against UTSA, picking up five on offense and six on defense. Against UTPA, she hit double figures in the scoring column for the third time of the season with 12 points. Then at Texas Southern, Huff had seven points and six rebounds and tied career-highs in blocks (2) and steals (2).
Huff had arguably the biggest game of her tenure with a career-high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds against Huston-Tillotson for her second double-double of the season. She went 7-of-9 from the field and made all seven of her shots from the charity stripe. Huff also blocked two shots and dished out two assists.
After struggling in the Southland opener, Huff bounced back to score nine points against Oral Roberts. She also set career-highs in the game with three steals and four blocks. Then, against Northwestern State she helped crash the boards with seven rebounds, as well as going a perfect 3-for-3 from the field for six points. She followed that up with nine points against SFA.
Freshman Brittany Mbamalu has made a significant impact on the team, especially with her pinpoint shooting ability from three-point range. With 44 threes this season, she currently ranks ninth in Islanders' history for a single season.
In her first two games, she only saw two minutes of action combined. However, she logged 19 minutes of play against Southern Utah, and hit three threes for nine points, earning herself a spot in the starting rotation.
In her first seven games as a starter, Mbmamlu hit double figures in each outing. She now ranks second in the Southland in three pointers made (2.6 per game, 39 total). Mbamalu also shattered a school record with 18 three-point attempts in the game at UTA with the previous high being 13 — which she had tied in the game at Texas Southern.
Her streak of double figure performances was brought to a halt against Huston-Tillotson where she only had nine points. However, this was only in 16 minutes of play after she suffered an injury in the first half of play. She then got back in double figures with 10 points against UCA in her first conference game.
Mbamalu then posted her ninth and 10th games in double digits with four three pointers against the Lady Demons for 12 points before knocking down five from deep for a game-high 15 points at McNeese.
In each of its first three losses, A&M – Corpus Christi came 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. 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.
A&M – Corpus Christi saw a four-point lead against UTSA dwindle away over the final 3:22 of regulation before being outscored 6-1 in overtime to fall 55-50. The Islanders were downed by double-digits for the first time this season in a 75-64 defeat by UTA before losing a four-point game to UCA. It was another close loss in the last two matchups, as the Islanders fell to Northwestern State by six and to SFA by seven to keep their average margin of defeat at six at that time.
However, McNeese played a very solid game against the Islanders en route to a 28-point victory, which was the biggest of the season after the first seven losses came by a combined total of 43.
During the early signing period, the Islanders received National Letters of Intent from Emmeri Archer (Brooklyn, N.Y./ South Shore HS), Daryon Fields (Spring, Texas/St. Pius High School), Ashley James (Highland Village, Texas/Marcus High School) and Jennifer Ramirez (Brooklyn, N.Y./ASA Junior College).
A 5-foot-7 guard, Archer comes to the Islanders as a three-star recruit with a 90 ranking from ESPN. It also ranks her as the 18th player nationally at her position.
Coming from Spring, Texas, Fields will bring some inside presence to the Coastal Bend. The 6-foot-2 post is ranked 42nd in the nation at her position and 309th nationally overall. In her junior year at St. Pius, Fields nearly averaged a double-double with 10 points a game to go along with eight rebounds each time out.
James, a 5-foot-4 point guard from Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas. In her junior year, she was named first team all-district and the defensive player of the year in her district. That season, James averaged 10 points, four steals and three assists per game. She has also picked up district MVP and offensive player of the year awards during her high school career.
Ramirez, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., comes to the Island University from ASA Junior College in New York City. Ramirez played her high school basketball at New York City Lab School. In her junior season she averaged 18.8 points, including a 35-point performance in her team's playoff game, as well as 6.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds a game.
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 a year ago.
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 four freshmen. No. 63 in the ESPN Girls Recruiting National Rankings is 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 and 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.
After finishing last season 3-15 in conference play, 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 be back home next week, as two Louisiana teams will now come to the Coastal Bend in the form of Southeastern Louisiana and Southland newcomer New Orleans. The game against the Lady Lions will be on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Dugan Wellness Center, while the game against UNO will be downtown in the American Bank Center with tip scheduled for 4 p.m.