ISLANDERS (10-11, 3-7) AT
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's basketball will hit the road to take on the two schools transitioning to Division I with the first game coming against Incarnate Word on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the McDermott Convocation Center.
• While the team has 11 losses, they have had many heartbreakers as they have held the lead at the half in three of those and fell by single digits eight times.
• In their two outings prior to this current road trip, the Islanders set school records for largest margin of victory with a 29-point win against Southeastern, followed with a 53-point win against New Orleans, which was the biggest win against a Division I opponent and the third largest ever.
• The Islanders scored 97 points against the Privateers, which tied for the sixth most in school history and the second highest in Southland Conference play. It was the most since they also scored 97 against Cal State-Bakersfield on March 17, 2010.
• The magic numbers for the team this season had been 40 and 70. The Islanders were 7-0 when shooting 40 percent or better and 6-0 when scoring at least 70 points. However, this streak came to a halt, as the team shot 40 percent and scored 76 points against SHSU in a losing effort and then scored 72 points but gave up a season-high 87 against Lamar.
• Mbamalu has 62 of those threes, which ranks third for most threes made in a season by an Islander with the record sitting at 75. The freshman has already entered the career top 10 as well.
• After averaging 21.5 turnovers in nonconference play, the Islanders have done a better job of holding on to the ball with just 14.7 turnovers a game in Southland play heading into the Lamar game. However, they coughed it up a season-high 31 times to increase their turnover average up to 16.3.
A&M – Corpus Christi and Incarnate Word have only matched up one other time, as the Islanders knocked off the Cardinals in nonconference play with a 62-51 win on Dec. 13, 2009, in Corpus Christi.
UIW comes into this matchup with a 2-6 record in Southland Conference play and an 8-12 record overall. The Cardinals are not eligible for postseason play this year, as they are still making the transition into Division I. In fact, only three of their eight wins this season have come against DI opponents. The biggest of those was a 67-64 win against Oral Roberts at home.
Other than that win and a 29-point win against winless New Orleans, the Cardinals have had a tough go of it in their first year in the Southland, as they have a -5.2 scoring margin in conference play, which is the second-worst in the league.
UIW does not make a ton of threes, averaging just five a game in conference play, which is ninth in the Southland. However, it does make a high percentage of the looks it takes from downtown, converting on 34.5 percent in conference, which ranks them second. The Cardinals' leading three-point shooter is Natalie Hessong who has converted on 42 of her 101 treys, making up for nearly half of the team's threes.
The Cardinals do not have a very deep bench, as only seven different players have seen action in at least 18 games with each of those averaging at least 24 minutes a game.
The team has two scorers who are averaging double digits a game, as Rose Whitehead has posted 13.8 points a game, while Ifunanya Mora is dropping 10.5 a game. Mora also leads the team in rebounding, as she has pulled down 7.2 on a nightly basis.
An interesting aspect of the Islanders' two big wins last week is that they put up huge offensive numbers despite having struggles in their three-point shooting – which has been one of their strengths all year. They went a combined 8-of-36 in those games despite entering those contests with a 34 percent shooting percentage from deep.
However, the team did make 37 of its total 73 shots from the field against Southeastern Louisiana to shoot over 50 percent for the first time against a Southland opponent since it went 52.5 percent from the field against McNeese State on Feb. 20, 2010.
Against SHSU, the Islanders struggled from deep again, making just five of their 18 shots from three with three of those coming from Alissa Campanero on her four shots from long distance. Brittany Mbamalu got back on track against Lamar after going 4-of-25 in her previous three games from deep. She once again tied a school record with seven threes on 14 attempts against the Lady Cardinals. However, the rest of the team made just two of its nine three-point shots to continue the overall lull from behind the arc.
PAINTING THE SCORESHEET RED
A big part of the offensive success a week ago was the team's ability to work the ball inside. That was accentuated with a huge day in the paint against Southeastern, as the Islanders scored 62 of their 83 points in the paint. Those 62 points alone would have produced more total points than the Islanders mustered in five out of nine of their games played in the Southland.
A FRESH LOOK
An obvious aspect when looking at last week's box scores is the presence of Islanders freshmen in the starting lineup. Coach Chadwick and his staff infused Camesha Davis and Kassie Jones into the lineup for the first time together and the freshmen flourished, as the duo combined for 29 in the Southeastern win, followed by a combined 31 against New Orleans with Davis notching her first double-double as well as career highs with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Against SHSU, Jones kept rolling for her third consecutive game with double figures in the scoring column to go along with a career-high five rebounds. On the other hand, Camesha Davis made her only field goal attempt and pulled down five rebounds, but was limited due to foul trouble and picked up her fifth with more than 10 minutes left on the clock. The next time out against Lamar, the duo combined for 22 points, with Jones picking up 14 of those points. Fellow freshman Brittany Mbamalu tallied 22 points by herself, meaning the trio of freshman accounted for 61.1 percent of the team's points.
Jones has started the last six games, while Davis has gotten the first four starts of her career in as many games. As a team, the Islanders have sent out seven different combinations to start games this season.
A PLUM JOB
Sophomore Ashanti Plummer has had her offensive struggles throughout her Islanders career, but against New Orleans, she had an opportunity to overcome those. The sophomore put up the first double-digit scoring performance of her career, as she posted 10 points, shooting 3-of-5 from the field and 4-of-6 from the free-throw line with five rebounds in 20 minutes of play.
The Islanders had a wealth of distribution when it came to their contributions against New Orleans. All 12 players on the roster not only played in the game, but all of them also recorded double-digit minutes. Eleven of the 12 grabbed rebounds, 10 of the 12 scored points and nine of the 12 recorded assists in the ballgame.
Against SHSU all 12 players once again saw playing time with 10 different players getting in the scoring column and just as many pulling down at least one rebound. In their last three games, the Islanders have had at least four different players record double digits in points scored.
Only 10 players saw action against the Lady Cardinals, but each of those players played double-digit minutes and nine of the 10 scored. Half of those players also recorded at least eight points.
STOPPING ON DIMES
Over the last four games, the Islanders totaled 79 assists. The 27 dimes against the Lady Lions marked the most against a Southland opponent and were just three off the school record of 30 that was set against Huston-Tillotson on Feb. 19, 2001. The three games prior to the game at Lamar represented three of the top four assist games on the season.
This season the Islanders have already tallied four games with at least 20 assists after not having any in the last three seasons combined.
ROLLING UP THE POINTS
The 180 points in the last two wins were the most since the Islanders scored a combined 181 points on Dec. 9, 2006 and Dec. 16, 2006 with 85 vs. Huston-Tillotson followed by 96 against St. Mary's. The last time A&M – Corpus Christi scored that many against two D-I opponents was during the last two games of 2002-03 season, as it scored a combined 181 against IPFW and Lipscomb.
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.
However, as of late, the Islanders have had similar rebounding results as the first games of the season. Through the first six games in Southland Conference play, the rebounding difference has led to several of the Islanders' losses, as they were outrebounded by an average margin of 6.2, dropping them from first to fourth in that category.
Their work on the boards helped lead the Islanders to their massive wins against Southeastern and New Orleans though, as they outrebounded the Lady Lions 44-34 and then pulled down an incredible 29 more boards than the Privateers.
In the loss to SHSU the Islanders fought hard on the boards against a team that has a lot of size, but ended up with two boards less than the Bearkats. Then, despite the loss to Lamar, A&M – Corpus Christi outrebounded the Lady Cardinals by eight.
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 15.2 points a game, which ranks sixth in the Southland. 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-6 from the field with no threes and just four points — her second lowest total of the season. Then, despite scoring 11 at Nicholls, she struggled from deep once again, making just one of her seven three-point attempts.
It was an all-around solid performance from the senior against Southeastern, as she scored 12 points to go along with eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block.
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.
Despite coming off the bench against Southeastern, Huff had one of her biggest games in conference, going 8-of-13 from the field for 18 points to go along with six rebounds in a big win. Then, once again off the bench, Huff scored 14 in the dominant win against New Orleans. She then kept rolling with her third consecutive game with double digits in the score column with 13 against SHSU, giving her 45 points over that three-game stretch.
Freshman Brittany Mbamalu has made a significant impact on the team, especially with her pinpoint shooting ability from three-point range. With 62 threes this season, she currently ranks third in Islanders' history for a single season and has even entered the career top 10 in her first collegiate season of play.
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 first in the Southland in three pointers made (3.0 per game, 62 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, she only recorded 16 minutes of play after she suffered an injury in the first half. She then got back in double figures with 10 points against UCA in her first conference game.
Mbamalu 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.
She had the biggest game of her young career against Nicholls with 23 points to go along with seven threes, tying a school record. Amazingly, 20 of those points came in the first half, as well as six of the threes before the Colonels did a better job guarding her in the final 20 minutes of play.
Heading into the Lamar game Mbamalu was just 4-of-25 in her previous three games before exploding against the Lady Cardinals to tie a school record once again with seven made threes in the game for 22 points. However, much like the game against Nicholls most of those points came in the first half, as she made six of those threes in the first 20 minutes of play before the Lamar defense tightened up on her in the second half.
Time after time the Islanders have been involved in nail bitters with a few going there way, but several of them ending up with them coming up just short. Eight of the Islanders' 11 losses this season have come by single digits. The only game in which they really were blown out was a 28-point loss at McNeese. Against Lamar, another of the teams' double-digit losses, the Islanders held a three-point lead before turnovers caused a tough second half of play. If you exclude those two games from the equation, the Islanders have lost their other nine games by a combined total of 53 points, an average of just 5.9 points.
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.
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.
A&M – Corpus Christi will finish up its season-long four-game road trip on Saturday, as it heads to Abilene, Texas, to take on Abilene Christian for the first time in school history. Tip is set for 1 p.m. in the Moody Coliseum.