Holding off a late charge for the second consecutive day, the No. 5 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi women's basketball team needed three players in double figures and a 45.5-percent shooting clip to upset No. 4 seed New Orleans, 88-77, on Friday in the second round of the Southland Conference Tournament.
The Islanders (14-17, 9-9) advanced to their first semifinal since 2010, when the Blue and Green reached the championship game, and fourth in program history.
Corpus Christi connected on seven 3-pointers and went 31-of-39 at the free throw line. Kassie Jones dropped a game-high 26 points, while Brittany Mbamalu and Dalesia Booth went for 22 and 13 points, respectively. Camesha Davis hauled down 11 rebounds for the second straight day.
"I think there's a lot to playing yesterday," head coach Royce Chadwick said. "You're used to this arena, you had your fans here, and your fans are jacked up to see you again because you won yesterday. Everyone is feeling good and you've got momentum. It's about momentum in March. I thought we used that to our advantage in the first five minutes and then carried it into the second quarter."
Going wire-to-wire, Corpus Christi jumped out front early with a 20-6 run in the first eight minutes. The Islanders grew their lead to 18 just before the break with 11 straight points, including five from Mbamalu.
New Orleans (14-15, 9-9) cut into the Blue and Green's 22-point lead at the end of the third period. The Islanders faced their second straight First Team All-Southland guard in Randi Brown.
Held to a relatively quiet first half with just eight points, Brown rallied the Privateers to a 14-0 run with nine points, as the Blue and Green saw its lead cut all the way down to six with 4:38 to play, due largely to 12 fourth-quarter turnovers.
After layups from Camesha Davis and Jones, Corpus Christi outlasted the onslaught by going 10-of-12 at the stripe down the stretch.
"We've developed our character; we've grown up a lot as a team," Chadwick added. "This was a gritty game. It was a tremendous, gritty performance from our players and that's what wins in March. You have to show your tenacity and we did that today."
The Islanders avenged a 21-point loss to New Orleans at the start of the Southland Conference season by rejecting nine shots for the second straight day.
>> The Islanders outrebounded New Orleans 47-32 for the sixth plus-15 rebounding margin of the season.
>> Corpus Christi has won its last five games for its longest winning streak since 2014-15.
>> The Blue and Green scored 20 points in three quarters for the second time this season, as the Islanders scored their most points since 90 against Houston Baptist in 2010.
JONES AND MBAMALU LEAD THE WAY
>> Kassie Jones and Brittany Mbamalu combined to score 48 of the Islanders 88 points.
>> Mbamalu made only five shots from the floor, four from the perimeter, while making eight free throws.
>> Jones went 8-of-15 from the floor and 7-of-8 at the charity stripe.
>> It was the first game with two 20-point players for the Islanders since Dec. 11, 2015, when Jones went for 24 along with Davis against Angelo State.
MAKING THE FREEBIES
>> The Islanders tied for the third most free throws in program history with 31 on the afternoon.
>> Six different Islanders scored at the line, with perfect performances from Uri Jolivette and Ashanti Plummer.
>> Brittany Mbamalu tied the school record for 3-pointers in a career at 209 with a quartet of makes on Friday.
>> Entering the tournament the Houston native had only connected on five long balls in the four games.
>> With her next make, she will not only surpass Nicole Duncan for the all-time lead, Mbamalu will tie Duncan for most 3-pointers at the Southland Conference Tournament in a career.
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