Women’s Basketball — Islanders’ depth too much for Lady Demons to overcome in SLC Tournament opener

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BOX SCORE

KATY, Texas – Throughout the regular season, the Northwestern State duo of Beatrice Attura and Cheyenne Brown were the highest-scoring pair in the Southland Conference.

Attura and Brown reprised their leading roles on the Lady Demons’ offense in Thursday’s Southland Conference Tournament first-round matchup with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

The Islanders’ depth, however, trumped Northwestern State as fifth-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi used a strong defensive third quarter to erase a four-point halftime deficit and eliminate the Lady Demons with a 57-46 victory.

“The thing that got us in the second half, I think, was their depth,” first-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said. “They were able to send waves in and pressure us defensively. That third quarter kind of broke us right there. We have to ride our horses, and we rode them all year. We knew going in we wouldn’t be able to pull Bea and Cheyenne very much. They don’t want to come out either. We fought to the end.”

After a taut first half in which the largest lead was Northwestern State’s five-point advantage with 2:45 to play in the first quarter, the eighth-seeded Lady Demons (13-17) managed just eight points in the third quarter, allowing the Islanders (13-17) to build a 12-point margin with 39 seconds to play in the quarter and then match it with 9:29 to play in the game.

At that point, Attura, a first-team All-Southland Conference selection, sparked an 8-0 Lady Demons run with a pair of steals she converted into a pair of free throws and a layup.

Two Shahd Abboud free throws and a Tia Youngblood inside bucket – Northwestern State’s lone bench points of the game – cut the lead to 40-36.

“(Islanders coach) Royce (Chadwick) did a great job of keeping everybody fresh and sending them at us,” Dupuy said. “I’m proud of us for fighting to the end, but we just couldn’t get over the hump.”

Attura and Brown each finished with 16 points. Attura concluded her career as the 12th all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,446 points. She knocked down one 3-pointer, extending her school single-season record to 88.

The Islanders were balanced on both sides. Dalesia Booth led Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with 14 points while Brittany Mbamalu added 12 points, snuffing out another late Lady Demons run with her lone 3-poitner of the game.

Three other Islanders scored at least eight points while just Attura and Brown finished with more than seven points for the Lady Demons.

“They really dictated the pace on the defensive end,” Attura said. “They were denying me the ball, our guards the ball. That gave us some trouble. We picked up our dribble when we shouldn’t have. We had turnovers that were due to that pressure.”

After the Islanders snapped NSU’s 8-0 run with a four-point spurt, the Lady Demons again cut the lead to five points before Mbamalu buried a right-wing 3-pointer with 3:05 to play to re-establish an eight point advantage.

The first half Thursday featured some typical tournament-opening offensive sluggishness.

The Lady Demons, who ranked third in the Southland in field goal percentage, hit just 29.6 percent of their shots while the Islanders connected on just 23.8 percent of theirs (6-for-26).

The result was a four-point Lady Demons lead thanks to a Libba Gilliam putback just before the halftime buzzer.

“Defensively, in the first half, I felt we did a great job of implementing our game plan,” Dupuy said. “Changing defenses hurt them. The thing is we didn’t translate our defense into offense. When we’ve been good this year, we’ve been able to do that.”

Brown was big early, scoring six first-half points and adding her second career 3-pointer late in the game, cutting the Islanders’ lead to five.

“I’m very proud of Cheyenne’s development this year,” Dupuy said. “Seventeen points and seven rebounds in conference as a sophomore is just tremendous. From where she came from last year to this year, she’ll be a presence next year on both ends of the floor.”

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