No. 4 Nicholls survives No. 5 Islanders, advances to Southland women’s semifinal
Player of the Year Cassidy Barrios tallies 22 points and 12 rebounds in close win
KATY, Texas – With a trip to the Southland Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament semifinals on the line, Cassidy Barrios showed why she was named the Southland Player of the Year.
Barrios scored eight of her 22 points in the fourth quarter as No. 4 Nicholls outlasted No. 5 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in a 61-59 nail biter that sends the Colonels (17-13) into the semifinals for the first time in program history. They will meet top seed Lamar on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT.
“I just decided we weren’t going to lose this game,” said Barrios, who added 12 rebounds and denied the Islanders’ (19-12) Dae Dae Evans a chance to put up a potential game-tying attempt as the final horn sounded. “It was a hard-fought team win, a total team effort and we just pulled through.”
Nicholls lost 76-61 to Lamar on Jan. 24, the only regular season meeting between the two.
In a game dominated by defense and runs from both teams, it was Barrios’ layup with 2:56 remaining that snapped a 52-52 tie and gave Nicholls the lead for good. Free throws from Barrios and Marina Lilly helped extend the margin to 58-54 but the Islanders moved within a point following Emma Young’s basket with 13 seconds left.
The Colonels were able to hang on to victory despite being outrebounded by a 55-38 margin. Corpus Christi had 25 offensive rebounds yet managed only 14 free throw attempts. Nicholls’ attack-style defense made up for their rebounding as they converted 20 Islanders turnovers into 30 points.
“The more disruptive we are on defense, that can really creative a whole lot of offense for us,” said Nicholls coach DoBee Plaisance. “We’re in our element when we are forcing turnovers and converting them. Our defense really motivates us.”
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi jumped out to an early 14-4 lead yet Nicholls closed out the first quarter with a run that brought them within 18-14 following the opening 10 minutes of play.
Held to just one basket in the first quarter, Barrios found her stride in the second. After Lilly’s layup gave the Colonels a 23-22 lead, Barrios knocked down a trey, shot a pair of free throws and added another jumper that helped Nicholls take a 30-22 advantage with 3:49 before intermission. Turnovers plagued the Islanders, who went nearly five minutes without a point until Kre’Ana Henry’s basket with 2:47 left in the half.
Henry’s basket helped revive A&M-Corpus Christi, which pulled within 35-32 on Brittany Mbamalu’s third trey of the half with 22 seconds remaining but Barrios hit one of her two free throws to allow Nicholls to take a 36-32 lead at the midway point of play.
The Colonels took their biggest lead of the day at 45-36 with 3:33 in the third but the Islanders stormed back with a 10-1 run that featured a pair of baskets from Tiara Matthews while Mbamalu added a basket before drilling a three-pointer that tied the score at 46 entering the fourth quarter. A&M-Corpus Christi’s comeback was helped by better ballhandling as the Islanders, who committed 14 turnovers in the first half, had just two in the third.
“I thought we executed the things we have to execute to win close basketball games,” said Islanders coach Royce Chadwick, “but you need a break or two here and there. It didn’t happen for us.”
The Colonels also did a solid job in containing Mbamalu, who scored 18 points but was held to just 6-for-16 shooting. Mbamalu had just one trey in the second half as Nicholls used a variety of zone defenses to deny the second team all-conference standout an opportunity to dictate the way she did in Wednesday’s victory over McNeese.
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