Saturday, Feb. 19 • 7:05 p.m. CT
Montagne Center (10,080) • Beaumont, Texas
RADIO: 1230 AM, 103.3 and 96.1 FM (Steven King)
LIVE VIDEO/STATS: LamarCardinals.com
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team enters its final five games needing a strong finish to push its way into the Southland Conference Tournament. The Islanders sit at 3-8 in league play after a four-game conference (five overall) losing streak in February. The Islanders have not emerged victorious since a 46-45 road victory over Stephen F. Austin on Jan. 26. The Islanders are still alive, however, in the wide-open Southland.
Last time out, the Islanders fell to conference-leading Texas State, 66-61, on Tuesday night at the American Bank Center. Four Islanders finished in double figures in the contest, but 23 turnovers from the home squad and a 27-of-32 night at the free-throw line from the Bobcats spelled defeat for the Islanders. Lamar enters tonight's contest at 5-6 in conference play after consecutive wins, over Nicholls and Southeastern Louisiana. Those two victories snapped a five-game skid for the Cardinals, who have lost three league games by just two points.
• Saturday's game will witness a contrast in styles, as Lamar leads the conference in scoring, while the Islanders are bringing up the rear. On the other hand, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is third in conference games in scoring defense, and the Cardinals are tied for ninth.
• Perry Clark will see a familiar face on the other end of the court on Saturday night, as Lamar head coach Steve Roccaforte served as an assistant coach for Clark at Tulane.
• Sophomore Terence Jones had a banner day from the field last week at Sam Houston State, as the Baltimore native scored a career-high 21 points. Jones was 4-of-7 from downtown and 8-of-14 from the field in the contest.
• In his second start of the season at SHSU, Jawan Nelson had one of his finest games in an Islanders uniform. The junior scored 10 points and added six boards in a career-high 24 minutes. He added nine points against Texas State.
• Senior Justin Reynolds led all scorers with 16 points against Texas State, including hitting the team's only two three-pointers. Last week against Savannah State, the Pearland, Texas, native finished with 19 points and a career-best 15 rebounds in a losing effort.
• Reynolds and fellow senior Demond Watt are just the second pair of Islanders teammates to top 1,000 career points at the same time, joining Corey Lamkin and Travis Bailey, who did so in 2005. Watt (1,191) is sixth in school history, while Reynolds (1,173) is seventh in Islanders lore.
• Chris Mast returned at SHSU after missing the previous three games with a foot injury and played eight minutes. Against Texas State, he was back in the groove, scoring 10 points to go along with six boards and two steals off the bench.
• The Islanders earned over $10,000 in pledges to the One Hundred Club Scholarship as part of the Hoops for Blue Scholars program. The scholarship benefits Corpus Christi police officers and their families.
SCOUTING THE CARDINALS
With back-to-back wins over East Division opponents, Lamar finds itself right back in the thick of the conference tournament race at 5-6, just a game out of the sixth spot. With wins over Nicholls and at Southeastern Louisiana, the Cardinals are riding a two-game win streak into tonight's game.
Mike James has been the big scorer for Lamar, mostly off the bench, averaging 12.1 points per game. He scored a school-record 52 off the bench against Louisiana College. Anthony Miles (11.5) and Kendrick Harris (11.2) also average in double figures for the Cardinals.
A LOOK AT THE SOUTHLAND
With five games remaining per team, the Southland is still wide open, especially in the West. Texas State is in the lead at 8-3, but four teams are two games back at 6-5. The Islanders are three games back at 3-8 in league play.
In the East, things are only slightly more spread out, with McNeese State and Northwestern State atop the division at 7-4. Southeastern Louisiana currently sits at 6-5, while Nicholls and Lamar are the first teams out of the tourney at 5-6. Central Arkansas (1-10) could be the first team officially eliminated from the postseason today.
The Islanders and Cardinals play very different styles offensively. Lamar, a team that likes to run, is leading the league with an 83.5 scoring average, while the slow-down Islanders are scoring just 61.0 points this year. The Islanders are 6-1 when getting to 69 points this season, the lone loss to Ohio on Nov. 21. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is 6-6 when holding opponents under 69.
Three-point shooting could prove a key in the game, as the Cardinals love to shoot from long range, while that has been one of the principal struggles for the Islanders. Lamar has shot 37.1 percent from downtown to the Islanders 28.4.
Islanders Head Coach Perry Clark, who entered the 300-win club with his team's victory over Southeastern Louisiana, will see a familiar face when he peers down to the other end of the sideline on Saturday night.
Steve Roccaforte, in year five with the Cardinals, served as Clark's assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Tulane from 1994-98. The duo led the Green Wave to three straight 20-win seasons and three postseason trips.
A year ago as a redshirt freshman, Terence Jones was an up-and-down player who showed flashes of brilliance. As of late, Jones has become an important distributor for the Islanders, and leads the team with his 55 assists.
But after not showing the scoring touch he had early in the season, Jones exploded for 21 points at Sam Houston State. The Baltimore native went 4-of-7 from downtown and 8-of-14 overall to go along with four assists.
In the two games in Las Vegas, he proved to be a far more impressive all-around player. Against Bethune-Cookman, Jones shot a three early in the shot clock and head coach Perry Clark sent a message by pulling him in the opening minute.
Rather than sulk, though, Jones changed his game, and against Valpo he had a season-high five assists to just one turnover, and also scored nine points. Over the last 16 games, he has posted 38 assists to 30 turnovers, including three games with at least four assists and no turns.
The most imposing player on the Islanders' roster is junior Jawan Nelson, though he's not as bulky as he was a year ago. The 6-foot-9 Nelson worked hard in the offseason to cut weight from his frame, and has dropped over 60 pounds.
In his second start of the season, Nelson poured in 10 points and grabbed six boards in a career-high 24 minutes at Sam Houston State. He followed that up with nine points and three boards against Texas State in limited action off the bench.
The Chicago, Ill., native is averaging 4.8 points so far this season after averaging just 1.4 a year ago. He also has proven to be an effective weapon from beyond the arc, as his .378 shooting percentage is second on the team.