Late Rally Not Enough, As Islanders Fall to Rice 78-66

HOUSTON – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi men's basketball team staged a furious late rally, but it was not enough to overcome an early deficit in a 78-66 loss to Rice on Wednesday night at Tudor Fieldhouse. Terence Jones led three players in double figures for the Islanders (1-11), while Rice had six players finish with 10 points or more.

Myron Dempsey delivered 14 points and Chris Hawkins-Mast added 13 for the visitors, while Jason Smith had a career-high nine as well. The Islanders used a staunch defensive effort to produce a season-high 15 steals, led by four each from Dempsey and Johnathan Jordan. Arsalan Kazemi led the way with 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Owls, while also notching five assists. The Islanders put together a late 32-15 run to trim a 25-point deficit to just eight.

Texas A&M – Corpus Christi got out to a 6-2 lead behind two baskets by Dempsey, but the Owls jumped back with a 10-0 run to regain a 12-6 advantage. From there on, the two teams went blow-for-blow over the next several minutes, with the Islanders pulling as close as two, but the Owls getting the lead to 19-16 after Jason Smith sank a pair of free throws.

Rice then went on an 8-0 run, with Kazemi and Jarelle Reischel each scoring four points and forcing an Islanders timeout at the 6:40 mark. The TO slowed the rally, but the Owls had another in them, a 12-2 run that ballooned the lead to 19 with 2:58 remaining before the break. The Islanders trimmed it to 40-25, but Rice went into the break with the momentum after a second-chance layin from Tamir Jackson to make it a 17-point advantage heading to the locker room.

Rice continued that momentum out of the break, starting the second half on a 6-0 run, taking advantage of cold Islanders shooting, before a Smith layup snapped the string to make it 48-27 at the 16:33 mark. That set off a 7-0 run for the Islanders, the highlight a Jake Kocher three followed by a steal and layin by Smith to make it 48-32.

But the offense went cold for the visitors at that point, as Rice embarked on an 8-1 run over the next 6:28 to push the lead to 56-33. The Islanders got a pair of three-point plays from Hawkins-Mast to cut into the Rice lead, and the Islanders continued to press and force Owls mistakes. Steals on back-to-back possessions led to layups for Jones and Johnathan Jordan, making the deficit 62-46 with 6:20 left.

The rally continued for the Islanders, as they continued to produce turnovers possession after possession. Jones hit four free throws – two for a personal and two for a technical, both on Dylan Ennis – to bring it into single digits with the score 70-61 with 1:57 left. Hawkins-Mast added a third three-point play to trim it to 74-66, but the Owls hit their free throws in the final seconds to close out the victory.

The Islanders are now for a week, as they will open Southland Conference play on Wednesday, Jan. 4, against Lamar at the American Bank Center. The game, slated for a 7 p.m. tipoff, will be televised on Southland TV and will be one of two "Los Islanders" games, with $3 of every single-game ticket purchased going to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.