CORPUS CHRISTI – Johnathan Jordan's runner in the lane with four seconds left proved the difference as the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi men's basketball team posted a 67-65 win over Central Arkansas on Saturday night at the American Bank Center. Playing in his final game in an Islanders uniform, senior Chris Hawkins-Mast delivered a career-high 25 points in the victory.
Junior Terence Jones had his second career double-double, scoring 15 points and snaring a career-high 10 rebounds in the victory. Jordan scored 10 points to go with four assists, and Hameed Ali added nine points for the Islanders. A&M – Corpus Christi shot 54.5 percent in the game, including a 12-for-17 (70.6 percent) performance in the second half.
UCA had three players finish in double figures, with LaQuentin Miles' 18 leading the way. Jarvis Garner added 15 and Mark Rutledge scored 12 for the Bears.
The Bears started off the game with an 8-4 lead early on. But a jumper by Hameed Ali jumpstarted the Islanders to a 14-2 run to open an 18-10 advantage of their own. The Islanders stepped up their defensive effort to key the rally, slowing the Bears' fast-paced attack and neutralizing their press defense at the same time. After a Rutledge three trimmed it to 18-13, the Islanders ran off nine straight points to push the advantage to 27-13, with a Hawkins-Mast fast-break dunk capping it off.
But the Bears battled back at that point, using their press to halt the Islanders momentum. UCA embarked on a 16-2 run of their own to draw even with the Islanders, as they held the home team without a field goal for a span of 8:36. A&M – Corpus Christi was able to head into the locker room with the lead, as a Hawkins-Mast free throw and a jumper by Jones with 30 seconds left put the team up 32-29 at the break.
At the start of the second half the Islanders and Bears went back-and-forth, keeping the score close over the next several minutes. Down 36-32, the Bears put together a 10-1 run over the next 3:30 to build a 42-37 lead over the Islanders for the first time since the opening minutes. The Islanders fought back with a 12-2 run of their own, though, with two layups by Hawkins-Mast and a three-ball by Jones the key plays.
From there, the two teams traded points over the next several possessions, with most of the damage both ways being done at the free-throw line. UCA continued to chip away at the lead, and a Robert Crawford three drew them even, 58-58, and two free throws by Rutledge pushed them back to the lead.
The Islanders came right back, though, with Maxey and Hawkins-Mast combining for three free throws to put the home team back ahead, 61-60. Rutledge followed by hitting 1-of-2 from the line to knot the score at 61-all once again. After Jones hit a huge jumper with 1:50 left, the Bears drew even, with Jarvis Garner's jumper from the left side making it 63 apiece. Hawkins-Mast put the home team ahead on the ensuing possession with a spinning layup inside, putting the home team ahead with 52 seconds to play.
The Bears drew up a play for Crawford on their next possession, and his three-point attempt sailed short, but right into the arms of Miles, who put it back to knot the score at 65-65 with 25 seconds left. After an Islanders timeout, Jordan held the ball at the top of the key, drove right and let loose a floater from just outside the lane, and it rattled home to give the Islanders a two-point lead. UCA got the ball into the hands of Rutledge for the win, but his three from the left corner came up short and the Islanders pulled out the victory.
A&M – Corpus Christi finishes the season with a 6-24 overall record and a 4-12 mark in Southland play. The Islanders finished the year in 11th place in the conference. UCA wrapped the year 8-21 and 3-13 in league action.