ISLANDERS VS. HOUSTON
SUNDAY, NOV. 25 • 2 P.M.
AMERICAN BANK CENTER • CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
TV: CSN-HOUSTON (TOM DORE AND TOM PENDERS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Islanders men's basketball team returns to action after a week's respite with a matchup against Houston on Stripes Court at the American Bank Center on Sunday, Nov. 25, at 2 p.m. The game will be televised by Comcast Sports Net - Houston with Tom Dore and Tom Penders on the call.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, four months heading into today's matchup.
• A&M - Corpus Christi put forth a strong comeback effort at Utah State, trimming a 22-point second-half deficit to seven before falling 77-68.
• Will Nelson scored all 17 of his points in the second half against USU, going 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
• The Islanders had 17 assists to just six turnovers against USU, the second lowest turnover total in Willis Wilson's tenure.
• Four players scored in double figures for the Islanders against the Aggies and the team had a season-best 10 three-pointers.
• The Houston game will be the second of just three home games before Christmas.
ANOTHER FAMILIAR FACE
For the third consecutive contest, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi will take on a foe that it saw last season, as Houston comes to the American Bank Center. A season ago, the Islanders fell to the Cougars 87-66 at Hofheinz Pavilion.
Jonathon Simmons had 22 points and Leon Gibson added 16 for UH, which shot 46.7 percent and added a 23-of-28 effort at the line in the win. Hameed Ali had a career-high 15 points to lead the Islanders.
A&M - Corpus Christi and Houston will do battle for the seventh time since the Islanders reformed as a Division I program, with the Cougars holding a 5-1 edge in the series. The Islanders lone win was an 81-78 overtime victory on Dec. 18, 2010, on Stripes Court.
IT'S RAINING THREES
The Islanders put on quite a show from the outside against Utah State, burying their first three attempts from distance and finishing the night 10-for-21. The triple served as the main weapon for the Islanders' frenetic comeback attempt, as A&M - Corpus Christi hit 7-of-12 in the second half.
Five different players buried triples, but the main catalyst was Will Nelson, who scored all 17 of his points in the second half. Nelson went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc, while fellow junior Joy Williamson added a 3-for-4 performance. Kennon Dvorak, James King and Brandon Pye each found the basket on a single three.
WHERE THERE'S A WILL...
Though his first five halves of Division I basketball were slightly disappointing, junior college transfer Will Nelson showed just what he was capable of in the second half against Utah State. Nelson scored 17 points in the half, nailing four threes, to spearhead the Islanders' comeback attempt.
Nelson was victimized by early foul trouble, as he was whistled for two touch fouls and a charge in the first half, limiting him to five minutes and 0-for-1 shooting. But after the break, he went 5-for-10 from the field and 3-for-3 from the line to notch a career-best 17 points.
The junior college transfer is averaging 14.0 points and 5.7 rebounds for the Islanders, both marks leading the team. He has hit 6-of-13 from beyond the arc for a 46.2 shooting percentage from downtown to find himself among the conference leaders.
Nelson is attending his fifth different school in the last five years, and the UIW game marked his first competitive contest in nearly two seasons. He took last season off of basketball to focus on his academics at Dodge City Community College. Prior to that, he played a year each at Hutchinson CC and Baton Rouge CC after playing for Port Allen (La.) High School.
As the youngest member of last year's freshman class, Hameed Ali showed flashes of being a strong player for the Islanders, hitting game-winning shots against Utah State and Sam Houston State in addition to having the ball in his hands with the chance at a win against South Alabama.
But Ali, who turned 19 in August, has shown significant growth in his maturity, particularly as a vocal leader for the Islanders. Formerly one of the most shy members of the team, Ali has become a constant voice in practice – whether he is on the court or on the sidelines.
His game has seen a similar progression. After averaging 4.3 points per game a year ago, the native of Hayward, Calif., has seen significant improvement on both ends of the court. He became the go-to player at Denver, hitting 6-of-15 shots to match his career high with 15 points. He followed that up with 10 points and a career-best seven assists without a turnover at Utah State. He is third on the team with an 11.3 point per game average.
He's only a sophomore, but Houston native Johnathan Jordan has been thrust into the role of leader on the young Islanders squad. Jordan led the Southland in assists per game in 2011-12 and despite his newbie status, was also among the leaders in minutes per game. With 26 starts, he entered the year with nearly as many Division I starts as the rest of his teammates combined (34).
Jordan was outstanding as a distributor a season ago, but his growth as a scorer has been notable. After averaging 6.5 points a season ago, the point guard has contributed 12.0 points per game, largely on his ability to drive the lane. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, he leads the Islanders with 26 points in the paint and has gone 14-for-29 from inside the arc this season.
The diminutive Jordan is also one of the most athletic Islanders, having twice won the slam-dunk contest at Islanders Invasion, thanks much to his 48-inch running vertical leap. His 138 assists last season were a new school record.
TAKING CARE OF THE BASKETBALL
While the Islanders' outside shooting was obviously a key component of their comeback effort at Utah State, the efficiency of the offense was also crucial. A&M - Corpus Christi had 17 assists to just six turnovers in the contest, and posted just three turnovers over the final 35:59 of the game.
The six turnovers were the second fewest in school history, just one off the mark set by last year's team against Texas Tech. Even more impressive, only four of the turnovers were conventional, as one came on a shot-clock violation and one was on an offensive foul by Will Nelson. Hameed Ali had seven assists without a turnover, while Johnathan Jordan posted six assists with just one giveaway.
THE NEXT ISLANDER
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi filled its one open scholarship for next year with a strong recruit out of Houston. Clear Springs High School's Jeff Beverly signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Islanders on Wednesday evening during the early signing period.
Beverly is a 6-foot-7, 235 pound forward who was an offensive force last season. He was named the Offensive MVP of District 24-5A and has been recognized as the seventh-best senior in Houston and the 12th-best player overall in the city. He has scored 20 points or more 11 times over the last two years.
The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of just 20 years, 4 months, and are one of just a handful of teams that have no seniors on their roster. In a fact that will make most reading this feel old, only one player – Will Nelson – was born in the 1980s. Less than half of the Islanders roster is over 20 years old.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is also one of just eight teams that entered the season with an average of less than one year of experience per player. The Islanders have 14 years of college playing experience among their 15 players, though only nine of those years are at the Division I level. Navy, with its 13 years of experience among 17 players, is the least experienced team in the nation on average, while Rice's eight total years of experience is the lowest overall total.
Overall, the Islanders started this season having played a total of 2,933 minutes at the Division I level, which comes out to an average of just under 196 minutes per player. Taking Johnathan Jordan out of the mix – as he finished in the conference's top 10 in minutes per game – and the remaining 14 players had averaged just 142 minutes – just over 3 1/2 games – in their careers.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi has averaged 24.7 points in the paint in its two games this season – half of the team's points from the floor. Point guard Johnathan Jordan has been the leader, driving his way to 26 points in the paint through the first two games.
More amazing was the start of the game at DU, when the Islanders did most of their damage inside. Twenty-two of the team's first 25 points came from the paint, as the team trailed Denver by six. After that point, it had just three baskets in the paint.
The Islanders are now just five wins away from reaching the 200-win plateau as a program. In their 13th year as a Division I program, the Islanders have an all-time mark of 195-187. Since the reforming of the intercollegiate athletics program in 1999-2000, A&M - Corpus Christi has had eight seasons of .500 or better.
Head Coach Willis Wilson is also approaching a personal milestone. The 18th-year bench boss is coaching in his 499th career game today and will reach the 500-game plateau on Wednesday night at Toledo.