Men's Basketball Hits Road to Face Toledo, Iowa
ISLANDERS AT TOLEDO
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 28 • 7 P.M. ET/6 P.M. CT
JOHN F. SAVAGE ARENA • TOLEDO, OHIO
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Islanders men's basketball team heads out on the road for two games in a span of four days, at Toledo and at Iowa this week. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi opens the trip with a Wednesday night game against the Rockets in Savage Arena. These will be the last games for the Islanders before taking a two-week break for finals.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, four months and two days heading into today's matchup.
• A&M - Corpus Christi went wire-to-wire with undefeated Houston on Sunday before falling in a 77-75 defeat.
• Nate Maxey set a school record with nine blocks against the Cougars, eight of them coming in the first half.
• The Islanders have posted 35 assists to 11 turnovers over the last two contests.
• Will Nelson scored a career-best 28 points against the Cougars, but his buzzer-beating shot attempt went off the back iron.
• Joy Williamson came off the bench to go 6-of-9 from the field, adding seven rebounds, four assists and three steals to his 13 points.
• Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is ineligible for the postseason because of poor results in the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate. No Islander who has played under Wilson had anything to do with the subpar score.
TO THE MAXEY
Sophomore Nate Maxey jumps off the page when looking at statistics and measurables. The San Diego native posted the fourth-highest block total (48) in school history in his freshman season, and heading into this season was measured as having a 7-foot-10 wing span.
He etched his name in the record books once again last contest, setting a new school record for blocks with nine in the contest. In fact, he snapped his own record before the halftime buzzer sounded, swatting eight shots. With 18 blocks in four games, he is currently tied for third in the nation in blocks per game.
Maxey has also upped his offensive game this season, and his performance against Houston showed it. He flushed five dunks for 10 points against the Cougars and improved upon his .750 field-goal percentage (12-for-16 on the year).
Maxey, who averaged 3.5 points and 3.0 rebounds a year ago, has added about 15 pounds to his 6-foot-11 frame and has also matured off the court heading into his sophomore season.
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.
He one-upped himself against Houston. Nelson scored 28 points, albeit on 9-for-28 shooting, to lead the way for the Islanders. His performance was accentuated with a 9-for-10 outing at the line, where he is hitting at an .808 clip this year.
The junior college transfer is averaging 17.5 points and 6.2 rebounds for the Islanders, both marks leading the team. He has hit 7-of-20 from beyond the arc on the season.
Nelson is attending his fifth different school in the last five years, and the UIW exhibition marked his first competitive game 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.
DRIVE FOR 500
Head Coach Willis Wilson will reach a personal milestone in tonight's game. The 18th-year bench boss is coaching in his 500th career game tonight against the Rockets. Wilson, who is the all-time winningest coach in Rice history, oversaw 465 games for the Owls and tonight will be his 35th game at the helm of the Islanders.
Wilson isn't the only one approaching a milestone – so is his program. The Islanders are 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 195-188. Since the reforming of the intercollegiate athletics program in 1999-2000, A&M - Corpus Christi has had eight seasons of .500 or better.
NEW ON THE DOCKET
After playing their last three games against teams they saw a season ago, the Islanders will face Toledo for the first time in program history. Saturday's contest in Iowa City will also be the first for the Islanders against the Hawkeyes.
PRIDE AND JOY
Among the Islanders, there is no personality quite like that of the appropriately-named Joy Williamson. The junior transfer's ebullient and energetic personality is matched only by his intensity and pace on the basketball court.
Williamson has developed into an excellent sixth man for the Islanders, as he leads the team with 37 bench points on the season. The junior college transfer has developed into an impressive defender for the Islanders as well, with his 2.3 steals per game ranking fourth in the Southland.
Against Houston, the guard's offensive ability shined brightly, going 6-for-9 from the field for a career-best 13 points. But he filled the stat sheet in all other aspects of his game as well – Williamson snared seven rebounds, dished out four assists to no turnovers and registered three steals, all in a career-high 33 minutes.
Williamson, who had his first career game in double figures at Denver, has had five-plus points in each of his four games in an Islanders uniform. He has increased his minutes in each contest, and has been a consistent shooter overall (.448) from downtown (.455) and from the free-throw line (.714).
Williamson played two seasons at Redlands Community College, where he was coached by current Islanders assistant Yaphett King. The Oklahoma City native scored 18.7 points and grabbed 8.2 rebounds at Redlands after a standout high school career at Putnam City North High School.
NO TURNS ALLOWED
The last two games have seen the Islanders post ball control like no other time in program history. After posting six turnovers at Utah State – the second lowest total in school history – the Islanders matched the school record with only five turns against Houston on Sunday. With an average of just 10.3 turnovers per game, the Islanders are 17th in the nation in the category. A year ago, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi was 291st in the nation out of 338 teams ranked.
One of the primary reasons for the improvement in turnovers has been the youngest member of last year's freshman class. Hameed Ali showed flashes of being a strong player for the Islanders in 2011-12, 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.
Ali posted a career-best seven assists at Utah State, and followed that up with six more against Houston. But far more impressive were his turnover numbers – 0 and 1, respectively – in those two games. The sophomore is currently fourth in the league in assists, and his 4.8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is atop the Southland and 21st nationally. He also leads the Islanders and is 44th in the nation in steals per game.
Nate Maxey was obviously the centerpiece, but he wasn't the only player who had a stellar game deflecting Houston's attempts. Zane Knowles had a career-high three in the game, while Johnathan Jordan and Ted Wang had one each. The Islanders set a school record as a team with their 14 rejections against the Cougars.