ISLANDERS (1-7) VS. UTSA (3-6)
FRIDAY, DEC. 21 • 7 P.M.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS • AMERICAN BANK CENTER
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 the American Bank Center in search of its winning ways when it plays host to UTSA on Friday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m. The Islanders are looking to snap a seven-game losing streak, while UTSA has fallen in five consecutive games. The game will be televised on CSN-Houston. Click here to find the channel on your provider, or if you don't get the channel, visit IWantCSNHouston.com to let your provider know you want the channel.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, three months and 18 days heading into today's matchup.
• Texas A&M - Corpus Christi returns home after playing six of its last seven games away from the American Bank Center.
• Junior Will Nelson bounced back with 17 points at Texas A&M after posting just 21 points over the previous three games combined. The JC transfer leads the Islanders with 13.5 points per game.
• Freshman Brandon Pye came out of nowhere to score a career-high 17 points at South Alabama and added eight more at A&M. The freshman is 9-for-15 from the field and 6-for-10 from downtown in the last two games.
• Junior Joy Williamson has scored in double figures in six straight contests, pouring in between 10 and 14 points in each contest.
• 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.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders and UTSA will meet for the 18th time since Texas A&M - Corpus Christi moved to Division I, the most meetings with any team in Islanders history. A&M - Corpus Christi is 10-7 all-time against the Roadrunners, including a 5-3 mark on its home court.
Last season, the two teams played two intense games, with each squad taking a game on the other's home court. Ths Islanders went to San Antonio and held off a furious UTSA charge to earn a 50-49 win. Then, later in the season, the Roadrunners got their revenge. UTSA used a late rally to send the game to overtime before moving on to an 86-82 victory in the extra session.
Among returning players, Nate Maxey averaged 8.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in the two contests to go along with a pair of blocks, while Johnathan Jordan averaged six points and dished out a total of 11 assists.
EASY AS PYE
Entering the season, the coaching staff was high on the outside shooting ability of the Islanders freshman guards. Early on, the youngsters struggled in their distance shooting this season. Mansfield, Texas, native Brandon Pye went 3-for-8 in the opener, but hit a skid after, going 1-for-12 from beyond the arc over the next five games.
At South Alabama, the youngster came alive, shooting 5-of-7 from downtown and 6-of-10 overall for a career-high 17 points. He played 32 minutes in the contest, and added career highs in steals (four), assists (two) and rebounds (five) without a turnover. He followed that up with another strong outing at Texas A&M, going 3-for-5 for eight points.
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 began the year as an excellent sixth man for the Islanders, and he leads the team with 61 bench points on the season. He was rewarded for his strong play by earning starts at South Alabama and at Texas A&M.
The Oklahoma City native has been remarkably consistent over the last six games, each time scoring between 10 and 14 points. In each of his last three games he has made five field goals, doing so on either 12 or 13 attempts.
He has hit at least one three-pointer in each of the last seven games, and has gone six straight with at least three field goals. He has at least one steal in every game this year, and is third in the Southland in the category. Perhaps most impressively, he has registered at least 30 minutes in each of the last six games, including a career-high 39 at Texas A&M.
His finest game came against Houston, as the guard's offensive ability shined brightly. He went 6-for-9 from the field for 13 points, filling 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 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.
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 by a 9-for-10 outing at the line, where he is hitting at a .730 clip this year.
He stumbled against Toledo and Iowa, with just nine points on 2-for-13 shooting combined, but bounced back at South Alabama. Against the Jaguars, he went 4-for-8 with 12 points and eight rebounds – his fourth game with eight boards or more on the year. He followed that up with a 17-point effort at Texas A&M, adding nine rebounds despite being limited by three first-half fouls.
The junior college transfer is averaging 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Islanders, both marks leading the team. He has struggled a bit with his accuracy, though, shooting .333 overall and .263 from beyond the arc..
Nelson is attending his fifth different school in the last five years. He took last season off of basketball to focus on academics at Dodge City Community College. Prior to that, he played a year each at Hutchinson CC and Baton Rouge CC after graduating from Port Allen (La.) High School.
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. He was recently named to the Bob Cousy Award Watch List by the Basketball Hall of Fame, recognizing the top point guards in the nation.
Jordan was outstanding as a distributor a season ago, but his growth as a scorer is notable. After averaging 6.5 points a season ago, the point guard has contributed 12.9 points per game, largely on his ability to get to the rim and the free-throw line. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, he leads the team with 46 points in the paint and has hit a team-best 43 free throws.
Perhaps more impressive is Jordan's all-around game. His distribution is what he is most known for, and with 4.6 assists per game this year, he sits third in the Southland. He is also strong on the glass, having grabbed seven-plus rebounds three times this year. He shows high on the stamina scale, with his 34.6 minutes per game third in the league.
The diminutive guard is one of the most athletic Islanders, as evidenced by his two slam-dunk contest championships, thanks to his 48-inch running vertical leap. His 138 assists last season set a school record.
COMING ON STRONG
Junior Zane Knowles has elevated his game recently for the Islanders. The transfer from Pearl River CC entered the year as the team's most physical big man, and he has used that size to his advantage as of late. Knowles increased his point total in each of his first six games, and has steadily improved upon his rebounding numbers as well.
He has struggled in his last two games – his only two starts on the year. He has averaged three points and four rebounds in the last two, being limited to an average of 14.5 minutes of action. But against a physical Iowa team, Knowles rose to the occasion. He battled to eight rebounds (six on the offensive glass) and added a career-high 12 points as well. He went 6-for-10 from the field in 33 minutes of action.
A native of Nassau, Bahamas, Knowles played sparingly as a freshman at Grambling before electing to move on to Pearl River, where he was a First Team Mississippi All-Star.