CORPUS CHRISTI – Will Nelson scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, but the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi men's basketball team came up short against Stephen F. Austin, 67-56, in the Southland Conference opener for both teams. Taylor Smith posted 25 points and 14 boards for SFA (10-1) in the win.
Johnathan Jordan added 17 points and posted three steals in a losing effort for the Islanders (1-9). Hal Bateman had a strong all-around game, netting 11 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for the Lumberjacks. Antonio Bostic added 12 points and seven boards for SFA.
A&M – Corpus Christi started ice cold from the field, failing to connect on its first 13 shots, as SFA started 8-for-14 from the field to jump out to a 16-1 lead. Smith did the bulk of the damage, starting 4-for-5 from the field and grabbing five rebounds, while Bateman assisted on four of the Lumberjacks' first eight buckets.
But the Islanders finally found the bottom of the net on a finish by Nate Maxey, as the big man made a nice adjustment and finished a layup on an alley-oop feed from Jordan that made it 16-3. The Jacks pushed the lead to 27-12, but that's when the Islanders started their run. Nelson got things started with a three from the corner, and the Islanders finished the half on an 11-1 string to make it a five-point game at the half. SFA missed its final three shots of the half and went 1-for-4 from the line, as the Islanders cashed in on five straight possessions to cap the rally.
Out of the break, the Islanders continued the run by hitting the first two shots of the second half to make it a one-point ballgame. But SFA then got consecutive baskets from Smith to push the lead back to five. From there, the two teams battled back-and-forth with the lead fluctuating between three and five points over the next several minutes. With the lead at 43-38, the Jacks embarked on an 8-2 run to push the lead back to double figures on a Smith tip-in with 6:12 remaining.
The Islanders got the lead down to seven on a Jordan steal followed by a fast-break layup, but that was as close as the home squad would get as SFA converted its free throws down the stretch. The Islanders were unable to convert on five consecutive shots down the stretch, before nailing their final two threes to finish the ballgame.
The Islanders will return to the hardwood on Monday, Dec. 31, as they travel to Norman, Okla., for a matchup with the University of Oklahoma. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. and the game will be carried live on NewsRadio 1360 KKTX with Steven King on the call.