ISLANDERS (1-9) AT OKLAHOMA (8-3)
MONDAY, DEC. 31 • 2 P.M.
NORMAN, OKLA. • McCASLAND FIELD HOUSE
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THE OPENING TIP
Playing its second game in three days, the Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team heads to Norman, Okla., for a New Year's Eve matchup with the University of Oklahoma at 2 p.m. The game, which will be carried on Fox Sports Southwest, will be played at historic McCasland Field House, the Sooners' first regular-season game there since March 5, 1975.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, three months and 28 days heading into today's matchup.
• Texas A&M - Corpus Christi saw its comeback bid fall short against Stephen F. Austin, falling 67-56 in its Southland opener. The Islanders fell behind 16-1 but rallied to bring the score within one in the second half.
• Will Nelson scored 24 points and snared 14 rebounds for his first career double-double in the loss to SFA. It was the first double-digit rebound game for an Islander this season.
• Johnathan Jordan was named to the Cousy Award Watch List on Dec. 21. The point guard had a season-low one assist against SFA, but poured in 17 points and had three steals.
• 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
This will be the first meeting between the Islanders and Sooners in A&M - Corpus Christi's time as a Division I program, but the squad has a bevy of experience against Big 12 foes and in the state of Oklahoma.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi has posted a 4-20 all-time record against the Big 12, including wins over Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech, the most recent victory a 55-49 win over the Horned Frogs on Dec. 22, 2005. The Islanders hold an 0-8 record against Oklahoma State, their most frequent Big 12 opponent.
In the Sooner State, A&M - Corpus Christi holds an 0-8 all-time record. The Islanders are 0-6 against the Cowboys in Stillwater and 0-2 at Tulsa in the program's history.
The Stephen F. Austin contest provided one of the slowest starts in recent memory for the Islanders. Despite having several good looks at the basket, A&M - Corpus Christi opened the game coming up empty on their first 13 shots. By contrast, the Lumberjacks started the game 8-for-14 to open up a 16-1 lead on the Islanders.
The home squad rallied to hit nearly 50 percent of its shots the rest of the way (21-of-46), and used a 15-1 run around halftime to trim a 27-12 deficit to just one point at 28-27.
Unfortunately, the shooting divide has been a consistent characteristic of the recent struggles for the Islanders. Over the last five games, A&M - Corpus Christi has shot .378 from the field – a disappointing number. Even more so, though, the opposition's success has exacerbated the problem. Opponents have shot .502 over the last five.
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 .688 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.
In his last three outings, though he has gotten back into control. He has led the Islanders in scoring in each game, posting 17 at Texas A&M, 13 against UTSA and 24 against SFA his last contest. He added a career-best 14 rebounds to post his first double-double for the Islanders.
The junior college transfer is averaging 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Islanders, both marks leading the team. He has struggled a bit with his accuracy, though, shooting .361 overall and .261 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.
One of the major characteristics of the recent Islanders struggles has also been the number of offensive fouls they have commmitted. In the last six games, A&M - Corpus Christi has 18 offensive fouls, accounting for nearly 25 percent of their turnovers. The Islanders had five offensive fouls at South Alabama, in a game they lost by just seven points, and four at Iowa. They committed three last time out against UTSA in addition to two each against SFA, at Texas A&M and at Toledo.
AS THE WORLD TURNS
The quality of the Islanders' play has been in concert with the number of turnovers they have committed. The Islanders posted just nine turnovers against Stephen F. Austin, their third game this season with fewer than 10 turns. Earlier in the year, the Islanders took care of the ball like no other time in program history.After posting six turnovers at Utah State – the second lowest total in school lore – the Islanders matched the school record with only five turns against Houston.
Over the next five games, though, A&M - Corpus Christi finished with double-digit turnovers each game, including 16 at Toledo and 15 each at South Alabama and Iowa. The Islanders did trim the number to 10 against Texas A&M and had 12 against UTSA. With an average of 12.4 turnovers per game as of Dec. 16, the Islanders were 67th in the nation in the category. A year ago, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi was 291st in the nation in turnovers out of 338 teams ranked.
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 last year, the point guard has contributed 12.4 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 60 points in the paint and has hit a team-best 44 free throws. Of his 37 two-point field goals on the season, 30 of them have come in the paint. He has shot 40.2 percent inside the arc on the year.
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 as well, where he leads the Southland at 35.5 minutes per game. He has has been on the bench for just six minutes out of the last 160 for the Islanders.
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.
The Islanders got a strong performance from their bench in the game against UTSA, with 25 points on 11-of-23 shooting and over half of the team's rebounds. Will Nelson scored 13 points with seven boards off the bench, but committed five turnovers in the contest. Nate Maxey added six points (3-for-3) and two blocks, while Dale Francis scored four points (2-for-2) and had three rebounds.
Unfortunately, the starting lineup did not perform to the same standards. The starters scored just 20 points, went 6-for-26 from the field and no starter had more than three rebounds. Had it not been for Joy Williamson's 6-for-6 effort at the free-throw line, the output from the starters would have been even more dubious. He finished with 11 points.
The Sooners have had plenty of exposure to the Southland Conference so far this season. The Islanders will be the fourth and final team from the league to take on Oklahoma's flagship university, and so far the Southland has given the Sooners all they can handle.
Stephen F. Austin provided the league's signature win this season with a 56-55 victory over OU in Norman on Dec. 18. New league member Oral Roberts took OU to the wire in Tulsa on Nov. 28 before the Sooners garnered a road victory by a single point, 63-62. Northwestern State was the most lopsided game OU has played against the Southland this year, as the Sooners knocked off the Demons by four points.