ISLANDERS (2-15, 1-6) AT SOUTHEASTERN LA. (6-11, 4-3)
SATURDAY, JAN. 26 • 4:30 P.M.
HAMMOND, LA. • UNIVERSITY CENTER
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team will conclude its two-game road swing with a contest at Southeastern Louisnana on Saturday, with tipoff slated for approximately 4:30 p.m. This is the final road game for the Islanders before a string of seven games in nine at home.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, four months and 24 days heading into today's matchup.
• Over the last five games, sophomore Johnathan Jordan has posted 38 assists to just 15 turnovers. He has tallied at least nine dimes in three of the last five games.
• The Islanders are shooting .711 at the free-throw line on the year, including a .754 mark in league play. Sophomores Johnathan Jordan and Hameed Ali are a combined 53-for-64 (.828) in Southland contests.
• Junior Will Nelson has three double-doubles in his seven Southland games this year. In league play he is now averaging 16.0 points and 10.0 rebounds.
• A&M - Corpus Christi had a season-high 20 turnovers against Nicholls, just the fourth time this season it posted more than 15 turns. The Islanders are second in the conference with 12.5 turnovers per game.
• 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 Southeastern Louisiana will lock horns for the eighth time in the Islanders era on Saturday. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi holds a 5-2 advantage in the all-time series against the Lions, but just a 1-2 mark in Hammond. The Islanders are 3-0 against Southeastern in Corpus Christi and added a win over the Lions in the 2007 Southland Tournament.
A&M - Corpus Christi has come up empty in its last two trips to the University Center, including a 67-55 setback a season ago. In that game, four players finished in double figures for the Lions, including Roosevelt Johnson, who had a double-double with 10 points and 12 boards. The Islanders were undone by a 7-for-17 performance at the foul line in the contest, as Southeastern went 19-for-32 at the stripe.
SCOUTING THE LIONS
Southeastern opened the year with a mix of tough road games and non-Division I opponents at home to post a 2-8 record in the pre-conference slate. But since entering conference action, the Lions have rebounded to go 4-3 in Southland Conference action. Their three losses have all come at the hands of the league's top three teams – Oral Roberts, Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State. Southeastern has wins over Central Arkansas, Nicholls and Sam Houston State at home in addition to a road win at Lamar.
Brandon Fortenberry leads the offense with his 12.9 points per game after missing most of the 2011-12 campaign due to injury. Additionally, the Lions are getting 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds from Roosevelt Johnson, with Dre Evans (9.5) and Jeffery Ricard (8.7) also chipping in on the offensive end.
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 was also among the leaders in minutes per game.
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 12.2 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 98 points in the paint and has hit a team-best 81 free throws, including a 12-for-13 performance at the line against McNeese. His 12 free throws are tied for fourth-most in a game in Islanders history and he is just 15 free throws away from cracking the single-season top 10.
Perhaps more impressive is Jordan's all-around game. His distribution is what he is most known for, and with 5.1 assists per game this year, he sits third in the Southland. On Jan. 12 at Lamar, he posted 11 assists, matching the school record, and had his second career double-double. Over the last five games, he has posted 38 assists to 15 turnovers, adding nine-assist games at McNeese and vs. UCA.
Jordan is also strong on the glass, having grabbed five-plus rebounds eight times this year. He shows high on the stamina scale as well, where he is second in the Southland at 35.5 minutes per game. He has been on the court for 37 minutes or more 10 times this year.
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.
AS THE ISLANDERS TURN
Despite the Islanders' struggles in the win column and with offensive fouls, the team has been surprisingly efficient when it comes to turnovers. A&M - Corpus Christi is averaging 12.5 per game – fewer than their opponents' 12.9 – and ranked 52nd in the nation entering this week. The Islanders posted just seven turnovers at McNeese State and 10 at Lamar, their fourth and fifth games this season with 10 turns or fewer.
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.
Last time out was a distinct exception, as the Islanders turned the ball over 20 times with Nicholls tallying just three steals. It marked just the fourth game this season that the Islanders had more than 15 turnovers (19 against TLU, 18 against Oklahoma, 16 at Toledo).
Nonetheless, it is a marked improvement from the ball control for the team from last season. A&M - Corpus Christi averaged 15.2 turnovers per game and ranked 291st in the country out of 338 teams. The Islanders had 14 games with 15 turnovers or more last year, and just three with 10 or fewer.
SNAPPING THE STRING
The Islanders got off the schneid with a 62-56 win at Lamar on Jan. 12, snapping a 12-game losing streak that dated back to the season opener. A&M - Corpus Christi jumped out to a 31-20 halftime lead after shooting 13-for-25 in the first half, delivering 11 of their 16 shots inside the arc on the day.
EARNING THEIR STRIPES
The Islanders' struggles at the free-throw line were well documented last year. A&M - Corpus Christi shot just 360-for-600 (.600) at the line a year ago.
But this year, the team has improved significantly, hitting at a .711 clip that has them second in the Southland. The Islanders have four regulars shooting .688 or better, with Zane Knowles (10-for-18, .556) the only player with more than eight attempts to sit below that threshhold. Hameed Ali leads the way at .833, while Joy Williamson and Johnathan Jordan are connecting at a .750 rate. At McNeese State, the Islanders went 22-for-27, led by a 12-for-13 performance by Jordan.
In 2011-12, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi ranked 331st in the nation in free-throw shooting. As of Jan. 17, the Islanders sat 105th in the nation this year. They have shot .667 or better in nine of the last 10 games.
WHERE THERE'S A WILL...
No newcomer on the Islanders roster came in with higher expectations than junior Will Nelson. The skilled wing was expected to play a major role in the team's offensive output, and he has shown on several occasions that he has the ability to fulfill those expectations.
The McNeese State contest was the most recent example, as the Louisiana native thrived in his return to his home state, knocking down four threes en route to 24 points and nine rebounds. It marked Nelson's third game this season with 20 points.
He has really heated up on both ends since beginning conference play. He posted the first double-double for the Islanders this season with 24 points and 14 rebounds against Stephen F. Austin, going 9-for-17 from the field. He added his second double-double against Oral Roberts, when he had 18 points and 10 rebounds. He made it three double-doubles last time out, with 15 points and 11 boards against Nicholls. His career high in points is 28, when he added eight rebounds against Houston.
The junior college transfer is averaging 14.0 points and 7.8 rebounds for the Islanders, including an average of 16.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in conference contests. With his four double-digit rebound games in conference play, Nelson joins Damen Bell-Holter as the only players in the league to have accomplished such a feat. He has had at least eight rebounds in 11 of 17 games.
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.
Over the last several games, the Islanders have seen better offensive play in part due to the fact that they are getting contributions from several players on the offensive end. The trend started at Sam Houston State, when, due to foul trouble, Johnathan Jordan and Will Nelson – the top two scorers on the team – were limited to 14 combined minutes in the first half.
But the Islanders had six different players score at least six points – Jordan, Nelson, Joy Williamson, Brandon Pye, Hameed Ali and Cole Martinez. Martinez' six were a career high, as he knocked down a three and finished off a three-point play. At McNeese, the Islanders again had six players score at least six points, with Dale Francis and Nate Maxey replacing Pye and Martinez in the sextet.
At Lamar and against ORU, the Islanders saw just five players reach the six-point mark, but in the UCA contest A&M - Corpus Christi again had six players finish with at least six points. The Islanders had six players score at least five points at Nicholls.