CORPUS CHRISTI – Joy Williamson and Hameed Ali each scored 15 points to lead the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi men's basketball team to a 61-58 win over McNeese State on Homecoming at the American Bank Center on Thursday. The Islanders held the lead for the final 33:34 of the game in the victory, which was played in front of a season-high 1,873 fans.
Zane Knowles added 10 points and led the Islanders with seven boards, as the Islanders won the battle of the glass, 37-32, in the contest. Johnathan Jordan had eight points, six assists and six rebounds in the game, as the Islanders committed just eight turnovers. The Islanders were able to pull off the victory despite an 11-for-22 night at the free-throw line.
Keelan Garrett led the Cowboys with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting, while Dontae Cannon added 11 for McNeese State. Kevin Hardy filled the stat sheet with five rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and three steals, but went just 1-for-6 from the field for two points.
The two teams were even early on in the contest, with the Islanders taking a 13-11 lead. Four different players scored for the home team, with Jordan and Knowles each scoring two buckets in the early going. Craig McFerrin had four points for McNeese, while Desharick Guidry had five, including a triple that trimmed the deficit to 13-11 at the 11:23 mark.
But that's when the Islanders went on a 13-2 run to open a 26-13 lead at the 2:16 mark. Ali delivered a key three during the rally, as did Williamson, but the run was capped off by a pair of jumpers from Brandon Pye. The Cowboys responded with two straight three pointers to cut the lead to seven, but a Knowles jumper and then a Jordan three at the halftime buzzer sent the Islanders to the break with a 31-19 lead.
The Cowboys cut it back to 10 with a Cannon layup at the 18:01 mark before the Islanders used a 5-0 run to take a 38-23 lead – their largest of the game – on a jumper by James King. But after the lead was pushed to 40-25, McNeese State delivered a rally, posting an 11-2 run to get the lead down to six at 42-36. The major catalyst of that rally was Garrett, who had scored just five points on the year before Thursday's game.
The home squad pushed the lead back to nine on a crucial three-point play by Williamson at the 11:21 mark, but McNeese continued to chip away. The Cowboys put together a 12-5 rally, capped off by another Garrett triple that made it 52-50. But Nate Maxey countered with a dunk at the other end, and MSU was unable to get it down to a single possession until Cannon's three-ball made it 59-56 with two minutes remaining.
The teams alternated blocks over the next three possessions, but after Garrett's three rimmed out, Pye was fouled with 27 seconds remaining. The freshman hit 1-of-2 to push the lead back to four, but Pete Kpan delivered two free throws at the other end after an offensive board to make it 60-58. Forced to foul, the Cowboys put Ali on the line, and the sophomore hit 1-of-2 with 19 seconds remaining to make it 61-58. The Islanders supplied heavy defensive pressure on the ensuing possession, and Cannon's desperation three just before the buzzer rimmed out as the home squad emerged with the victory.
The Islanders are back in action next week, with a road trip to Central Arkansas and Oral Roberts. A&M – Corpus Christi will head to Conway for a matchup with UCA on Thursday, Feb. 14, with tipoff slated for 7:30 p.m. Steven King will have the call on NewsRadio 1360 KKTX starting at 7:15 with the pregame show.