ISLANDERS (4-20) VS. CAL STATE FULLERTON (13-13)
SATURDAY, FEB. 23 • 1 P.M.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS • DUGAN WELLNESS CENTER
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team faces off with Cal State Fullerton for the second time in program history as part of the Ramada Worldwide Bracketbusters on Saturday, Feb. 23, in the Dugan Wellness Center. This is the final non-conference game of the year for the Islanders.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, five months, 22 days heading into today's matchup. There are no seniors on the team.
• Johnathan Jordan is the only player in the Southland – and one of just five nationally – to average 10-plus points, 5-plus rebounds, and 5-plus assists on the year. He passed the 500-point barrier for his career last game.
• Sophomore Nate Maxey scored a career-high 15 points, posting a stellar offensive game that saw him go 7-for-10 from the floor with 14 points in the paint.
• The Islanders' bench has averaged 30.2 points over its last four games. The bench has shot 56-for-132 (.424) over the five-game span.
• The Islanders had a season-best 46 points in the paint against Northwestern State, including eight dunks.
• 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
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi won the only game it has ever played with Cal State Fullerton, a season-opening 83-76 victory on Nov. 22, 2002. The contest was played in Honolulu as part of the Hawaiian Airlines Tipoff Classic. The Islanders led 65-49 with 11:25 remaining, but the Titans put together a 25-12 run that had them down just three at 77-74 with 1:41 left. But the Islanders converted their free throws down the stretch to ice the victory
Brian Evans led the way for the Islanders in that contest, scoring 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while Travis Bailey added 22 points of his own to go along with five assists. Corey Lamkin added 12 points and seven boards for A&M - Corpus Christi, which shot 29-for-51 (.569) in the contest and 23-for-28 (.821) from the free-throw line. Fullerton had four players in double figures, led by 17 points and nine boards from Ralphy Holmes.
SCOUTING THE TITANS
Cal State Fullerton comes into this affair at 13-13 overall and with a 6-8 mark in Big West Conference play. The Titans are coming off a 77-60 win over Cal Poly on Wednesday night that snapped a string where Fullerton had lost five of its last six.
The Titans play a high-tempo style that has their offense clicking at 80.3 points per game so far this season. D.J. Seeley leads the way at 18.3 points per game, but he is far from the only scorer. Kwame Vaughn (17.8) and Sammy Yeager (15.8) both also average over 15 points per game. The Titans are shooting .480 from the field and average just under 1.5 shots per minute of action. On the boards, Fullerton averages just 30.8 as a team with no player topping five caroms per contest.
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 12.8 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 154 points in the paint and has hit a team-best 106 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 recently cracked the single-season top 10 in the category.
Perhaps more impressive is Jordan's all-around game. His distribution is what he is most known for, and with 5.2 assists per game this year, he sits second in the Southland. He is already in the single-season top five in assists and is on pace to break his own school record of 138, set last season. In league play, he has 82 assists to 39 turnovers.
Jordan is also strong on the glass, having topped double-digit rebounds twice this season. He snared 11 caroms against SHSU for his third double-double of the year. He is one of just five players nationally averaging at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. He shows high on the stamina scale as well, where he is second in the Southland at 36.3 minutes per game.
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.
One of the primary reasons for the Islanders' improvement in offensive efficiency has been the youngest member of last year's freshman class. Hameed Ali showed flashes of being a strong player for the Islanders in 2011-12, delivering game-winning shots against Sam Houston State and Utah State.
But Ali, who turned 19 in August, has shown significant growth in his maturity, particularly as a vocal leader for the Islanders. Formerly one of the most shy members of the team, Ali has become a constant voice in practice – whether he is on the court or on the sidelines.
Ali has had his two best offensive games of the season in the last two weeks, netting 15 points against McNeese State and following that up with a career-high 18 at UCA. Against the Bears, he went 7-for-10 from the field and added six assists and three steals. He added 11 points at Oral Roberts, the second-best mark on the team. Over the three games he averaged 14.7 points and shooting 16-for-31.
The sophomore started the season among the national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio, and now has 49 assists to 30 turnovers. He leads the team and is seventh in the league with his 1.6 steal average.
Over the last five games, the Islanders have had strong performances off their bench. The bench had 32 points against Lamar, 26 against McNeese and then 34 in the UCA contest. Then it erupted for 43 against Northwestern State, a season high. That equates to an average of 30.2 points and a 56-for-132 (.424) mark from the field over that span.
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.
After missing three games due to injury, Williamson has been outstanding in his last three weeks. He led the team in scoring in both contests two weels ago, netting 12 against Lamar and matching his career high with 15 in the win over McNeese State. He was tremendously efficient as well, going 7-for-13 from the field and 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. He had 12 points vs. Northwestern State, and has pushed his average near double digits at 9.8 per game.
His career high in points against MSU would have been even higher had it not been for an uncharacteristic 5-for-10 performance at the free-throw line. Still, he is among the league leaders in free-throw shooting (.692).
His other 15-point performance came in the first game against UCA, where he went 5-for-9 from the field, knocking down a pair of threes in a losing effort. That snapped a string where he failed to reach double figures in four straight contests.
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.
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.
Over the last several games, the Islanders have seen their best offensive play when 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 minutes in the first half.
The Islanders had six different players score at least six points – Jordan, Nelson, Joy Williamson, Brandon Pye, Hameed Ali and Cole Martinez. The Islanders have had at least five different players with six points in eight of their last 12 games, including seven in the UCA contest.
Against the Bears, the Islanders placed four players in double figures for the first time in conference play, as Hameed Ali (18), Will Nelson (14), Johnathan Jordan (11) and Dale Francis (10) finishing with 10 points or more. For Francis, it was a career high, and he became the eighth different player with a game in double figures this year.