ISLANDERS (5-21, 4-11) VS. NICHOLLS (8-18, 7-8)
SATURDAY, MARCH 2 • 7:30 P.M.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS • AMERICAN BANK CENTER
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team plays host to its final home game of the 2012-13 season when it takes on Nicholls on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. $5 Island level tickets are available for the doubleheader, which begins with the women's contest against the Colonels at 5 p.m. on Stripes Court at the American Bank Center.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, five months, 28 days heading into today's matchup. There are no seniors on the team.
• Johnathan Jordan matched his own school record on Thursday when he recorded his 138th assist of the year. He also went 8-for-9 from the field for 21 points.
• Will Nelson went off for 23 points and 12 boards against Southeastern, including a 12-for-14 performance at the line.
• The Islanders' bench has averaged 32.0 points over its last six games. The bench has shot 79-for-173 (.457) over the six-game span.
• Freshman Jelani Currie had a breakthrough game against Cal State Fullerton, going 6-for-8 from the field for a career-high 13 points off the bench. He added seven points with a pair of threes on Thursday.
• 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 Nicholls will meet for the eighth time, with A&M - Corpus Christi holding a 4-3 edge in the series. The Islanders are 2-1 against the Colonels in the Coastal Bend and 2-2 in Thibodaux after a loss earlier this season. Nicholls has taken the last three contests, including a 69-62 final in Stopher Gym in late January. Each of the last two games against the Colonels have been tight affairs after lopsided wins by each team the previous two.
Earlier this year, Nicholls held on for a 69-62 win over the Islanders in Thibodaux. Fred Hunter went 8-for-10 from the field to lead all scorers with 19 points, while Johnathan Jordan added 18 points and five assists in the loss. The Islanders had a season-high 20 turnovers in the game. For more information and a box score from the game, please turn to page 2.
SCOUTING THE COLONELS
After a 56-53 win at Sam Houston State on Thursday, Nicholls is right back in the thick of the race for a first-round bye in the Southland Conference Tournament. Nicholls and SHSU are tied for fifth, just a game behind Southeastern Louisiana, which is 8-7 after a loss to the Islanders on Thursday. Prior to the win over the Bearkats, Nicholls had lost six of its last seven.
Fred Hunter leads the Colonels and is a near-lock for First Team All-Southland honors with his 19.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this year. The big man, who missed last season with an injury, has shot 56.1 percent from the field as well for the Colonels. Dantrell Thomas (13.6) and T.J. Carpenter (10.3) are both averaging double figures in scoring. Nicholls has forced its opponents into 14.2 turnovers per game.
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 12.9 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 166 points in the paint and has hit a team-best 113 free throws, including a 12-for-13 performance at the line against McNeese. He currently eighth on the Islanders' single-season list in both minutes and free throws.
Perhaps more impressive is Jordan's all-around game. His distribution is what he is most known for, and with 5.3 assists per game this year, he sits second in the Southland. He will break his own school record of 138, set last season, with his next assist. In league play, he has 88 assists to 40 turnovers. He is already fourth on the Islanders' career assist list, and is more than halfway to breaking Brian Evans' career record of 493.
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 averages 4.8 rebounds per contest. He shows high on the stamina scale as well, where he leads the Southland at 36.4 minutes per game. He is only 113 minutes from breaking Kevin Palmer's Islanders record.
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 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 really heated up on the offensive end, where he has averaged 8.2 points in the last 10 games, third on the team. He netted 15 points against McNeese State and followed 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.
The sophomore started the season among the national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio, and now has 53 assists to 32 turnovers. He leads the team and is sixth in the league with his 1.5 steal average.
The Islanders have recently had strong performances off their bench. It had 32 points against Lamar, 26 against McNeese and then 34 at UCA. Then it erupted for 43 against Northwestern State, a season high. With 33 against Fullerton and 38 against Southeastern, the Islanders bench has averaged 32.0 points over its last six games. The bench has shot 79-for-173 (.457) over the six-game span. The Islanders' leading scorer has come off the bench each of the last three and in four of the last six.
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.
Nelson has embraced the team role as of late, and his performance on Thursday may have been his best of the year. He had 23 points and nine boards, going 5-for-7 from the field and 12-for-14 at the line. He added two assists in the game.
He really heated up on both ends after 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 then posted double-doubles in both games last month at Nicholls and Southeastern La. His career high in points is 28, when he added eight rebounds against Houston.
The junior college transfer is averaging 13.1 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Islanders, both of which top the team and are in the conference's top 11. During league play, he has posted an average of 13.9 points and 7.9 rebounds.
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.
Since beginning conference play, the Islanders have seen their best offense when they are getting contributions from several players. 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 nine of their last 14 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) finished 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. In the most recent contest, the Islanders had all 10 players who appeared register points in the game.