MBB Hits Road to Encounter Iowa State

MBB Hits Road to Encounter Iowa State


TUESDAY, NOV. 12 • 7 P.M.



The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team looks for its first 2-0 start since 2006-07, as it heads to Ames, Iowa, in search of an upset over Big 12 foe Iowa State on Tuesday night. The Islanders blasted Huston-Tillotson in the season-opener last Friday, 79-45. 

• Senior Zane Knowles had a monster night in the opener, posting his first career double-double with 12 points and 18 rebounds. The 18 caroms were the second-most in school history.

• Junior John Jordan was named Preseason First Team All-Southland Conference by the league's coaches. He opened 2013-14 with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists.

• The Islanders took part in a 10-day, four-game tour of Italy in August, a trip that allowed them 10 extra days of practice prior to the tour.

• Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher had a triumphant return to the court on Friday, going for 10 points, six rebounds and four steals. He missed all of last season after having double labrum surgery.

• A&M-Corpus Christi is 0-1 against Iowa State, the only matchup a 86-64 loss in the Islanders' first season of 1999-2000.

• Though Coach Wilson has his most experienced team with the Islanders, only five players have more than one year of Division I playing experience (Ali, Knowles, Jordan, Douvier, King).

The Islanders and Iowa State have met just once since A&M-Corpus Christi became a Division I program. It was just the 10th game in Islanders lore, and resulted in an 86-64 win for the Cyclones. Marcus Fizer scored 28 points and had 17 rebounds in the win for Iowa State.

John Jordan is only a junior for the Islanders basketball team, but he's the most experienced player on the roster and one of the favorites for Southland Conference Player of the Year. The Houston native was named Preseason First Team All-Southland Conference by the league's coaches.

He showed his worthiness for that selection in the Islanders' season opener. The Houston native scored 21 points and added six rebounds and six assists in just 25 minutes of work.

The honor is no surprise when looking at the numbers that the 5-foot-10 Jordan put up last season and has amassed in his two-year career. Jordan was second in the league in assists (5.5 per game) despite the fact that the Islanders only shot 40.6 percent from the field. He was 12th in the league in scoring at 12.8 points per game.

Only two players in the nation – South Dakota State's Nate Wolters and Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton – had better numbers than Jordan in points, assists and rebounds last year. (See chart below.) His 5.5 assists per game placed him 39th in Division I.

Jordan has already etched his name in the school record book. He broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. With 297 career assists, he is already half way to the school record of 493, held by Brian Evans.

Jordan is also someone who is rarely seen on the bench. He averaged a Southland-leading 36.6 minutes per game and is on pace to enter the career top 10 in minutes.

The Islanders' most physically notable player is without question senior Zane Knowles. The native of Nassau, Bahamas, stands 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds and is expected to be a force inside for the Islanders this year. He has improved significantly in the weight room, and his soft touch around the basket should help him be a scoring force inside.

He showed up in a big way in the season opener, scoring 12 points and snaring 18 rebounds for his first career double-double. The 18 rebounds matched the second-highest total in school history, and were the most for an Islander since Corey Lamkin grabbed 18 at Air Force on Jan. 21, 2004. It more than doubled his previous career high, as his prior best was eight boards vs. Lamar on Feb. 7, 2013.

A year ago, Knowles was just hitting his stride when an injury against UTSA sidelined him for the next five games. He got back into form later in the year, and matched his career high with 12 points against Southeastern Louisiana in the second-to-last home contest of the season. He averaged 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in the last four games of the year, shooting 17-for-26 (.655) in that span.

Knowles came to the Islanders after a year at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College and a season at Grambling. 

Though Knowles was the ringleader, several other Islanders had strong games on the glass. Six players snared at least three boards and 12 of the 13 players who logged minutes had at least one rebound. The 53 rebounds for the team were the most by an Islanders squad since Ronnie Arrow's crew snared 53 against Longwood on Feb. 4, 2006. The plus-20 rebound margin was the highest for A&M-Corpus Christi in the Willis Wilson era.

In addition to the other newcomers, the Islanders will have a welcome face back in the fold that was missing last season. Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher, who sat out 2012-13 after double labrum surgery, was back in the starting lineup on Friday night.

His return to the court was a triumphant one, as Kocher poured in 10 points to go along with a career-high six rebounds and four steals. He was 4-for-5 from the field in 20 minutes of action.

Kocher played in 29 games as a freshman, averaging 3.2 points, but the main attribute he provides for the team is a toughness and work ethic that goes well above the norm. He is also one of the team's top outside shooters – an attribute that the Islanders struggled in last year. 

In 2011-12, he did most of his damage down the stretch, including a career-high 15 points in the season's penultimate game at UT Arlington. He averaged 4.6 points in 17.0 minutes over the season's final seven games. He is the city of Austin's all-time leading scorer from his days at St. Michael's Academy.

The Islanders' 34-point win over HTU in the opener was the most lopsided win since a 90-42 win over Texas State on Jan. 18, 2007. 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the stat sheet from Friday's win over Huston-Tillotson is how evenly the statistics were distributed for the Islanders. Ten different players registered field goals in the contest, while 12 different players – Marcus Ellison the lone exception – pulling in rebounds. Eight different players registered assists, with John Jordan's six leading the way.

Within the Southland Conference, most fanbases are used to seeing Northwestern State change all five players at once – a tactic Mike McConathy has used there for many years. But the Islanders used that tactic against Huston-Tillotson and also showed it for much of the four games in Italy. Coach Wilson hasn't formally set on the strategy, but against HTU, the starting group consisted of Jordan, Knowles, King, Kocher and Jeff Beverly. The second quintet was Hameed Ali, Cole Martinez, Jelani Currie, Brandon Pye and Dale Francis.