ISLANDERS (8-11, 5-1) VS.
THE OPENING TIP
Off to its best conference start in five years, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team returns home for its final game on campus this season, as a Thursday night affair with Southeastern La. The Islanders are 5-1 on the conference season after a 70-67 victory over Nicholls on Saturday.
• During conference season, the Islanders have posted 22 double-digit scoring efforts across eight players.
• John Jordan had his fifth and sixth 20-point games last week, and is averaging a team-best 16.5 points per game in league play.
• The Islanders have been beasts in the paint in the conference, averaging 39.0 points in the paint with three games over 40.
• Joy Williamson is quietly averaging 10.2 points in league play and is third in the league in FT shooting in SLC games (17-for-18).
• The Islanders have won their first four road games in conference play for the first time since 2006-07. That team started 6-0 on the road and went 7-1 on the season.
• The 101 points scored by the Islanders against Northwestern State were the most since scoring 107 against Nicholls on Feb. 8, 2007. Six different players finished in double figures, the first time since 2006.
• 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.
LAST YEAR'S RESULTS
The two games against Southeastern Louisiana last year could not have been more different. In the game in Hammond, both John Jordan and Will Nelson posted double-doubles, but the Islanders shot just .345 from the field and went 2-for-14 from beyond the arc. Compounding the shooting woes was a .500 percentage at the free-throw line. Roosevelt Johnson and Brandon Fortenberry each scored 18 points for the Lions.
In the reprise in Corpus Christi, the Islanders shot the lights out, going 26-for-43 from the field in posting their most lopsided win of the 2012-13 campaign. Nelson had 23 points and nine rebounds, while Jordan added 21 and six assists. Zane Knowles also came through with a big game, going 6-for-7 from the field for 12 points in the win.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders hold a solid 6-3 edge over Southeastern Lousiana in the all-time series between the two schools. All the matchups have come since the Islanders joined the Southland Conference in 2006-07. The Lions have won two of the last three matchups, and in recent history, the games have not been close. Each of the last three contests has been decided by 12 points or more, including a 14-point win for the Islanders in the most recent meeting. A&M-Corpus Christi has owned Southeastern in Corpus Christi, holding a 4-0 mark against the Lions at home.
LAST TIME OUT
John Jordan locked down Jeremy Smith on the final possession of the game, and Smith's three rimmed out to give the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team a 70-67 win over Nicholls on Saturday at Stopher Gym. Four players finished in double figures as the Islanders improved to 5-1 in league play.
Jordan led the Islanders with 13 points, while Jake Kocher added 13 as well. Rashawn Thomas and Brandon Pye each posted 11 in the victory. Joy Williamson snared a career-high 11 rebounds to go with seven points and two steals, while Zane Knowles posted 10 boards as well.
Smith had a game-high 17 points to lead the Colonels (7-8, 4-2 Southland), while Dantrell Thomas and T.J. Carpenter each posted 11 points. The Islanders won the battle of the boards, 35-28.
The Islanders shot .545 in the first half, while Nicholls shot .500 from the field. The main difference was the six A&M-Corpus Christi turnovers to Nicholls' two, both of which came on steals by Kocher.
Among all the impressive stats that the Islanders racked up in the win over Central Arkansas, perhaps none was more telling than the fact that the team piled up 50 points in the paint. Of the 26 field goals the Islanders registered inside the arc, 25 of those came in the paint - the lone exception a long two from Brandon Pye.
Against Oral Roberts, it was another strong performance inside, with 32 points in the paint (14 from Rashawn Thomas). Northwestern State provided another stellar inside performance, with nine different players recording points in the paint for a total of 48. Even against SFA, which is incredibly strong inside on defense, the Islanders posted 34 points in the paint. Of the 77 points A&M-Corpus Christi scored, 42 came in the paint.
The Islanders have had at least 20 points in the paint in each of the last 15 contests and are averaging 39.0 points in the paint in league play. The 5-foot-10 John Jordan currently leads the Islanders with 130 (see chart on page 5 for full breakdown).
THE GREAT DISTRIBUTOR
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 leads the team and is seventh in the league with his 15.6 points per game, while his 4.3 assists are second. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, he has also pulled in 5.0 boards per game. He has posted 20 points or more on six occasions, five assists or more nine times and at least five rebounds in 12 games this year.
But the Oral Roberts contest showed he may be at his best when not being the go-to scorer. He had just seven points, but dished out six assists and commanded the offense to the signature victory of the Willis Wilson era. It was somewhat similar in the win over Northwestern State, as he ran the offense efficiently and was the principal architect of the press break that saw the Islanders commit just 10 turnovers in 75 offensive possessions.
Jordan did get 22 points against the Demons, but did so mostly on his ability to get to the free-throw line, where he went 11-for-16. He added 24 points (10 at the line) against SFA. On the year, he has gotten to the line 10+ times on seven occasions and has hit at least 10 at the line four times. He is 116-for-164 on free throws this year.
It's hard not to be impressed when looking at the numbers that the 5-foot-10 Jordan put up last season. Jordan was second in the league in assists (5.5 per game) and 12th in the league with 12.8 points per game. His 5.5 assists per game were 39th in Division I.
Jordan broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. With 376 career assists, he is now second in school history and closing on Brian Evans' 493.
PRIDE AND JOY
After being one of just five upperclassmen on the roster a year ago, Joy Williamson enters his second year as an Islander as one of just three seniors on the squad in 2013-14. The Oklahoma City native finished third on the Islanders in scoring a year ago, netting 8.3 points per game. He has been among the Islanders' leaders in minutes the last two years, but has had significantly better numbers coming off the bench.
In his career, coming off the bench Williamson is averaging 9.4 points per game (216 in 23 games). When he is in the starting lineup, Williamson has averaged just 6.8 points per contest (143 in 21 games). His 106 bench points on the season are best on the Islanders.
He had a strong start to his conference season. Against Central Arkansas, he went 5-for-8 from the field for 12 points, adding six rebounds and three assists. He was tremendously efficient against NW State, scoring 14 points in 14 minutes on 5-for-5 shooting. He added 10 points at McNeese State, then had a career-high 11 rebounds against Nicholls despite a tough night from the field. He is 17-for-18 from the free-throw line in conference play.
The native of Oklahoma City played two years at Redlands Community College under current Islanders assistant coach Yaphett King.
With Rashawn Thomas' putback layup, the Islanders cracked the 100-point barrier against Northwestern State on Thursday. It marked the 15th time in school history that the team has finished in triple figures (ninth time against a Division I school). The last game with over 100 points for the Islanders came against Nicholls on Feb. 8, 2007 – a 107-91 win over the Colonels.
It was also far and away the most points scored in the Willis Wilson era, besting the previous high of 82, coming in an overtime loss to UTSA in 2012. The previous high in a regulation game for the Islanders was the 81 scored at Central Arkansas a week ago.
The Islanders have seen an improvement on the offensive end with the advent of conference play. A&M-Corpus Christi has topped 70 points in each of its six conference contests and is currently fifth in the league with an average of 78.3 in league play. The Islanders are 10th overall with 69.2 points per game on the year.
Part of the offensive improvement can be attributed to remarkable efficiency. The Islanders are shooting .509 from the field in conference play, 20 percent better than Sam Houston State, which is in second place. Likewise, the Islanders have turned the ball over 10 times or fewer in each of the last five contests after turning the ball over 19 times in the conference opener at Central Arkansas.
A JAW-DROPPING START
Freshman Rashawn Thomas was one of the most electrifying players for the Islanders over the summer. During the team's trip to Italy, he had a double-double in each of the team's four games.
But the fates turned another direction for Thomas. The Oklahoma City native fractured his jaw on Nov. 7, the day before the Islanders' first game of the year against Huston-Tillotson. He missed the first nine games of the season.
Any doubts about the 6-foot-7 forward being tentative were instantly alleviated. Thomas missed his first two shots, but converted his first career points at the 8:25 mark. By the time the dust had settled in the game, the freshman had 12 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. He became the first Islander freshman with a double-double in his debut since Corey Lamkin had 16 points and 15 rebounds against Sul Ross State on Nov. 16, 2001.
He has had some struggles with foul trouble, but he has come out with a fury in his first five conference games. At Central Arkansas, he posted a career-high 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting and blocked four shots while snaring eight rebounds.
At Oral Roberts, he one-upped himself, posting his second career double-double with 15 points, 12 boards and two blocks in leading the Islanders to the upset victory. He added 10 points, seven boards and two blocks against Northwestern State in just 18 minutes. After consecutive games in single digits, he scored 11 on 5-of-6 shooting at Nicholls to help lift the Islanders to the victory.
In league play, Thomas is averaging 11.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. He is 30-for-47 from the field for a .638 percentage. He has also cut down on his fouls significantly, as he has committed just 15 fouls in conference play (2.5 per game).
Thomas was a McDonald's All-America nominee and was named City Player of the Year his senior season at Southeast HS.