CORPUS CHRISTI – JaMichael Hawkins' three-pointer at the buzzer came up short, as the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team played stellar second-half defense to knock off Southeastern Louisiana 74-71 on Thursday at the Dugan Wellness Center. The Islanders came through with a critical 13-1 run midway through the second half to turn a nine-point deficit into a lead they would not relinquish.
The Islanders improved to 6-1 in conference play with the victory, while Southeastern is now 3-4. A&M-Corpus Christi placed five players in double figures, led by Jake Kocher's 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Zane Knowles added a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while John Jordan came up an assist short of a double-double with 14 points and nine assists. Hameed Ali and Rashawn Thomas each had 10 points as well.
Antonnio Benton led the Lions with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Hawkins added 14 points and Jeffrey Ricard and Dre Evans posted 11 each. The Islanders dominated the boards with a 39-23 advantage, including 18 on the offensive glass. A&M-Corpus Christi limited Southeastern to 7-for-20 from the field (.350) with just three offensive boards in the second half.
The Lions came out blazing hot, shooting .615 in the opening stanza to take a seven-point lead into the break. Southeastern jumped out to a 10-2 lead on the strength of a pair of threes as the Islanders went just 1-for-4 on their first four possessions. But the home squad trimmed it back to three with a Thomas three-point play at the 15:06 mark. From there, the two teams traded points back and forth, but five straight – the final three on a triple by Ali – put the Islanders up two at 18-16.
But Southeastern's hot shooting gave them an immediate answer on Julian Chiera's three-ball, and that was followed by trifectas from JHawkins and Chiera again for a 9-0 run and a seven-point Lions lead. The advantage fluctuated between four and nine points the rest of the way into the break, with the Islanders finishing off the half on a Knowles dunk that made it 40-33.
Out of the half, the Lions embarked on a 7-2 run to stretch the lead to game-high 12. The home squad chipped away, cutting it to six on a pair of occasions, but Joshua Fillmore's triple pushed the lead back to nine, 52-43, at the 14:28 mark.
That's when the Islanders made the crucial run, turning a nine-point deficit into a three-point lead. Kocher and Jordan were the key architects, with Kocher burying a three and getting a steal-and-layup to cap off the rally. Jordan added four points during the run. The Lions were 0-for-4 from the field in the process, and more importantly, the Islanders snared the defensive rebound on each occasion.
After two Lions free throws, the Islanders pushed the lead to five on buckets by Knowles and Jordan. But Southeastern came right back with four consecutive points once again to trim it to 1. Kocher again lifted the home team after two Jordan free throws, as he came up with a steal, a layup and turned it into a three-point play at the 5:34 mark to make it 65-59. After the Lions cut it back to three, Kocher came through once again, burying a triple from the left corner with 4:20 remaining to make it 70-64.
Southeastern kept rallying, getting the deficit to a single possession time and time again. But the Islanders kept up their strong play on the boards, limiting the Lions to single shots on the offensive end. Jordan hit 1-of-2 at the line with less than 30 seconds to play, making it a three-point game. After the Lions called a timeout, Kocher delivered lockdown defense, and Hawkins' three-point attempt came up short as the Islanders claimed the victory.
The Islanders are back in action on Saturday night, when New Orleans will visit the American Bank Center. Game time is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Stripes Court. Yannis Koutroupis will have the call of the game starting at 6:15 with the pregame show.
For all the latest on Islanders Basketball, be sure to follow the team on Instagram and Twitter (@IslandersMBB) and like the team's official Facebook page (Islanders Mens Basketball).