ISLANDERS (9-13, 6-3) AT
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team looks to regain its footing after consecutive losses when it takes on Lamar on Saturday at the Montagne Center. The game will be carried live on ESPN3 with Lincoln Rose and Van Chancellor on the call.
• With 20 points against New Orleans, John Jordan moved into the school's career top-10 in points. The junior is now in the career top 10 in points, assists, rebounds and steals in Islanders history. He is four points from 900 and two assists from 400 in his career.
• During conference season, the Islanders have posted 33 double-digit scoring efforts across eight players.
• Sophomore Brandon Pye is selective in his shots, but is incredibly efficient. The Mansfield, Texas, native leads the conference with a .511 (24-for-47) shooting percentage beyond the arc.
• Freshman Jeff Beverly busted out of a slump with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting at Lamar. It was his second game in double digits in league play.
• Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher has 19 steals in conference season, including six against New Orleans. The six swipes were a career high and the second-most in a game in school history.
• The Islanders took part in a 10-day, 4-game tour of Italy this summer, visiting Milan, Varese, Florence and Rome.
LAST YEAR'S RESULTS
The Islanders and Cardinals split a pair of tight games last year, with each team emerging victorious on the road. In the first meeting, the Islanders snapped a 12-game losing streak by knocking off Lamar 62-56 in Beaumont. A&M-Corpus Christi got off to a big start, carrying an 11-point lead into the locker room and holding off a late charge from Lamar for the victory. John Jordan had one of his finest games in an Islanders uniform, posting a career-high 11 assists to go along with 15 points, three steals and five rebounds.
Lamar got its revenge in the second meeting, as the Cardinals closed the game on a 23-6 run to overcome a 13-point second-half deficit and stun the Islanders, 67-63. Donley Minor's hit a trio of three-pointers in the final two minutes, the final blow coming with less than five seconds left, in lifting the Cardinals to the victory. Minor scored 11 of his 16 points in the final two minutes to stoke the rally. Joy Williamson had 12 points in a losing effort for the Islanders.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Cardinals hold a slight edge in the all-time series, 7-5, taking the advantage by virtue of three wins in the last four meetings. Lamar won the first four matchups in program history before the Islanders responded with four in a row in 2008-09 and 2009-10. The Islanders are 1-2 in Willis Wilson's tenure against Pat Knight's Cardinals. The teams have split the series 3-3 all-time in Beaumont, with the Islanders winning three of the last four. The Cardinals' 78-77 victory on Feb. 22, 2007, was the only road loss for the 2006-07 Southland Champions.
LAST TIME OUT
Sam Houston State used a 21-4 run early in the second half to build a 16-point lead, then held off a frenetic rally by the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team for a 78-74 victory. The Bearkats claimed sole possession of second place with the victory.
Jeff Beverly led the way with 15 points in a losing effort, while John Jordan added 14 points and six assists. Zane Knowles posted 10 points to give the Islanders three players in double figures.
James Thomas topped the Bearkats with 17 points, while Terrance Motley (14), Paul Baxter (12) and Kareen Ransom all finished in double figures as well. Michael Holyfield had a huge game with 16 rebounds and five blocks for SHSU.
The Islanders' 6-3 start in league play can be attributed to a more efficient offense that is seeing a total team effort. In the eight league games, the team has seen a total of 33 double-digit scoring efforts distributed over eight different players. (See chart on page 5 for more information.)
John Jordan is the only player with eight games in double figures, while Rashawn Thomas and Jake Kocher have five 10-point contests. Joy Williamson and Zane Knowles have hit 10 points on four occasions, while Brandon Pye has done so three times. Hameed Ali has two games in double digits, while Jeff Beverly has two. Six players are averaging at least 7.4 points per game on the season.
Against Northwestern State, A&M-Corpus Christi put six players in double figures, led by John Jordan's 22. It marked the first time that the team has had six players finish with 10 points or more since Nov. 16, 2006, the season opener of the team's Southland Championship season.
Contrast that to last year in league play, when John Jordan and Will Nelson combined to average 28.4 points – 46.6 percent of the Islanders' offensive production. This year, Jordan and Rashawn Thomas are combining for 26.6, but that is just 35.2 percent of the offense.
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 front-runners 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 15.7 points per game, while his 4.8 assists are second. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, he has also pulled in 4.8 boards per game. He has posted 20 points or more on seven occasions, five assists or more 12 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.
Jordan's place in Islanders lore is also reaching new heights. With his 20 points against New Orleans, he moved into the school's top 10 in points. He is also already in the Islanders career top-10 in rebounds, assists, minutes and steals. He is on pace to become the ninth player in school history to score 1,000 points in his career later this season. He needs to average 11.6 points the rest of the way to pass that milestone.
Jordan has done much of his scoring by getting to the free-throw line. On the year, he has gotten to the stripe 10+ times on 10 occasions and has hit at least 10 at the line five times. He is 142-for-204 on free throws this year, both of those numbers leading the Southland. His 142 makes are already fifth in school history and his 129 against Division I teams are 15th nationally.
Jordan broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. With 398 career assists, he is second in school history and closing on Brian Evans' 493.
GUESS WHO'S BACK
In addition to the other newcomers, the Islanders have a welcome face back in the fold that was missing last season. Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher, who sat out 2012-13 after double hip labrum surgery, was back in the lineup in the season opener.
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 against HTU. In the UTSA contest, he played a career-high 25 minutes, totaling 11 points, four rebounds and four steals. He went through a prolonged cold stretch in December, though.
The start of conference play saw Kocher bust out of his slump, going 4-for-7 from the floor for 14 points at UCA, nabbing eight rebounds and posting a career-high five steals. It marked the first five-steal game for the Islanders since Garland Judkins had five swipes against Central Arkansas in 2011.
Over the last seven conference affairs, he has finished in double figures four times and is averaging 9.4 points over the last five.
He has seen a knack for steals, fast-break points and three-point plays as of late. At Nicholls he had 13 points – 10 in the paint – including a pair of three-point plays after notching steals. He scored a career-high 15 against Southeastern, earning two three-point play opportunities and scoring all six of the Islanders' fast-break points. And against New Orleans he had a career-best six steals – one off Kevin Palmer's school record. He is fourth in the league with 2.1 steals per game in Southland play.
In 2011-12, Kocher did most of his damage down the stretch, including a career-high 15 points in the season's penultimate game at UT Arlington. He is the city of Austin's all-time leading scorer from his days at St. Michael's Academy.
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 eight of its nine conference contests and is currently fifth in the league with an average of 75.6 in league play. The Islanders are ninth overall with 69.3 points per game on the year.
Part of the offensive improvement can be attributed to efficiency. The Islanders are shooting .481 from the field in conference play, up from .430 in non-conference affairs. Likewise, the Islanders have turned the ball over 10 times or fewer in seven of the last eight contests.
With a 6-3 conference record, the Islanders are off to their best start in league play since starting 7-2 in the 2009-10 season. In the championship season of 2006-07, the Islanders started 11-1 en route to a 14-2 league mark.
On the road, the Islanders lost their first contest in conference affairs at Sam Houston State. It is the first time A&M-Corpus Christi has begun 4-1 on the road since 2006-07. That team started 6-0 away from Corpus Christi and went 7-1 on the season.
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.
In league play, Thomas is averaging 10.3 points per game, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. He is 39-for-67 from the field for a .582 percentage. He had also cut down on his fouls significantly, committing 18 in his first seven conference affairs. But he had major foul trouble in a whistle-filled affair against New Orleans, fouling out in just 16 minutes.
Thomas was a McDonald's All-America nominee and was named City Player of the Year his senior season at Southeast HS.
THAT 70 SHOW
Seventy points has been a magic number for the Islanders this season. When A&M-Corpus Christi has reached the 70-point barrier, the team is 9-4 on the season, while going winless in nine games in which they have failed to score 70. On the other side, the Islanders have just a 3-8 mark when the opposition reaches 70.
The Islanders were blessed with a spectacular opportunity this summer, taking part in a 10-day tour of Italy that saw the team play four games. The NCAA allows teams to take an international tour every four years. In addition to getting to play against professional teams, the Islanders had the added benefit of 10 extra practice days prior to departing on their trip.
A&M-Corpus Christi went 3-1 during their four games, the only loss coming to a team that hit 16-of-31 three-pointers. The Islanders visited Milan, Varese, Florence and Rome during the journey, which ran from Aug. 20-30.