SAN ANTONIO – Texas A&M-Corpus Christi staged a frenetic late rally to cut a 16-point deficit to just two, but Incarnate Word converted its final six free throws to hold on for an 82-78 victory on Thursday night. The hot-shooting Cardinals (17-5, 5-4 Southland) went 31-for-51 from the floor (.608) in the win.
Rashawn Thomas scored a career-high 21 points to go with six rebounds, two blocks and two steals for the Islanders (10-14, 7-4). Thomas led four players in double figures, with John Jordan (13 points, six assists), Hameed Ali (11 points, four assists) and Joy Williamson (11 points, five rebounds) all topping 10 points as well.
UIW placed four players in double digits as well, as Denzel Livingston paced the squad with 20 points, while Kyle Hittle (16), Sam Burmeister (14) and Anthony Horton (14) also finished in double figures.
The two teams traded baskets early on, with the Islanders holding a 5-4 lead, courtesy all five points from Ali. But the Cardinals turned it up on the defensive end to embark on a 9-0 run, capped by a three-ball from Horton to make it 13-5 at 16:32. From there, the Islanders slowly chipped away, using an 11-4 run to cut the deficit to just one, 17-16, on Thomas' layup inside at the 11:29 mark.
The Cardinals responded, regaining a five-point edge on a beautiful layup by Mitchell Badillo at the 9:51 mark. But the Islanders came right back, posting an 8-0 run that was capped by a brilliant off-balance finish by Jordan on an alley-oop feed that made it 26-23 in favor of the visitors.
But Incarnate Word came right back with another rally, using a 17-3 run to push ahead 40-29. After the teams traded free throws, Jake Kocher came through with a huge three-point play with 7.1 seconds on the clock. UIW, though, was able to work Ian Markolf free in transition, and he layed it in for a 43-33 lead at the break.
The Cardinals came out with the first three points of the half to push the lead to 13. The Islanders came back with two quick field goals to cut it back to nine, but from there the teams were mirror images of each other, with the lead fluctuating between nine and 11 over the next several minutes. The Islanders got a big three-point play from Thomas to cut it to eight at the 11:33 mark.
But UIW was able to buckle down defensively and regain a double-digit lead. A 14-6 run allowed the Cardinals to build their largest lead of the game at 16 on a Hittle layup that made it 72-56. From there it looked as though Incarnate Word would coast to the victory, pushing the lead to 76-62 on a Burmeister layup with 2:02 left.
The Islanders refused to go quietly, though, ratcheting up the pressure and putting together a tremendous rally. A 16-4 run cut the lead all the way to just two, as Kocher's three with 13.7 seconds left made it 78-76. But UIW was able to convert its final six free throws to hold on for the 82-78 victory.
The Islanders will wrap up their four-game road swing with a trip to Abilene for their first meeting with Abilene Christian on Saturday night. Game time is slated for 3 p.m. at Moody Coliseum. Yannis Koutroupis will have the call on NewsRadio 1360 KKTX.
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