CORPUS CHRISTI – Five players scored in double figures, as the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team clinched a spot in the Southland Conference tournament with an 84-73 victory over Central Arkansas on Thursday night. The Islanders (12-14, 9-4 Southland) remain in third place in the league, and will return to Katy for the first time since the 2009-10.
Hameed Ali led the way with 16 points, while Zane Knowles (14 points, nine rebounds) and Rashawn Thomas (14 points, five rebounds) both had strong games in the post. Brandon Pye added 13 points, while John Jordan scored 10 points and added eight assists and three steals.
LaQuentin Miles netted 25 points and six rebounds in a losing effort for Central Arkansas, while DuShaun Rice added 13 points. The Islanders won the battle of the boards, 26-25.
Both teams came out red hot from the field out of the locker room, with the squads trading blows to a 12-10 UCA lead at the 14:19 mark of the opening stanza. But at that point the Islanders went on an 8-0 run, started with a Jake Kocher fast-break layup and finished with an Ali jumper that made it a six-point lead with 10:57 to go.
The Islanders were able to push the lead to eight, 24-16, on Kocher's second fast-break layup of the game, but the Bears came right back with consecutive threes to cut the deficit to just two. The lead fluctuated between two and six over the next few minutes, but the home squad got a pair of threes from Pye to counter UCA's two baskets, then Jordan drained a jumper just before the halftime horn to make it 42-36 heading to the locker room.
A&M-Corpus Christi was scorching hot from the field in the opening 20 minutes, going 19-for-26 (.731). But eight first-half turnovers for the Islanders, combined with seven offensive boards for the Bears, allowed UCA to keep the deficit to just six. UCA also went 5-for-8 from downtown and 7-for-8 at the line in the opening stanza.
As back-and-forth as the first half was, the game became even more of a seesaw out of the locker room. The lead fluctuated between three and six for the Islanders for the first 10:04, until a Thomas layup that was set up by a Jordan steal pushed the lead to eight, 65-57.
But that was when UCA went on its biggest rally of the game, 13-6, to cut the lead to just one. Miles was the major architect of the rally, scoring eight of the 13 points, including a three-point play and a steal followed by a fast-break dunk that cut the lead to just one, 71-70, with 5:09 remaining.
The Islanders then locked down defensively, holding the Bears to just one field goal and three points the rest of the way, finishing the contest on a 13-3 rally to close out the 11-point victory. Fittingly, the team's two most experienced veterans, Jordan and Ali, scored 11 of the team's final 13 points as the team iced a spot in the postseason. The Islanders defense held UCA to 1-for-8 with four turnovers in the final five minutes of action.
The Islanders are back in action on Saturday afternoon at the American Bank Center, as they play host to Oral Roberts for a 3:30 p.m. start. The game will be televised on Comcast Sports Houston with Tom Dore and Van Chancellor on the call. Yannis Koutroupis will be live on the radio on NewsRadio 1360 KKTX starting at 3:15 with the pregame.
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