HOUSTON – The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team fought off a hard effort from Houston Baptist to take a 66-61 victory on Saturday, improving to .500 (14-14, 11-4 Southland) for the first time since November with the win. Zane Knowles had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.
A&M-Corpus Christi remains in third place, half a game behind Sam Houston State (11-3) with the victory. The Islanders now lead the trio of Oral Roberts, Northwestern State and Nicholls (8-6) by two and a half games heading into the final three contests of the season.
HBU (5-22, 2-13) had another strong effort at home, placing four players in double figures. Ricmonds Vilde led the way with 13, while Rob Lewis added 10. Caleb Crayton and Marcel Smith scored 10 each in a losing effort.
Early in the game, neither team had much success on the offensive end, with HBU taking an 8-5 lead on a Reveal Chukwujekwu jumper at the 11:26 mark. But the Islanders followed that with a 6-0 run, four points coming from Ali, to garner an 11-8 lead. That exchange sparked both offenses, and the teams went back-and-forth, with the Islanders holding a 17-15 lead after Cody Joyce's layup with 6:40 remaining.
The Islanders then embarked on a 12-4 run to build a double-digit lead for the first time. A jumper by Jordan started the rally, and Pye finished it with consecutive jumpers to make the score 29-19 with 1:28 left before the half. HBU got a bucket inside from Dauson Womack to cut it to eight at the break.
Out of the half, A&M-Corpus Christi got things started with a bang, as Jeff Beverly converted a three-point play to put the Islanders up 11. But the Huskies responded with five straight points, cutting the Islanders' advantage to 32-26. The Islanders then slowly extended their lead, outscoring the Huskies 13-5 to push the advantage to 14 on a Joy Williamson layup in transition, 45-31.
The Huskies responded, though, unleashing a 17-4 run to cut the lead to just one, 49-48. Smith and Lewis delivered the key blows, with each drilling a three. Smith added a layup during the rally, as HBU used strong defensive pressure to claw its way back in the contest.
Williamson and Pye snapped the run with consecutive baskets, but HBU refused to wilt, scoring six of the next seven points – the final two on a Vilde dunk – to knot the game at 54. But A&M-Corpus Christi came right back with a three-point play for Knowles that sparked an 8-0 run capped at the free throw line by Ali. HBU was able to cut it to as little as three in the closing minutes, but the Islanders converted their shots at the line down the stretch to ice the victory.
The Islanders and HBU will meet once again in a week, as the Huskies travel to the Coastal Bend for the annual Homecoming game on Saturday, March 1. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. at the American Bank Center.
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