ISLANDERS (15-14, 12-4) VS.
THE OPENING TIP
Holding control of its own destiny for the No. 2 seed in the Southland Conference Tournament, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi enters its final two games of the regular season with a Thursday night matchup against McNeese State. The Islanders and Cowboys will tip off at 7:30 at the American Bank Center in the penultimate game of the season.
• Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has now logged nine more wins this season than it did in 2012-13, tied for the biggest win improvement in the nation (Toledo, Old Dominion, UW-Milwaukee).
• Junior John Jordan is just one point away from becoming the ninth player in Islanders history with 1,000 career points. The native Houstonian scored 22 points against Houston Baptist on Saturday, his 10th game with 20 points or more this season and his third in the last five contests.
• The Islanders' five-game win streak is the longest in the Willis Wilson era and the longest for A&M-Corpus Christi since a six-game streak in the 2009-10 season. That year's Islanders squad opened conference play 5-0 and added a non-conference win over UT-Pan American.
• Zane Knowles snared 17 rebounds on Saturday, including 15 on the defensive end. It marked the fourth-most rebounds in a game in school history and the second time he has tallied at least 17 boards in a game this season (Huston-Tillotson). The 15 defensive boards are a school record. He added six blocks in the game, the fourth-best mark in Islanders lore.
• In the team's first 13 wins, A&M-Corpus Christi had failed to score 70 points just one time, a 58-35 win over Lamar. In each of the last two games, the Islanders have registered wins despite not cracking 70.
• Senior Joy Williamson came up just one rebound shy of a double-double on Saturday, posting 11 points and nine rebounds in the victory over HBU. He added a team-high three steals.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders and Cowboys are even in the all-time series at 5-5. Five of the last seven meetings have been decided by four points or less, with two of those games going to the Islanders. A&M-Corpus Christi posted the second most lopsided win in series history with a 16-point victory earlier this season. The Islanders are 3-1 all-time against the Cowboys in the American Bank Center, the lone loss in Willis Wilson's first season at the helm.
LAST TIME OUT
John Jordan scored 22 points and Zane Knowles snagged 17 rebounds as the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team upended Houston Baptist, 65-45, on Saturday at the American Bank Center. The victory, coupled with Sam Houston State's loss at Oral Roberts, moved the Islanders (15-14, 12-4 Southland) into sole possession of second place.
Joy Williamson (11) and Rashawn Thomas (10) each finished in double figures in the victory, while Knowles added a career-high six blocks as well. The Islanders held HBU (6-23, 2-14) to 16-for-54 (.296) shooting and forced the Huskies into 18 turnovers. Rob Lewis was the only player to finish in double figures for Houston Baptist, posting 10 points.
A JAW-DROPPING START
Freshman Rashawn Thomas was one of the most electrifying players for the Islanders over the summer, 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 at Oklahoma, but converted his first career points at the 8:25 mark. By the time the dust had settled, 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 vs. Sul Ross State on Nov. 16, 2001.
He went through an incredible stretch in mid-February. It started with his finest outing of his young career at UIW, going 7-for-10 from the floor for a career-best 21 points. He followed that with 20 points on 7-for-7 shooting, becoming the second Islanders player (joining Josh Ervin, who did it twice in his Islanders career) to go 7-for-7 or better in a single game. He added a 7-for-9 performance on Thursday, making him 21-for-26 from the field over the three games.
Thomas is averaging 11.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in conference play, while his 21 blocks in league play are best on the team. He has scored in double figures 10 times, including a double-double at Oral Roberts.
Thomas was a McDonald's All-America nominee and was named City Player of the Year his senior season at Southeast HS.
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 eighth in the league with his 15.4 points per game, while his 5.1 assists are second. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, he has also pulled in 4.7 boards per game. He has posted 20 points or more on 10 occasions, five assists or more 16 times and at least five rebounds in 15 games this year.
He earned his first career weekly honor on Feb. 17, as he was named Southland Player of the Week. He started the week with a solid 10 points and eight assists with just two turnovers in a win over UCA. He had a tremendous finish against Oral Roberts, scoring or assisting on 25 of the Islanders' final 26 points, scoring 22 in total to go with nine assists.
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 (9th, 371), assists (2nd, 441), minutes (4th, 2,955), free throws (3rd, 359) and steals (8th, 114). With his 22 points against Houston Baptist on Saturday, he is just one point away from becoming the ninth player in school history in the 1,000-point club.
As of late, his presence as a distributor has been exceptional. He has averaged 6.5 assists over the last 10 games and has a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio in that time. He has six games in conference play with at least seven assists.
Jordan broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. His 145 dimes this year are second in school history, giving him the top three assist totals in Islanders lore. He is now just 53 assists away from shattering Brian Evans' career record of 493, a mark that he is on pace to pass early next season.
COUNTDOWN TO KATY
The victory against UCA on Feb. 13 officially clinched a spot in the 2014 Southland Conference Basketball Tournament. It will mark the Islanders' first trip to the postseason in Willis Wilson's tenure and the first trip to Katy since the 2009-10 campaign. The Islanders advanced to the semifinals of the event in 2008-09 and 2009-10 in addition to winning the Tournament in 2006-07.
Since the Islanders' last trip to the Southland Conference Tournament, the league has changed the format slightly. The third- and fourth-place teams each receive a first-round bye, while the top two squads receive a two-round bye all the way to the semifinals. With Sam Houston State's two losses last week, the Islanders control their own destiny for a number two seed.
The tournament is set up for women's games to be played in the morning and afternoon, with men's games in the evening, at 5 and 7:30 p.m. at the Merrell Center. Tickets in the Islanders section can be purchased by calling 825-BALL (2255).
The Islanders' most physically notable player is, without question, senior Zane Knowles. The native of Nassau, Bahamas, stands 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds and has shown he can be a force inside for the Islanders this year.
He showed up in a big way in the season opener, scoring 12 points and snaring 18 rebounds for his first career double-double. The 18 rebounds matched the second-highest total in school history, and were the most for an Islander since Corey Lamkin grabbed 18 at Air Force on Jan. 21, 2004. He has posted six double-doubles on the season.
His finest performance came at McNeese State, as he went 8-for-9 from the field, scoring 16 points and snaring nine rebounds. He had a quiet offensive day at Nicholls, but grabbed 10 boards in the win, then followed that up with his fifth double-double against Southeastern, posting 11 points and 11 boards.
After combining for just 10 points and one rebound at UIW and ACU, he started a tremendous stretch over the next four games. He posted 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting and added nine boards against UCA, then followed that up with his sixth double-double of the year, with 12 points and 11 rebounds against ORU. He made it back-to-back double-doubles at HBU, finishing with 10 and 11.
Then in the second game against the Huskies, he had one of the best two-point games in all of college basketball this season.Knowles snared 17 rebounds (fourth-most in Islanders lore), including 15 on the defensive end (most in school history) and added a career-high six blocks (fourth-most ever) against HBU. He was a crucial part of the Islanders holding the Huskies to just 29.6 percent from the floor.
Knowles is second in the conference with his team-leading 7.8 rebounds per game. He is third in the Southland in field goal percentage, shooting .586. In conference games, he has hit 67.6 percent of his shots from the field, the best mark in the Southland.
As a junior in 2012-13, he averaged 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds. He came to the Islanders after a year at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College and a season at Grambling.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has now logged nine more wins this season (15) than it did in 2012-13 (6). That total was tied for the biggest win improvement in the nation entering this week, though Toledo and UW-Milwaukee have each tallied victories to move to plus-10 in their win differential from a year ago. The Islanders and Toledo are both tied for second in the nation at plus-9.
The Islanders have also had quite a turnaround since the calendar flipped to 2013. A&M-Corpus Christi had more wins (11) in the first two months of 2014 than it did in all of 2013 (8). The team is also on a five-game winning streak, the longest in the Willis Wilson era and the longest for A&M-Corpus Christi since a six-game streak in the 2009-10 season. That year's Islanders squad opened conference play 5-0 and added a non-conference win over UT-Pan American.
GETTING ON BOARD(S)
The Islanders snared 50 rebounds to HBU's 39 on Saturday, marking the second time this season that A&M-Corpus Christi has hit the 50-carom mark (Huston-Tillotson the other).
A&M-Corpus Christi is just ninth in the conference in rebounds per game with its 34.2 per game in league play, but it has outrebounded its opposition by 4.7 – third best in the league. The Islanders have allowed just 29.6 rebounds per game, a total that is eclipsed only by conference frontrunner Stephen F. Austin.