CHAMPAIGN, Ill. In their home-opening win over Texas A&M-Kingsville on Friday, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team used a big run to take control en route to a 19-point win. On Sunday, the Islanders fell victim to a decisive run as Illinois used a 23-2 burst to close out the first half and pulled way for a 72-53 win.
The loss evens the Islander record at 1-1, while the Fightin' Illini moved to 2-0. It was the opening game of the South Padre Invitational.
The Islanders started fast jumping out to a 10-5 lead less than six minutes into the when Horace Bond scored on a back-door cut following a pair of three-point baskets by Kevin Palmer, who tied for a team-high with 10 points.
The Illini would turn up the pressure defensively while the Islanders went cold closing out the first half with a 23-2 run. After hitting 2-of-3 from behind the three-point line to start the half, the Islanders missed their last eight three attempts of the half. The 12 points in the first half were the fewest-ever by A&M-Corpus Christi in a half. The previous mark was 18 in December of 2001 against Texas-El Paso.
"We had a game plan to come out and execute some things against their different sets and to their credit Illinois did a good job of guarding our sets," said Islander coach Perry Clark. "We couldn't do anything to get the ball inside.
"We just never got going offensively. Defensively, I thought we played hard and did a good job in the first half. We just couldn't get going offensively."
Illinois picked up the intensity in other areas including the boards in the final 14 minutes. A&M-Corpus Christi dominated early in getting the lead taking an 8-1 advantage on the boards, but were out-rebounded 21-8.
Offensively, Trent Meacham scored 11 of his 14 points in the first period including a trio of treys, while Demetri McCamey added seven of his 13.
In the second half, the Islanders continued to battle and after Meacham opened the final 20 minutes by converting a three-point play, A&M-Corpus Christi chipped away to pull as close as 13 on a bucket by Watt. With 12:19 remaining, LaMarr Drake looked to convert a three-point play, but missed the free throw. Watt grabbed the miss and converted the put-back attempt to make it a 43-30 contest.
After four straight points by Illinois, Watt connected from behind the three-point line to make it a 14-point game with just under 11 minutes to go.
Following a quick spurt by the Illini that pushed the lead back to 20 for the hosts, Filip Toncinic tried to ignite his team. The Croatian hit a three-point basket and then after stealing the ball scored in the paint to make it a 13-point game with under four minutes left, but the Islanders were unable to get closer. Toncinic scored a career-best 10.
Aside from 10 points by Palmer and Toncinic, Justin Reynolds added eight and Watt seven. Watt grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.
Mike Davis scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half to lead the Illini in scoring and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead all players
The Islanders stay in the Land of Lincoln for a second clash with a Big 10 school when they visit Northwestern on Wednesday. The game is slated for a 7 p.m. tip.