ISLANDERS BREAKAWAY IN SECOND HALF FOR WIN IN SLC OPENER
A fast start to the second half, a solid inside game and a record-setting defensive performance allowed the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team to break open a one-point game at the intermission and hand Central Arkansas a 70-44 defeat at the American Bank Center in the Southland Conference opener for each team.
The Islanders moved to 7-9 on the season and to 4-1 at home with the win that snapped a three-game losing steak for A&M-Corpus Christi, who had played its last five on the road. Central Arkansas dropped to 7-7 on the season and is now 0-3 all-time for the Islanders.
"First, it was really good to be back at home," said Islander head coach Perry Clark. "After evaluating the last couple of games, we felt that if we could cut back the practice time and help them get their legs back that things would be alright. We thought if we were fresh things would take care of themselves."
Leading 25-24 at the break, the Islanders opened the second half with a pair of dunks by Demond Watt to take a five-point lead.
With UCA back within three, 31-28, just over two minutes into the second half, Filip Toncinic converted a layin and Watt scored again to start a 7-0 run. LaMarr Drake hit a three-point basket to cap the run and give TAMUCC a 10-point lead at the 15:12 mark.
A pair of free throws by the Bears' Brooks Taylor made it an eight-point contest with 14:44 left, but the visitors would get no closer.
The Islanders, who shot 51.4% in the second half and 43.5% in the game, would dominate in the paint on both ends of the court reaching 60 points before the visitors reached 40. Led by Watt and Toncinic, the Islanders outscored the Bears 43-6 in the paint, while out-rebounding their counterparts 51-36. The 51 rebounds are a season-high.
Watt posted the second double-double of his career with 14 points and 10 rebounds. The sophomore also had four blocks. Toncinic, who was making the second start of his career, responded with a career-high 14 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Kevin Palmer continued his strong offensive play hitting a pair of threes late in the game to finish with a game-high 17 points to go with three of the Islanders nine steals. The junior also had six rebounds, four assists and a block.
The Islanders also committed a season-low 11 turnovers matching the fewest under Clark. The team shared the ball finishing with 16 assists as nine TAMUCC players scored.
"Our ball-handing was the best it had been all season," said Clark. "The guys did a tremendous job of sharing the ball. The kids really feed off of each others success."
Defensively, the Islanders held Bears to 12 field goals which is the lowest by an opponent all-time and the 44 points were the fewest allowed since Texas State was held to 42 in the 2006-07 season. UCA also finished with just three assists which is the fewest by an opponent as well.
Rueter led the Bears with 10 points, while Brian Marks had a team-high eight rebounds.
The Islanders will look to move to 2-0 on Wednesday when it hosts Texas State at 7 p.m.