Three times this season and twice in Southland Conference play, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi junior guard Kevin Palmer scored the game winning points with under three seconds left. On Saturday, Palmer showed he is mortal as his three-point basket bounced off the rim as the clock expired as the Islanders fell 75-73 in a hard fought contest with Sam Houston State on Stripes Court at the American Bank Center.
With the loss, the Islanders and Bearkats now have identical 8-2 Southland Conference marks with Sam Houston State having the edge with a pair of wins this season over A&M-Corpus Christi. The loss dropped the Islanders to 14-11 on the year, while SHSU is now 14-10.
"It was a very hard-played game by both sides," said Islander coach Perry Clark. "Both teams played physical defense and made it hard for either team to do what they wanted to do offensively. It was about who adjusted and made the most plays and we came up one short."
The Islanders trailed by as many as nine in the second and were down eight, 62-54 at the 5:59 mark after Preston Brown hit one of two free throws. Brown, who had 21 in the first meeting between the sides when the Kats won 72-51 on Jan. 31, finished with 19.
Back-to-back buckets by Demond Watt and Justin Reynolds in the lane cut the Islander deficit in half, 62-58, with five minutes to go. Palmer, who had a game-high 23 points, made it a three-point game hitting one of two free throws.
Sam Houston would build their lead back to six with 3:58 remaining. Corey Allmond knocked down a pair of free throws for the visitors, who finished 17-of-23. Palmer, who entered the game hitting 82.3% of his free throws, again went 1-of-2 at the line at other end before Ashton Mitchell's basket made the score 66-60. Palmer was 5-of-9 at the line as the Islanders were 14-of-27 as a team.
Palmer cut the Islander deficit in half with a three-point basket, before Tim Green netted a three-point basket to tie the game at 66 with just over three to go and then gave A&M-Corpus Christi a 68-66 lead with a dunk on a putback as players from both sides were strewn all over the floor. It was TAMUCC's first lead of the second half.
Sam Houston State then broke the Islanders back with an 8-0 run to lead 74-68 with a minute left. Brown scored four straight points the last two giving his team the 70-68 lead with under 120 seconds to go before Josten Crow's layin made it a four-point game.
An offensive foul on Palmer was converted into a layup by Brown with 58 seconds.
Green continued to come up big for the Islanders hitting a three with 52 seconds left to make it a three-point game, 74-71.
The Islanders tried to get the ball back by playing solid defense, but Marcus Hammonds was called for a foul as the shot clock wound down. Allmond made the first of two free throws, but missed the second with just under 17 seconds remaining.
Shamar Coombs grabbed the rebound and went to the line as Allmond was called for a reach in as Coombs race up the court. Coombs hit both free throws with 13 second left to make it a 75-73 game.
Sam Houston State tried to be the Islander press with a long pass, but Allmond could not bring it in. The turnover set up Palmers chance of heroics.
Palmer took the ball at about midcourt as the Islanders waited for a last shot. The junior Palmer nearly lost the ball before gathering the ball back in. He fired a three that just missed with horn going off with the ball in the air.
In the first half, Sam Houston State scored the first five points before the Islanders went on a 13-4 run. The spurt put TAMUCC ahead 13-9 seven minutes into the game.
Reynolds began the stretch with four of his 14 points as he went 7-of-9 from the floor. After a Filip Toncinic jumper, Horace Bond tied the game at nine with a three-point basket.
A steal and a reverse dunk by Palmer broke the tie and gave the Islanders their first lead. Palmer stretch the lead to four with a layup moments later.
A three-point point play Crow gave the Bearkats back the lead at 16-13. They would not trail again until Green's dunk at the 2:25 mark. The largest lead of the half by the Bearkats was five on Mitchell's bucket with 13 seconds to for a 34-29 advantage.
Aside from Palmer's game high 23, Green finished with 15 including three, three-point baskets. Reynolds added 14. The Islanders finished with 15 steals led by four each from Palmer and Green, while forcing 22 turnovers. TAMUCC, which had 15 turnovers outscored Sam Houston 26-17 off turnovers. Palmer and Watt led the Islanders with seven rebounds apiece.
Allmond hit four three-point baskets and was 7-of-8 from the foul line for the visitors and finished with 21 points. Brown finished with a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Crow netted a career-high 13 points and Barkley Falkner had 10 points with nine boards. Sam Houston finished 51% from the floor in the game, while the Islanders shot 41.9% It was the best shooting performance by an Islander SLC opponent in league play this season.
"I really thought that we grew up today with the way we played in the second half," said Clark. "I told them at halftime that they just need to come out and play and not worry about everything else. I thought we did that and that is a sign of us growing up.
"Obviously, if that shot goes at the end were all happy, but even though it didn't fall I still think we did a lot of things well. Now we just need to bounce back."
A&M-Corpus Christi will get that chance to bounce back on Wednesday when it visits UTSA at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center.