The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team gave themselves a second chance literally in the Southland Conference race out-scoring McNeese State 16-4 on second chance points en route to a 49-46 win at the American Bank Center on Stripes Court.
With the win, the Islanders move to 15-12 on the year and 9-3 in the league snapping a two-game losing streak in Southland play in the process and assured itself that it would remain in first-place at the end of the night. The Cowboys drop to 11-14 on the year are 5-7 in the SLC.
"We're so young and going through title race is tough," said Islander coach Perry Clark. "We have no player with two years of DI experience and we are trying to tell them how hard it can be when everyone is coming after you because they haven't been through it."
The Islanders jumped out to a 9-0 lead and did not trail late until a jumper by P.J. Alowaya broke a 40-40 tie with 6:13 remaining.
Kevin Palmer, who struggled much of the day shooting along with his teammates hitting a record low 28.8% from the field, warmed up at the right time scoring seven of A&M-Corpus Christi's final nine points. He answered Alowaya's jumper with his second three-point basket of the game with under five minutes to go.
"We knew they liked to play zone so we would have to hit some shots," said Clark. "We missed a lot of open looks. We chart contested shots and they only had four.
"Defensively, I thought we played well and came up with the stops we needed. It was a guts' win."
Back-to-back buckets by John Pichon pushed McNeese out to a three-point advantage, 46-43, with 3:53 left. However, McNeese would not score again.
Tim Green's putback of a Justin Reynolds' miss pulled the hosts to with one before Palmer's final three of the game with 3:08 left gave the Islanders the lead for good 48-46.
With 1:51 remaining, Palmer hit the second of two free throws to make it a three-point game to make it a 49-46. It was just the fourth free throw in 10 attempts for the Islanders, while the Cowboys hit 11-of-13.
Diego Kapelan, who hit a McNeese record nine three-point baskets on Wednesday against Northwestern State, had three chances in the final minute to the game from three-point range. He had two chances in the final seven seconds. After missing the first wildly, the long rebound came back to the guard. His second opportunity glanced off the rim as the game ended.
Reynolds scored seven of the game's first nine points with his three-point basket five minutes in making it a 9-0 game. TAMUCC extended the lead to 11, 17-6, as Tim Green hit a three-point basket less than 10 minutes in.
The Islanders would go cold scoring just two points over the next seven-plus minutes. The spell allowed the visitors to pull with 19-17 with 2:54 remaining on a pair of Stephan Martin free throws.
A three-point play by Filip Toncinic pushed the lead back to five with 2:38 to go and the Islanders led 24-21 at the intermission.
Coombs opened the second half with a three-point basket for a six-point Islander lead. After baskets by the Cowboy's C.J. Collins and Alowaya pulled the visitors within two, 29-27, with 17:34, Palmer scored five straight with a three-point basket and a dunk after one his four steals. The 5-0 burst by Palmer made it a 7-point game with 14:49 to go.
McNeese continued to fight back with Kapelan's jumper with 13:33 left pulling the visitors to within two at 34-32.
Horace Bond answered with a pair of dunks the first on a putback of a Palmer jumper. Bond then grabbed a loose ball after a missed free throw by Demond Watt and slammed that home for a 38-32 lead. A pair of Watt free throws made it a 40-32 contest with 10:38 left which was the Islanders' largest lead of the half.
The Islanders go through a five-minute dry spell allowing the Cowboys to get back in the game and take the lead with 6:13. TAMUCC missed six straights and had four of their 14 turnovers during the Cowboys' 10-0 run.
Palmer had 12 of his 14 points in the second and was joined in double digits by Reynolds, who netted 11. Four Islanders had at least six rebounds led by Toncinic with nine. Reynolds added seven boards, with Bond and Palmer swiping six apiece as TAMUCC had a 45-37 advantage on the board 19-6 on the offensive glass.
Kapelan had 11 points to lead McNeese, while Kleon Penn finished with eight blocks.
The Islanders head to Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. contest before returning to the American Bank Center on Saturday at 7 p.m.