The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team rallied to within two from 15 points down in the second half Saturday night, but were unable to finish off the comeback against Southland Conference leader Stephen F. Austin, falling 71-66 at the American Bank Center.
The loss puts the Islanders two games behind the Lumberjacks for the regular season title with two games left in the regular season. The Islanders now sit at 15-14 overall and 9-5 in the league, while SFA improved to 19-7 and 11-3 in the league. TAMUCC is now a game behind Sam Houston State in the West Division and Nicholls in the East. The Islanders are tied with UT Arlington for the fourth seed at 9-5. The two teams meet next Saturday in the regular-season finale. UTSA is one game behind the Islanders and Mavs at 8-6.
A&M-Corpus Christi found itself down by 15 points with 14:05 left after Matt Kingsley hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it a 50-35 contest in favor of the Lumberjacks.
The Islanders wouldn't go away as they went on a 16-8 run to make it a 55-51 game.
Horace Bond found Tim Green with a skip pass for a three-point basket to start the run. Following a layin by Jawan Nelson, Demond Watt scored on a put back and then off an assist from Kevin Palmer to make it a 51-44 game with 10:14 left.
After SFA's Eddie Williams hit a jumper, Filip Toncinic hit a free throw and Green hit two to make it a 6-point game with just under eight to go. Bond answered a layup by Benson Akpan with a dunk With 6:18 remaining, Palmer hit a pair of foul shots pulling the Islanders to within four points, 55-51.
SFA would extend the lead back to eight points on three occasions, but no more. The last eight point lead came on a pair of Kinglsey free throws with 4:20 to make it a 63-55 game.
After Bond hit the first of two free throws, Tim Green hit his second three-point basket of the game, pulling the Islanders to within four at 63-59 with 3:01 left. With 2:05 left, Palmer hit a jumper making it a 63-61 game.
Josh Alexander, who had a game-high 25 points, connected on a pair of free throws with 1:48 left. The Islanders pulled back to within three as Bond missed the first of two free throws but hit the second.
Girod Adams made the score 66-62 in favor of SFA with 1:19 as he hit one of two free throws.
Palmer, who finished 1-of-7 from behind the arc, missed a three with just over a minute to go. Watt grabbed the rebound, but the Islanders turned the ball over on the ensuing possession.
Akpan extended the visiting Jacks margin to six points with 38 seconds left. Toncinic answered with a jumper to make it a four-point game with 25 seconds left.
Alexander iced the game with a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left for a 70-64 lead.
In the first half, the Islanders used their defensive intensity to take a seven point lead four minutes into the game. Shamar Coombs capped a 7-0 run with a three-point play for a 13-6 lead. But the duo of Alexander and Kingsley would combine for 33 first half points.
SFA responded with a 10-2 run to take its third lead of the game at 16-15. Alexander, who had 21 points in the first 20 minutes, began the spurt with a three.
After Palmer hit a jumper with 13:51 left to make it 15-9, A&M-Corpus Christi would not score for four minutes. Meanwhile, Akpan converted a three-point play, and Alexander swiped one of four steals and finished on the other end. Kingsley's jumper with 9:52 left made it a 16-15 SFA lead. Kingsley had 12 first half points.
Jawan Nelson's jumper with 9:27 ended the scoreless spell for the Islanders and temporarily gave the Islanders a 17-16 lead. After Kingsley gave the visitors a 22-19 lead with 6:35 left, Nelson scored again to pull TAMUCC to within one.
SFA answered with a 9-0 run and would outscore the Islanders 17-8 the remainder of the half. The Lumberjacks led 39-29 at the break.
Palmer led the Islanders with 20 points. Toncinic added 13 points and Green came off the bench for 10. SFA had four players with 12-or-more points. Aside from Alexander's 25, Kingsley added 17, Adams 13, and Akpan 12.
The Lumberjacks were efficient offensively, hitting 51% from the field with 12 turnovers, while the Islanders shot 41%. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi did have a 40-28 advantage on the glass including 16-4 on the offensive side as Demond Watt led all players with 10. The Islanders out-scored the visitors 18-6 on second-chance points.
The Islanders close out the regular season at home on Wednesday when they face Lamar on Senior Night. The game is slated for a 7 p.m. start.