KATY Kevin Palmer scored a career-high 35 points as the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the 2009 State Farm Southland Conference Basketball Tournament with a 79-72 win over defending champion UT Arlington.
With the win, the Islanders will face top-seed Stephen F. Austin in the semifinals at 8:30 on Friday night. The Lumberjacks won 71-66 almost two weeks ago at the American Bank Center. SFA handed Southeastern Louisiana a 67-56 loss as Josh Alexander had 25 points.
Islander fans can watch video of the game through the ESPN Full Court Package or on ESPN360.com if a subscriber. The game will also be available on the Southland Conference website. They can listen to the game on KCCT 1150 AM.
Palmer's outburst helped the Islanders overcome a 36-point performance by Marquez Haynes. The 36 points were a career high for the transfer guard from Boston College and the most by an Islander opponent since Norfolk State's Tony Murphy had 43 points on Dec. 19, 2006.
With the 35 points, Palmer surpassed his previous high of 31 points and recorded his third 30-point game of the season. The 35 points were the highest since Chris Daniels scored 34 points against Central Arkansas during the 2006-07 season. He hit 12-of-17 shots from the field and 9-of-11 free throws.
"I thought Kevin played tremendously," said TAMUCC head coach Perry Clark. "He scored a lot, and hopefully tomorrow we can get some more balance so Kevin doesn't have to carry us again."
Palmer, who had 21 points in the final 20 minutes, took over the game with 14:16 remaining and the game tied at 41. He had nine points during 19-6 run as the Islanders built a 13-point lead with 9:39 left.
The junior broke the tie with a jumper and then was fouled after swiping a steal and hit two free throws. He added a jumper and a three-point play giving the Islanders a 54-45 lead. Shamar Coombs' jumper extended the Islander advantage to double digits at 56-45.
After Haynes hit a pair of foul shots, Horace Bond capped the run with four of his 13 points. All 13 points came in the second half.
The Islanders maintained a double-digit advantage until the 7:27 mark when they led 61-50. Haynes and Anthony Vereen sparked a 12-5 run to pull within three points, 66-63 with 3:48 left.
Haynes had four points, while Vereen, who was limited to four points for the first 30 minutes, added nine. The UTA senior had a stretch of seven unanswered points in less than two minutes to make it a three-point game. Vereen ended with 18 points.
Islander senior Tim Green snapped the run with a three-point basket with 3:21 left. It was just the second field goal in nearly seven minutes from the Islanders.
The Mavericks twice pulled back to within three points, but Palmer answered each time. He sealed the win with four points in the final 16 seconds including a dunk with three seconds left.
The Islanders started slow as the entire roster was making its first appearance in the Southland Conference Tournament. UT Arlington the defending tournament champion winning as the seventh-seed a season ago jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a three-point basket by Tommy Moffitt and a jumper by Brandon Long.
"I thought they came out and just really got after us," said Clark. "They played very physical, they put a lot of pressure on us, and I give them a lot of credit. It was very difficult for us throughout.
A&M-Corpus Christi fought back taking its first lead at 8-7 on a three-point basket by Palmer
Down 25-20, the Islander closed out the half with a 12-3 run. Coombs began the run with a drive to the basket, while Watt followed with a putback marking the first points by an A&M-Corpus Christi post player. Reynolds made it six straight points for the Islanders scoring a second-chance basket.
Palmer, who had 14 points in the opening half, drained his second three of the half to give the fourth-seeded Islanders a 29-26 advantage. Following 1-of-2 free throws by LaMarcus Reed, Coombs knocked down the fourth three-point basket for the Islanders for a 32-26 with less than two minutes to go in the half for their final points. Long made it a five-point game at the intermission with a free throws with 51 seconds left.
Coombs finished with 14 points joining Palmer and Bond in double figures. Demond Watt grabbed a game-high seven rebounds as TAMUCC won the rebounding war 34-28, but lost the turnover battle 18-12.