AUSTIN - Kevin Palmer scored 23 of his season-high 28 points in the second half and Demond Watt recorded his second double-double of the year, but it wasn't enough to pull off the upset of second-ranked Texas Saturday at the Erwin Center as the Islanders fell 76-70.
The final margin was the closest of the season for the Longhorns who had won their first 12 games by double digits including victories over Michigan State (11) and North Carolina. Texas, which is now 13-0, had a scoring margin of positive 28.4 points entering the game.
The Islanders dropped to 5-7 with the loss. They will get another chance to defeat a nationally-ranked team on Monday. The Seminoles entered the past week ranked 22nd. It will be the first time the Islanders have faced back-to-back nationally-ranked teams in the program's history. The game is slated for a 6 p.m. start central time.
"I thought our team executed the things that we wanted to do," said Islander head coach Perry Clark. "We tried to keep the ball out of the middle, tried to not allow them second chance shots, and we tried to keep them out of transition. I thought we were fairly successful with a lot of those in the second half."
The game was tight early in the first half with freshman Terence Jones hitting a three-point bucket with 12:42 remaining in the period. The three gave the Islanders a 13-11 lead.
Texas responded taking the lead for good with an 18-0 run powered by its bench following a media timeout to take a 29-13 lead with 7:15 to go. Back-to-back three-point baskets by reserves Jai Lucas and Jordan Hamilton started the run. Lucas hit a second trey with eight minutes left in the half to make it 26-13. Hamilton netted seven points in the run. The Longhorn bench outscored the Islander reserves 40-6.
The Islanders battled back with Palmer and Marcus Hammonds hitting a pair of three-point buckets to make it a 9-point game with 1:20 left in the half.
Hamilton, who finished with 17 points, responded with a three with 1:07 remaining.
Trailing 43-29 early in the second half after a pair of Dexter Pittman free throws, Horace Bond dunked to cap a fastbreak and start a 9-1 run. Palmer warmed up during the run converting a conventional three-point play as he was fouled on a dunk after a steal by Watt. He then strained a three with 16:28 remaining to make it 44-38 with 16:28.
The Islander upset hopes took a below 30 seconds later as Palmer picked up his fourth foul.
With the team's leading scorer on the bench, Texas looked to pull away on two separate occasions. First, on a dunk by Pittman that pushed Texas back into an 11-point lead, 49-38. However, the Islanders cut it back to six with 12:38 remaining on the second three of the game by Marcus Hammonds.
A mini 10-2 run by Texas - helped by a pair of TAMUCC turnovers - extended the Islander deficit to 14, 59-45, with 8:44 left.
"I thought the key part of the game was when we got it down to six and then we turned the ball over two times in a row," said Clark. "I don't know what happened, I just know that we were dribbling and all of a sudden the ball was going the other way. If we had gotten a basket there, it would have given the game a whole new perspective."
Palmer returned to the contest and promptly cut into the deficit. He went on a personal 7-2 run to make it a 61-52 game with 6:23 left. Palmer would score 17 points in the final 8:11.
Brown's three from the left corner with less than five to go, pushed the Islander deficit to 69-56 with 4:50 left.
The resilient Islanders continued fighting with Palmer's bucket with 1:10 remaining making it an eight-point game, but Avery Bradley sank a pair of free throws with 55 seconds left.
The Islanders had a last gasp with 36 seconds left as Palmer was fouled driving to the hoop. The bucket fell but he was unable to convert the three-point play. Watt grabbed the rebound and converted the put-back with 36 seconds left. The basket made it a 6-point game.
TAMUCC promptly fouled but Hamilton hit a pair of foul shots to seal the win.
For the game the Islanders overcame 25 turnovers by winning the battle on the boards 47-37. Aside from Watt's 13, Palmer added six. Justin Reynolds and Hammonds each had five. Joining Palmer and Watt in double figure points was Jones with 11.
The Islanders also outshot Texas from the floor 37.1% to 35.4%.
Pittman led Texas with 18 points, while Hamilton had 17. James finished with a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He, who had nine offensive rebounds, was 4-of-13 from the floor.