January 8, 2010

ISLANDER MEN HEAD TO UCA FOR SLC OPENER

The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team opens the second half of its season Saturday traveling to Conway, Ark. to face Central Arkansas in the Southland Conference opener for each team.

The Islanders enter league play at 5-8 after dropping back-to-back games to nationally-ranked Texas (No. 2) and Florida State (No. 19). It was the first time the islanders had played back-to-back ranked teams. A&M-Corpus Christi, which is 2-1 in SLC openers, will also be looking for their first road win of the season as they are 0-7 on a hostile court.

"The start of conference play is the most important time of the season," said TAMUCC head coach Perry Clark. "How you do in conference dictates your postseason hopes and aspirations. It is a new start and each game is extremely important.

"Obviously, any time you can get a road win in conference play it is important. We've been on the road a lot this season already so the guys don't really know anything different."

The Bears are 6-8 after beating Eccleisa 75-53 earlier this week. In the game prior, UCA fell 80-74 to Central Methodist.

The game is a meeting of the two newest members of the Southland Conference. The teams entered the Southland together prior to the 2006-07 season. Since that time the Islanders are 26-22 in the league, while the Bears are 11-37. They are in their final season of transitioning from Division II to Division I.

The Islanders are 3-0 versus UCA all-time. Last season, A&M-Corpus Christi won 70-44 at the American Bank Center. The Islanders outscored the visitors 45-20 in the second half to break open a 1-point game. Kevin Palmer finished with 17 points. Demond Watt had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Filip Toncinic also had 14 points. Mitch Rueter led the Bears with 10.

A&M-Corpus Christi hasn't visited Conway since the 2006-07 season winning 85-73. The closest contest was an 86-79 decision on Stripes Court in 2007-08.

Palmer continues to lead the Islanders in scoring. He is second in the Southland Conference with 20.2 points a game and was 17th in the nation following Saturday's game. He is tenth in the country and first in the Southland Conference with 2.8 steals. He has received help in recent games from Watt. Watt has had six straight double-digit scoring games and has had back-to-back double-doubles. He is averaging 14.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in that stretch and his back-to-back doubles are the first consecutive double-doubles since Justin Reynolds did it against Oklahoma State and Troy two seasons ago.

Tadre Sheppard leads UCA with 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds. Sheppard is joined by Chris Poellnitz (12.0), Rueter (11.2) and Jared Rehmel (10.4) in double digits. The Bears have been hurt by the loss of Mike Pouncy. The senior guard was averaging 12.2 points a game before an injury six games into the season. He is expected to miss the rest of the season and apply for a medical redshirt.

The game can be heard on ESPN 1230 KSIX with live stats available at ucasports.com.