CONWAY, Ark. - The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi waited entered Southland Conference play looking for its first win on a hostile court and used a strong performance from the foul line and on the glass to hand Central Arkansas a 64-59 defeat at the Farris Center Saturday.
The Islanders hit 82.6% (19-of-23) from the foul line and out-rebounded the Bears 40-25 including 24-9 in the second half of play. UCA finished the game just 3-of-11 from the foul line.
With the win the Islanders move to 6-8 on the season and start 1-0 in the league for the third time in three seasons. It was their fourth win in as many meetings over the Bears (6-9, 0-1).
Kevin Palmer led three Islanders in double digits with 23 points and was 11-of-12 from the foul line. Demond Watt recorded his third double-double in a row with 12 points and 11 boards. He set a school record with seven blocked shots. The prior mark of six was shared by Pathe Diene and Thomas Bailey. Horace Bond added 10.
Down one at the intermission, the Islanders opened the second period with four straight points on jumpers by Justin Reynolds and Watt to take its first lead of the game, 32-29.
The game remained tight with neither team leading by more than four points until the Islanders took a 7-point lead on a dunk by Reynolds after he stole the ball and beat a pair of defenders.
Chris Poellnitz helped bring UCA back from seven points down and gave them the lead, 49-48, with 3:15 remaining. Following a Jared Rehmel bucket, Poellnitz scored six consecutive points and finished with a team-high 17.
LaMarr Drake answered with a three for his only points of the game. The three would give the Islanders a 51-49 lead.
After Tadre Sheppard tied the game on a bucket off a loose ball, the Islanders went on a 10-0 run. TAMUCC went 8-of-9 from the foul line during the run and Palmer blocked a Dewan Clayborn three. Palmer finished off the block with a basket. Following the layin UCA head coach Rand Chappell was slapped with a technical arguing Claybon was fouled. Palmer converted both foul shots for a 61-51 lead.
The hard-fighting Bears would pull back to within five as Poellnitz hit a trey with 15 seconds left.
Marcus Hammonds and Watt combined to hit 3-of-4 foul shots to seal the win.
In the first 20 minutes, the Islanders were forced to play from the start as Central Arkansas jumped out to an 8-0 lead. Rehmel opened the game with a three-point basket and a mid-range jumper before Mitch Rueter drained a trey for the 8-0 lead. Rueter finished with 14 points.
A&M-Corpus Christi chipped its way back into the contest with a 6-1 run capped by a Reynolds bucket with 15:32 remaining pulling the Islanders back to within three, 9-6.
UCA, hit 6-of-11 threes in the opening half, again used its long-range shooting to get separation. Dewan Clayborn hit a three to send the lead back to eight, 16-8.
The Islanders used an 8-0 to knot the game at 16 beginning with a three-point bucket by Hammonds. After Reynolds swiped a steal and beat the defense down court for a dunk, Palmer converted a three-point play to tie the game at 16 with 6:44 left.
With the game knotted at 20, UCA hit a trio of threes to take a 29-20 lead with 2:50 left in the half.
A&M-Corpus Christi again showed its resiliency closing the half with an 8-0 spurt. Palmer had four points, while Watt and Bond each had a pair to make it 29-28 at the intermission.
The Islanders next head to San Marcos where they will face Texas State on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Bobcats opened Southland play at UT Arlington coming away with a 64-60 win. A&M-Corpus Christi will open league home action next Saturday at 7 p.m. against Northwestern State on Stripes Court.