CORPUS CHRISTI - Junior transfer Garland Judkins had 16 points in his debut to lead five players in double figures, as the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi men's basketball team (1-0) took its season opener from Northeastern (Okla.) State, 81-74. Dominique Gaines led all scorers with 26 points for the RiverHawks (0-1) in a losing effort.
Demond Watt netted 15 points, Antonio Topps scored a career-high 13, and Horace Bond (11) and Jawan Nelson (11) also finished in double digits for the home Islanders, who took their fourth straight season opener. Topps went 3-for-5 from beyond the three-point arc and Nelson hit all three of his triples in the win. The victory was career win number 295 for head coach Perry Clark, who closed within five of the 300-victory mark for his career.
The Islanders got off to a hot start out of the gate, jumping out to a 20-8 edge at the 11:16 mark of the opening half. The home squad's defense was too much for NSU to handle in the early going, forcing nine turnovers in the opening nine minutes to ratchet up the pressure. Both teams dueled toe-to-toe for the next five minutes, with the RiverHawks using a trio of Terance Reeves free throws to pull it to a 29-18 ballgame.
However, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rolled off an 11-0 run over the next three minutes to open up a first-half high 22-point advantage. Jawan Nelson's second three ball in less than a minute started the rally, and Jones added a pair of free throws and a triple of his own to rally the Islanders cause. NSU staged a rally late in the half to pull it to a 44-31 deficit heading into the locker room.
The RiverHawks rallied out of the locker room, posting a 13-3 run out of the locker room to draw within three at 47-44. But from there, the Islanders slowly rallied with their inside game, ashit back-to-back layups and Nelson added another to make it a 10-point game. Watt, who had gone scoreless until those layups, added a third at the 10:23 mark to give the home squad a 63-54 edge.
The RiverHawks refused to go quietly as the contest wound down, keeping the deficit between seven and 12 for the final 10 minutes. The Islanders were able to hit their free throws down the stretch to ice the win, hitting seven of their final nine at the stripe, five by Judkins. The Islanders held a 38-34 advantage in rebounds, including an 11-5 advantage on the offensive glass. The home squad also made the most of the turnovers it forced, scoring 23 points off turnovers in the game.
Next up for the Islanders is the big matchup against Texas A&M on Monday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. at the America Bank Center. The game will be televised on Southland TV and nationwide on ESPN Full Court and ESPN3.com. Tickets are still available on Ticketmaster.com, at the America Bank Center ticket office or through the Islanders ticket office by calling 361-825-BALL.