Islanders Return to Action at Dr. Pepper Classic

Islanders Return to Action at Dr. Pepper Classic

Tuesday, Dec. 28, and Wednesday, Dec. 29

McKenzie Arena (10,928) • Chattanooga, Tenn.
RADIO: 1230 AM, 103.3 and 96.1 FM (Steven King)

Following a seven-day break over the holidays, the Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team returns to action at the Dr. Pepper Classic, hosted by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Islanders will take on Georgia State in the opening game of the Classic and will then face either host Chattanooga or Montreat in the second game.

Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is coming off a hard-fought, 68-63 loss to No. 17 Memphis on Monday, Dec. 20. The Islanders went blow-for-blow with the Tigers before a late surge allowed the home squad to pull out the victory. The Islanders were within one possession in the final minute, and nearly forced a five-second call on a Memphis inbound pass, but the Tigers got a timeout just before the turnover. Hollis Hill led the way with a career-high 16 points, while Terence Jones and Justin Reynolds each added 11 points. Jones matched his career high with six assists to no turnovers, as the Islanders had a season-low 13 turnovers.

• Against Memphis last Monday, the Islanders had their best ball-control game of the season. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi had a season-high 19 assists and a season-low 13 turnovers. After halftime, the Islanders had just two turnovers to 11 assists.

• A big part of that effort was sophomore Terence Jones, who matched a career high with six assists without a turnover. Jones leads the team with 25 assists this year.

• Senior Demond Watt has had four games with 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds this season. His 15 career double-doubles are third in school history. He is just 18 points away from joining the 1,000-point club in his career.

• Senior Justin Reynolds became the seventh player in Islanders history to top 1,000 career points with an OT layup against Houston. He now has 1,014 points in his Texas A&M - Corpus Christi tenure.

• Reynolds has scored in double figures in five of the last six games, including 14 points and eight boards against Houston. Over the last five, the senior has averaged 12 points and 8.5 boards.

• Head Coach Perry Clark is just two wins shy of 300 in his career. The veteran bench boss has a 298-256 career record and was the 1992 National Coach of the Year.

• The Islanders have played the fourth-toughest schedule in the country according to college basketball RPI expert Jerry Palm ( Texas A&M - Corpus Christi has played six teams that made the 2010 NCAA Tournament in non-conference play.

• The Islanders placed four players in double figures against both Houston and Memphis, arguably the team's top two performances of the year. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is 3-2 this year when having at least three players with 10-plus points.

Georgia State enters the Dr. Pepper Classic at 4-5 overall, but an 0-3 mark when playing away from Atlanta this season. The Panthers have played a bevy of close games this season, as eight of their nine contests have been within 10 points and three - all GSU losses - have gone to overtime. The Panthers opened the season at Southland Conference member McNeese State, resulting in a 68-62 loss.

GSU has been bolstered offensively by junior college transfer forward Brandon McGee, who has averaged 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in nine games and four starts. Eric Buckner has added 9.8 points, 6.6 boards and 2.2 blocks. Georgia State has shot 43.4 percent from the field.

Classic host Chattanooga has played a busy schedule this season, going 6-6 in 2010. The Mocs are 3-3 at home, and have already played three conference games, going 3-0. The squad has suffered road losses to tough competition in Tennessee and Louisville this year, and is coming off a 107-48 win over NAIA squad Reinhardt on Dec. 21. The Mocs face fellow NAIA squad Montreat in the opening round of the Classic.

The three-point shooting of Omar Wattad has led the Mocs, with 13.5 points every time out and a .348 percentage beyond the arc. Ricky Taylor has been solid from outside as well with his .364 percentage and 10.5 points every contest. Chattanooga is averaging 40.3 rebounds as a team with Chris Early and DeAntrae Jefferson providing 7.1 apiece. Keegan Bell has added 6.6 assists per game for the Mocs.

Members of the NAIA's Appalachian Athletic Conference, Montreat enters the Classic 4-6 overall, including an 0-2 mark against Division I foes this season. The Cavaliers have lost road contests at Longwood (111-62) and UNC-Asheville (86-57).

Matt Rushing has led the way for Montreat with 11.3 points and 2.0 steals on the season. Steve McBurrough has added 8.7 points and leads the squad with 7.4 boards every time out.

The Islanders have never faced any of the other participants in this weekend's tourney. Wednesday's contest will be Texas A&M - Corpus Christi's fourth game all-time against a foe from the Colonial Athletic Association, and the Islanders are 3-0 against the conference, with wins over Old Dominion, James Madison and UNC Wilmington.

The Panthers will see a face they recognize on the Islanders' sideline. Assistant Coach Mark Dannhoff coached for Georgia State in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons under then-head coach Michael Perry.

This will be the second neutral-site tournament for the Islanders this year, as the team took on Bethune-Cookman and Valparaiso at the Las Vegas Invitational over Thanksgiving. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi went 1-1 in its two games in Vegas. The Islanders are 9-11 in tourneys away from the Coastal Bend region all-time and have won at least one game and lost at least one game in each tourney since the program's second year. The Island University has never won an exempt tourney in school history.

With starter Garland Judkins missing the Memphis game with an ankle injury, the Islanders were looking for someone to step up in his stead. Though he didn't enter the starting lineup for Judkins, freshman Hollis Hill was the key catalyst offensively against the Tigers, scoring a career-high 16 points in a losing effort.

Hill was 5-for-10 from the field, 2-of-4 from beyond the arc and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line in just 21 minutes. He buried a desperation three just before the shot clock expired for a crucial basket to help the Islanders build a first-half lead over the 17th-ranked Tigers. Just before the halftime buzzer, he showed his wisdom as well, opting to dish to a trailing Horace Bond rather than get blocked on the drive to put Texas A&M - Corpus Christi up one.

It marked the second game in double-figures in Hill's career, as he had 11 points against St. Edward's on Dec. 1. The Chicago native is averaging 3.7 points this year.

Perhaps the most impressive stat that jumped off the box score against Memphis was the Islanders' ball control. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi had a season-high 19 assists and a season-low 13 turnovers in the contest. Looking deeper, the second half was even more impressive as the Memphis defense only forced two Islanders turnovers against 11 assists.

With Garland Judkins sidelined, Terence Jones was the one picking up the slack, as he finished with six assists and no turnovers playing the point, including a five and zero mark after the break. Chris Mast added four assists to one turnover for the Islanders.