Men's Basketball Takes on UTSA WednesdayTEXAS A&M - CORPUS CHRISTI (8-19, 3-9 SLC) AT UTSA (13-12, 6-6)
Wednesday, Feb. 23 • 7 p.m. CT
Convocation Center (4,080) • San Antonio, Texas
RADIO: 1230 AM, 103.3 and 96.1 FM (Steven King)
LIVE VIDEO/STATS: GoUTSA.com
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team heads to San Antonio looking to snap its losing streak against conference rival UTSA. The Islanders are still alive in the Southland Conference race, but will need to win their remaining four games and get some help in order to advance to the postseason. The Islanders are winless in their last six games and are currently three games out of the last spot in the race for the Southland Tournament.
Last time out, the Islanders fell to Lamar, 73-56, as the Cardinals used a hot-shooting second half to knock off the Islanders. Demond Watt scored 19 points in a losing effort, while Chris Mast added 11 points and a career-best eight boards. UTSA is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Nicholls on Saturday, as the Colonels came back from a six-point halftime deficit and won the game 54-52 on an Anatoly Bose putback as time expired. Devin Gibson scored 11 points and had eight assists in playing all 40 minutes for the Roadrunners, who scored just one point in the final 4:49.
• The Islanders will look to split the season series with the Roadrunners with a win on Wednesday. UTSA knocked off Texas A&M - Corpus Christi 55-47 in the second conference game of the season on Jan. 12.
• In just his third game back from a foot injury, Chris Mast appears to be hitting on all cylinders. The junior college transfer had 11 points and a career-best eight boards against Lamar after scoring 10 points to go along with six boards and two steals off the bench against Texas State on Feb. 15.
• Demond Watt got back in the scoring groove with 19 points against Lamar on Saturday, his best output in the month of February. However, the big man had just five rebounds, and has not hit double digits in caroms during the Islanders' losing streak.
• Sophomore Terence Jones had a banner day from the field last week at Sam Houston State, as the Baltimore native scored a career-high 21 points. Jones was 4-of-7 from downtown and 8-of-14 from the field in the contest.
• In his second start of the season at SHSU, Jawan Nelson had one of his finest games in an Islanders uniform. The junior scored 10 points and added six boards in a career-high 24 minutes. He added nine points against Texas State.
• Senior Justin Reynolds led all scorers with 16 points against Texas State, including hitting the team's only two three-pointers. On Feb. 7 against Savannah State, the Pearland, Texas, native finished with 19 points and a career-best 15 rebounds in a losing effort.
• Reynolds and fellow senior Demond Watt are just the second pair of Islanders teammates to top 1,000 career points at the same time, joining Corey Lamkin and Travis Bailey, who did so in 2005. Watt (1,210) is sixth in school history, while Reynolds (1,180) is seventh in Islanders lore.
SCOUTING THE ROADRUNNERS
As of late, it has been a tale of two teams for UTSA. The Roadrunners have won five straight home games but have lost four road contests in a row. UTSA has lost three of four overall, with losses to Southeastern Louisiana and Stephen F. Austin along with the Nicholls defeat, but a win over first-place McNeese State.
Devin Gibson is arguably the top player in the conference, averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists. The guard is also among the league leaders with 69 steals and averages 34.8 minutes per contest. Melvin Johnson III (14.2) and Jeromie Hill (13.1) both average in double figures for UTSA as well, with Hill posting 6.7 rebounds.
A LOOK AT THE SOUTHLAND
With four games remaining per team, the Southland is still wide open, especially in the West. Texas State is in the lead at 8-4, but Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State and UT Arlington are just a game back at 7-5. UTSA is 6-6 in conference action. The Islanders are three games back at 3-9 in league play.
In the East, things are only slightly more spread out, with McNeese State atop the division at 8-4. Northwestern State is 7-5 on the season, while Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls and Lamar are jockeying for the last spot in the tourney at 6-6. Central Arkansas (1-11) was the first team officially eliminated from the postseason on Saturday.
The playoff scenarios are suddenly clearing up for the Islanders. In order to make the conference tournament, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi needs to win all four of its remaining games in addition to getting some help from other teams. The Islanders need to finish ahead of four teams to make the conference playoffs, and currently hold the tiebreaker over just Southeastern Louisiana among the 6-6 squads. The Islanders would win the tiebreaker over UTSA should they win out and be tied with the Roadrunners.
Junior college transfer Chris Mast was just beginning to excel in his role for the Islanders when a foot injury against Stephen F. Austin sidelined him for three games. Still, the junior college transfer has worked his way back, and the last two games have been strong ones for the Washington, D.C., native.
Last time out, Mast scored 11 points and matched his career high with eight rebounds against Lamar. The athletic wing was 4-of-6 from the field, hit all three of his free throws and delivered two assists and two steals.
That followed a solid game against Texas State on Feb. 15, when Mast came off the bench to net 10 points and six boards. He played eight minutes in his first game back from injury at Sam Houston State.
In the first game against UTSA, Mast scored a career-best 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go along with three rebounds, three assists and two steals. He set the tone for his breakthrough contest in the opening minute, when he swiped a Roadrunner pass and took it all the way for a fast-break dunk to put the Islanders up 2-0.
The native of Washington, D.C., who also scored nine points at Oklahoma State, is averaging 21.1 minutes and 5.2 points so far this year.