TEXAS A&M - CORPUS CHRISTI AT OKLAHOMA STATE
Friday, Nov. 11 • 7 p.m. CT
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team will open its 2011-12 regular season with a Friday night contest at Big 12 foe Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The contest will be the first official game for head coach Willis Wilson at the helm of the Islanders program. The 25-year veteran of the college game became the third head coach in program history when he was hired on March 25. The Islanders have 10 newcomers and return just three scholarship players from last year's team.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi played one exhibition game, last Saturday, falling in overtime to Incarnate Word, 69-65. In that contest, the Islanders rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to force overtime, but the Cardinals were able to pull ahead on a three-pointer just over a minute into the extra session and led the rest of the way for the win. Oklahoma State won both of its exhibition contests in the preseason, drubbing Panhandle State 105-56 and knocking off Oklahoma Baptist, 66-53.
The Islanders head to Stillwater for the second straight year, having faced the Cowboys on Nov. 17, 2010. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi was within four points after a Terence Jones three with 3:30 to go, but the Cowboys were able to pull away in the closing minutes to register a 68-58 victory.
Jones led the Islanders with 18 points, while Chris Hawkins-Mast scored nine in the contest. Ray Penn came off the bench for OSU to net 17 points, while Marshall Moses added 17 and nine boards in the win. OSU has the best record of any team against Texas A&M - Corpus Christi, going 7-0, including a 5-0 mark in Stillwater.
SCOUTING THE COWBOYS
Oklahoma State won both its exhibitions, besting Panhandle State and Oklahoma Baptist at home. Keiton Page led the way with 18 points against OBU, while Le'Bryan Nash had 26 and 11 vs. Panhandle.
LAST TIME OUT
The Islanders fell in their lone exhibition of the 2011-12 preseason, 69-65 to UIW. But they showed a hard-working attitude that will help the team improve as the season rolls on. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi trailed by 14 points with 14:25 to play, but rallied to force overtime with a 20-6 run.
Chris Hawkins-Mast led the team with 23 points and eight rebounds, going 10-for-17 from the floor. Terence Jones added 14 points, while Myron Dempsey added 10 in his Islanders debut.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
With just three returning players from last season, the Islanders are one of the least experienced teams in the Southland Conference. While Sam Houston State has fewer points returning from last year, the Bearkats have a number of reserves back from last year's squad.
Starter Terence Jones and key reserve Chris Hawkins-Mast are the only two that played significant minutes last season for A&M - Corpus Christi. The Islanders return just 417 points (21.5 percent) from last year's team.
Willis Wilson will be the third coach in Islanders history to make his debut on the sidelines. The previous two coaches went 1-1 in their starts for the Island University. In Ronnie Arrow's first game – the first game in program history – the Islanders knocked off Eastern Washington, 71-67, in War Memorial Coliseum. Perry Clark's first game as the Islanders' bench boss was less successful, as his team fell to Texas Southern on Nov. 9, 2007.
A TOUGH ROAD AHEAD
As it was a year ago, the Islanders have a very challenging schedule early on in 2011-12. After opening the regular season on the road against Big 12 foe Oklahoma State, the team returns home to face off with one of the top teams in the Sun Belt – Denver. Next up is a Turkey Tuesday visit from Utah State, which lost just four games a year ago.
After Thanksgiving, the Islanders hit the road again to match up with Top 25 foe Texas A&M before returning to the Coastal Bend against their third Big 12 foe in under a month, Texas Tech. The Islanders also have pre-Christmas road games at Houston, Missouri State and West Virginia and a contest against Arrow's South Alabama squad in the American Bank Center.
Chris Hawkins-Mast and Terence Jones combined to average 13.9 points per game last year, but when they were on the court together, the offense ran well. In the 341:09 they played at the same time, the Islanders averaged 67.3 points per 40 minutes, five points more than the team averaged on the season overall (62.7).