Islanders Fall in Nailbiter to South Alabama, 66-64

CORPUS CHRISTI – Hameed Ali's three-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out, and the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi men's basketball team fell to 66-64 to South Alabama on Thursday night at the American Bank Center. Terence Jones led the Islanders with 17 points and Chris Hawkins-Mast delivered 15 in the loss.

Nate Maxey had eight points and matched his career best with four blocks, while Myron Dempsey added three blocks and six boards. Hawkins-Mast led the team with eight rebounds, while Johnathan Jordan had four assists.

South Alabama got three players in double figures with Augustine Rubit leading the way with 13 points and eight boards. Dallas Jones added 11 and Freddie Goldstein posted 12. Antione Lundy led the boards with 10 for USA.

The Jaguars got out to a quick 5-0 lead, but the Islanders responded with a 7-0 run to take a 7-5 advantage. Jones buried a three-ball and Dempsey and Hawkins-Mast got buckets inside for the lead. But USA caught fire from the outside, slowly pushing the lead to 24-14 on the strength of scoring their first five triples.

Jones snapped the string with a three from the left corner, and the Islanders embarked on an 8-2 rally to trim the deficit to 26-22. The run continued, and culminated with another Jones trey that tied the game up at 30-30. USA was able to stem the tide, though, finishing the half with a 34-31 lead. Both teams were spectacular from long range in the first 20 minutes, with USA hitting 5-of-7 and the Islanders burying all four attempts.

Out of the break, the affair went back-and-forth over the first several minutes, but a three-ball from Jake Kocher tied the game at 42 apiece. But the Jaguars then rallied to push ahead with a 9-2 rally for a 51-44 lead, before Nate Maxey broke the skein with a layup to trim the deficit to five. The next time down the floor, Maxey finished off an alley-oop on a fast break to force a USA timeout with the lead down to three.

The battle continued over the next several possessions, with the Islanders countering every blow from the Jaguars. The Islanders finally trimmed it to just a one-point deficit on a Hawkins-Mast putback, but Goldstein's clutch three with the shot clock winding down pushed the lead to 61-57 with just under five minutes remaining.

The leads continued to flip between two and four when Hameed Ali banked in a desperation trey at the end of the shot clock to trim it to one. Again, though, USA had an answer, as Rubit finished off a three-point play to make it 66-62 in favor of the visitors. The Islanders trimmed it to two with 1:26 left, then got back-to-back defensive stops, the second on a Dempsey block, to hold the ball down two with 8.3 seconds left. But Ali's try was just off to the right, and the Islanders suffered the two-point defeat.

The Islanders will get right back to the court, as they are back in action Saturday afternoon against West Virginia in the opening round of the Las Vegas Classic. Game time is slated for 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT in Morgantown, and live video will be available on ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court. The game will also be carried on NewsRadio 1360 KKTX with the Voice of the Islanders Steven King on the call.