TEXAS A&M - CORPUS CHRISTI (1-6) AT WEST VIRGINIA (6-2)
Saturday, Dec. 16 • 2 p.m. ET
WVU Coliseum (14,000) • Morgantown, W.Va.
RADIO: NewsRadio 1360 AM KKTX (Steven King)
LIVE STATS: MSNSports.net LIVE AUDIO: GoIslanders.com
LIVE VIDEO: ESPN 3/ESPN Full Court
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team kicks off the Las Vegas Classic with a game at West Virginia on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT. The game will be carried on ESPN Full Court, ESPN3 and the BIG EAST Network.
The Islanders sit at 1-6 on the season after a tough loss to South Alabama on Thursday night. A&M - Corpus Christi had a shot to tie or win on its last possession, but Hameed Ali's three-pointer from the top of the key rimmed out and the Jaguars pulled off the win. Returners Terence Jones (12.6) and Chris Hawkins-Mast (10.4) lead the Islanders in scoring this season, while freshman Johnathan Jordan has had an impressive year at the point with his 4.0 assists per game, the second-best average in the Southland.
West Virginia is back in action for the first time since a 77-66 win over Miami a week ago. In that game, Darryl Bryant caught fire, going 9-for-12 from the field and 5-for-7 from downtown to score 27 points. Kevin Jones added 12 points and nine boards, while Deniz Kilicli had 18 and eight.
LAST TIME OUT
Hameed Ali's three-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out, and the Islanders fell to 66-64 to South Alabama on Thursday night. Terence Jones led the team 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, and Johnathan Jordan had four assists. USA got three players in double figures with Augustine Rubit leading the way with 13.
SCOUTING THE MOUNTAINEERS
West Virginia sits at 6-2 after impressive back-to-back wins over Kansas State and Miami. The Mountaineers have gone 4-1 at home, with their lone defeat coming at the hands of Kent State, 70-60, on Nov. 15. The team also has wins over Oral Roberts, Alcorn State, Morehead State and Akron.
Star forward Kevin Jones leads WVU with his 20.1 points and 11.4 boards per game. Darryl Bryant (17.0) and Deniz Kilicli (12.1) have also averaged double figures for the Mountaineers this season. West Virginia is averaging 77.4 points per game on the strength of their inside game, which has them shooting 185-for-334 (.554) inside the arc.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
This will be the first meeting between the Islanders and Mountaineers in the history of both programs and the first game the Islanders have ever played in the state of West Virginia. This will be the 32nd state in which Texas A&M - Corpus Christi has played.
Against the BIG EAST, the Islanders are 2-2 all-time, with both victories neutral-site triumphs over South Florida. The team is also 0-1 against DePaul and fell to Marquette in Wisconsin a year ago.
VEGAS, BABY … VEGAS
This will be the second straight season that the Islanders take part in a Las Vegas-based exempt tournament, as they were in the Las Vegas Invitational last season. A year ago, the Islanders fell at Ohio and Kansas before splitting affairs in Vegas with Bethune-Cookman and Valparaiso.
This year, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi takes part in the Las Vegas Classic, which sees them travel to West Virginia, Missouri State and play two games in the City of Lights.
Over the upcoming trip, the Islanders will log over 5,000 air miles in addition to 165 round-trip miles from Pittsburgh International Airport to Morgantown, W.Va. Including Thursday's game against USA, the Islanders will play five games in a span of eight days.
FINDING THE RANGE
Junior Terence Jones is the team's leading returning scorer from last season, but had struggled to heat up in the offensive end over the first four games of the season. That all changed on Dec. 1 against Texas Tech, as the Baltimore native went off for a career-high 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting.
It was the most points for an Islanders player since Justin Reynolds scored 26 against UT-Arlington on March 2, 2011. Jones followed that up with another solid effort, going 5-for-9 from the field and hitting both treys he shot for 12 points at Houston.
In the South Alabama affair, Jones upped the ante from the outside, burying his first four threes en route to 17 more points. Interestingly, though, Jones had uncharacteristic struggles at the line. The career 68 percent free-throw shooter missed his first five attempts at the line and went 3-for-9 in the game.
Over the last three contests, the Baltimore native has averaged 18.3 points, shot 55.6 percent from beyond the arc and gone 19-for-39 from the field.
After being a role player in his first season for the Islanders, senior Chris Hawkins-Mast has emerged as one of the team's go-to guys on the offensive end. Hawkins-Mast is second on the team with his 10.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest.
After strong performances in the exhibition and first game of the year, he had gone cold for a couple games before re-emerging with 16 points and nine boards against Tech. He added 15 on Thursday against USA.
The native of Washington, D.C., attended a pair of junior colleges before landing at the Island University prior to the 2010-11 season. He went by the name "Chris Mast" a year ago, but chose to use his full legal name to honor his mother, whose maiden name is Hawkins.
BREATH OF FRESH AIR
In the game against Texas Tech, it was the upperclassmen who led the way. Returners Terence Jones (26) and Chris Hawkins-Mast (16) scored 42 of the Islanders' 54 points against the Red Raiders. Junior college transfer Jason Smith was next on the list with six points. In fact, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi got just four points from freshmen in the game, a mere 7.4 percent.
Houston was a far different story, as the newbies stepped up their game. Hameed Ali led the Islanders with 15 points and Jake Kocher had a career-best nine points in just 18 minutes of action. All told, the frosh combined for 36 of the 66 points.
In Thursday's game, it was a balance, with returners scoring 32 points and the freshmen netting 22 against South Alabama. Freshman center Nate Maxey had a career-high eight in the game.
The Islanders point guard may be one of the smallest players in the Southland Conference, but what he lacks in size he more than makes up for in athletic ability. Houston native Johnathan Jordan stands just 5-foot-10, but his extreme athleticism and basketball IQ are the aspects of his makeup that are far more important to the Islanders.
He has been impressive leading the Islanders offense with his 28 assists and is second in the conference with 4.0 per game. His 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio is fifth in the league.
In the Houston game, he filled the stat sheet, scoring eight points and leading the team with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. He also had a career-best six dimes against Texas Tech.
At the end of the Denver game, he was a one-man wrecking crew. The freshman had two steals and eight points during a 10-0 run that drew the Islanders within three points with 26 seconds to play.