LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi men's basketball team saw a halftime lead evaporate as Kennesaw State went 24-for-30 at the free throw line in the second half in overcoming a 16-point deficit on the way to a 69-65 victory over the Islanders on Friday afternoon. The game was the final of the Las Vegas Classic for the team and will be the last until facing Rice on Dec. 28, in Houston.
The Islanders (1-10) were led by Myron Dempsey with a career-high 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds for the double-double. Chris Hawkins-Mast added 11, while Hammed Ali and Terence Jones scored 10 apiece as the four players in double digits for Texas A&M – Corpus Christi. The individual effort by Dempsey was not enough, as Kennesaw State (3-9) rallied throughout the second half before taking the lead for good with 5:51 left in the contest.
In the opening period, the Islanders imposed their will early by scoring the first four points of the game on Dempsey layups and taking a 7-2 lead on a three-point play by Hameed Ali. The Owls closed to within two points at 9-7, but Texas A&M – Corpus Christi would go on an 11-1 run powered by baskets from Dempsey, Hawkins-Mast and Nate Maxey in addition to a three-ball by Jake Kocher to extend the advantage to 12 at 20-8 with 11:35 left in the half.
Kennesaw St. scored the next five points to close within seven once again at 20-13, but another run by the Islanders brought the advantage back into double digits. A layup by Dempsey, followed by a tip-in by the junior made it 24-13.
An Owl three-pointer at the 4:46 mark made it an eight-point lead ahead of an 8-3 run to open up a 16-point gap. Terence Jones hit a pair of free throws, then Maxey dunked, Ali hit a three and Dempsey added another lay-in to make it 35-19. The Owls picked up a layup with two seconds left in the period to send it into halftime at 35-21.
The lead swelled to as many as 16 when Dempsey hit the first shot of the second half, but from that point on, the Owls outscored the Islanders by a 48-28 margin, hitting 24-of-30 free throws while making just 11 field goals in the entire period.
The first time KSU took the lead at 42-41, Kocher answered with a three to make it 44-42 in favor of the Islanders. The lead would hold until the 5:51 mark when a pair of free throws gave the Owls a 55-53 lead they would not surrender. The advantage never got to more than five points, but accuracy from the line kept Kennesaw ahead.
Next up for the Islanders will be a Dec. 28, game against head coach Willis Wilson's former team, the Rice Owls. Wilson was a player and coach at Rice prior to his time at the Island University.
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