TEXAS A&M - CORPUS CHRISTI (2-15, 1-4) AT SAM HOUSTON STATE (8-10, 2-2)
Saturday, Jan. 21 • 7 p.m. CT
Johnson Coliseum (6,110) • Huntsville, Texas
THE OPENING TIP
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi returns to the road in search of its second Southland Conference victory of the year when it heads to Sam Houston State on Saturday at 7 p.m. Steven King will have the call for the Islanders beginning at 6:45 on NewsRadio 1360 KKTX and GoIslanders.com.
The Islanders are coming off one of their best offensive performances of the year, but they wound up on the losing end of a 77-73 contest against Southland leader UT Arlington. A&M - Corpus Christi rallied from a 33-8 deficit to tie the game at 47-47, but were unable to pull ahead of the Mavs in the contest. Kennon Dvorak scored a career-high 15 in the loss.
Sam Houston State has won its last two after opening conference play 0-2. The Bearkats knocked off Nicholls in Thibodaux on Jan. 14 and then defeated Texas State on Wednesday night at home. SHSU has an 8-10 overall record on the year. The Bearkats rival the Islanders in terms of percentage of newcomers, as they have seven transfers and two freshmen on their roster.
• True walk-on Kennon Dvorak scored a career-best 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting from downtown. He has made four straight starts for the Islanders in the backcourt.
• The Islanders are shooting .438 from the field in conference play, including .480 (86-of-179) from inside the arc. The Islanders shot just .368 in non-conference action.
• After a string of subpar outings from outside, Terence Jones went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc on Wednesday against UT Arlington.
• The Islanders had their best offensive game of the year on Wednesday. A&M - Corpus Christi scored a season-best 73 points and shot a season-high 51 percent.
• Johnathan Jordan had his second game out of four with nine assists against UTA. He leads the league with 4.4 assists per game overall.
• The Islanders posted a 39-14 run against the Mavs, turning a 33-8 deficit into a 47-47 tie. The Islanders had three chances to tie or take the lead in the last two minutes, but were unable to go ahead.
• Chris Hawkins-Mast has eight straight double-digit scoring games. He is averaging 12.8 points over the last 10, including a career-high 22 at West Virginia.
• The Islanders have used seven different starting lineups, with 10 different players represented.
SCOUTING THE BEARKATS
Sam Houston State enters the weekend with an 8-10 record and a 2-2 Southland mark in Jason Hooten's second year. The Bearkats are the only team in the conference that returned a lower percentage of points from last year than the Islanders did. SHSU has nine newcomers, and has also only gotten four games out of returner Antuan Bootle this season. The Bearkats average 59.1 points per contest and shoot 41 percent from the field.
Four players average 9.8 points or better, led by Konner Tucker's 11.2 and Demarcus Gatlin's 10.8. Marcus James has led the way on the boards with 7.1 rebounds to go with his 9.8 points. Darius Gatson has been the main distributor for SHSU with 71 assists.
LAST TIME OUT
The Islanders staged a furious rally, overcoming a 25-point first-half deficit to push first-place UT Arlington to the brink, but the Southland leading Mavericks were able to survive with a 77-73 victory on Wednesday at the Dugan Wellness Center. Kennon Dvorak scored a career-high 15 and Terence Jones led the Islanders with 17 points in a losing effort. Dvorak, a true walk-on who joined the team just prior to Islanders Invasion, went 4-for-5 from downtown and added three assists and three boards.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
Historically, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi has struggled with Sam Houston State, holding a 4-9 record against the Bearkats in the Islanders era. The Islanders are even with SHSU at home, but in Johnson Coliseum, they are just 1-5, with the lone win coming in the 2007 Championship season, an 85-68 win in the regular-season finale.
Last year, the two teams split their contests, with the Islanders taking a 70-68 win over the Bearkats at the Dugan Wellness Center. SHSU won the game in Huntsville, 75-67, with four players scoring in double figures for the Bearkats. Among current Islanders, Terence Jones averaged 15.0 points last year.
THE NEW GUY
At the McNeese State game on Jan. 7, from press row to the stands, everybody was checking their scorecards. Who is that number 42 that's in the starting lineup?
Kennon Dvorak, a true walk-on from Moulton, Texas, was inserted into the lineup to serve as the primary defender on star scorer Patrick Richard. The guard, who transfered from the club team at Victoria College, took part in walk-on tryouts in October and joined the team just prior to Islanders Invasion.
Dvorak made sure the fans would remember him after his most recent performance. Playing in the Dugan Wellness Center, where he spent last year playing intramurals and pick-up ball in hopes of making the team this year. The guard went 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, scoring a career-high 15 points and adding three boards and three assists.
He has now started four straight games for the Islanders, though he was limited to just 13 minutes against Southeastern Louisiana after suffering an injury while being fouled in the opening minute. He had played just seven minutes before appearing in the starting lineup.
The Islanders have seen a solid improvement in their offense as of late. The Islanders are shooting .438 (114-for-260) from the field in conference play, including .480 (86-of-179) from inside the three-point line. The Islanders shot just .368 in non-conference action.
Against UT Arlington, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi had its finest offensive game of the year, scoring a season-high 73 points and shooting 51 percent from the field. In the second half, the Islanders shot a remarkable 75 percent, drilling all five three-point attempts. After the break, they scored on 20 of their 31 possessions (and started 20 of 28), averaging an impressive 1.39 points per possession.
The UTSA game was another example, as the Islanders had a season-high .571 shooting percentage in the first half (16-of-28) and went on to hit 46.8 percent on the game. A&M - Corpus Christi shot 16-of-26 (.615) from inside the arc in San Antonio.
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.
Against McNeese State, he dished out a career-high nine assists to just one turnover, and he matched that assist total against UTA. He now sits atop the league with his 4.4 assists per game, has 74 dimes on the season, and is the only freshman in the Southland's top 10 in apg.
He also is on pace for 130 assists this year, which puts him within range of Brian Evans' single-season record of 132. He currently needs 29 more to move into the team's single-season top 10.
Jordan, who has a 46-inch running vertical, won the Islanders slam-dunk contest in the preseason with a stellar two-handed jam.
QUITE A RUN
When the Islanders fell behind 24-3 and later 33-8 on Wednesday, things looked bleak. But the Islanders used a 39-14 run over a span of 15:43 to pull even at 47-47. During that span, they shot 15-of-23 (.652), and allowed UTA to go just 4-of-18 with 10 turnovers.