January 21, 2012

Ali's Jumper Lifts Islanders to 50-49 Comeback Victory

HUNTSVILLE, Texas – This time, the comeback was complete. Hameed Ali's jumper from the left corner with 0.3 seconds remaining capped a huge comeback for the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi men's basketball team, as it knocked off Sam Houston State, 50-49, at Johnson Coliseum on Saturday. The Islanders (3-15, 2-4 Southland) overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to emerge victorious.

It marked the second game in a row that the Islanders had a massive comeback, as A&M – Corpus Christi came from 25 down to tie UT Arlington on Wednesday, but the Islanders wound up on the wrong end of a 77-73 score. This time, Ali, whose attempt at a game winner against South Alabama on Dec. 15 was just off the mark, gave the Islanders the one-point win and their first victory in Huntsville since 2007.

Johnathan Jordan had a career-high 14 points and added five assists and two steals, while Terence Jones added 12 points and four assists. The Islanders went 18-for-26 from the free-throw line in the win, including an 8-of-11 performance by Jordan. Steven Werner had a strong night for the Bearkats (8-11, 2-3) with a game-high 17 points and nine boards in the loss.

The two teams traded baskets early on, with the visitors holding a 7-6 lead, but a Konner Tucker three sparked a 9-0 run to give the Bearkats a 15-7 advantage. The Islanders countered with a 7-3 run, built on the strength of five free throws and a Ted Wang jumper, and they were back within just four at 18-14. But SHSU had another quick-hit 7-0 rally in them, sparked by back-to-back buckets in the paint by Werner, to open up a 25-14 advantage.

From there, the remainder of the half went back-and-forth, highlighted for the Islanders by a brilliant three-point play by Chris Hawkins-Mast. Tucker's third three of the night, and second in a row, provided the majority of the offense for the Kats as the teams went to the locker room with the score 32-21 in favor of SHSU.

Out of the locker room, the Islanders trimmed the advantage to 33-24, but SHSU strung together another 7-0 run, ballooning its lead to 40-24. But the Islanders bounced back with a 20-4 run to eliminate the lead. During the rally Jones led the way with eight points, while Jordan added six. A&M – Corpus Christi limited the Bearkats to just one field goal – an Antuan Bootle layup – over a span of 14:47.    

After a 45-45 tie, SHSU got two big free throws from Steven Werner, then a layup by Darius Gatson, their first basket in a span of 9:51, to take a 49-45 lead with 1:01 to play. The Islanders got a big layup from Hawkins-Mast, and the foul, to make it 49-47. Hawkins-Mast missed the free throw, but Jordan came down with the rebound and was also fouled. The freshman hit 1-of-2 to make it a one-point game with 43.6 seconds left.

On the ensuing possession, the Islanders played stifling defense after the Bearkats tried to run down the clock, and forced a 35-second call. After A&M – Corpus Christi called timeout with 5.0 seconds to play, Jordan possessed the ball off the inbound pass. He attempted to drive to his left, but after that was cut off, he found an open Ali in the corner, and the Hayward, Calif., native buried the jumper to give the Islanders the victory.

It marked the first win for Texas A&M – Corpus Christi in Johnson Coliseum since the 2007 regular-season finale, snapping a four-game losing streak in the building.

The Islanders return to action on Wednesday night, when they will play host to Texas State. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the American Bank Center.