ISLANDERS AT UTAH STATE
SATURDAY, NOV. 17, 7:05 P.M. MT/8:05 P.M. CT
DEE GLEN SMITH SPECTRUM • LOGAN, UTAH
NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi will wrap its two-game road trip with a visit to Utah State on Saturday, Nov. 17. The Islanders will be looking to repeat their performance against the Aggies from last year, when they knocked off USU 58-55 in overtime.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, three months and 23 days as of tonight.
• A&M - Corpus Christi was victimized by Denver's outside shooting in a 68-51 loss, as the Pioneers hit 11 three-pointers.
• Hameed Ali matched his career high with 15 points against DU, going 6-of-15 from the field and adding four steals.
• The team's leader, sophomore Johnathan Jordan, has scored in double figures in both games this season and has had four assists in each contest. He is 9-for-18 from the field and 5-for-7 from the line this year.
• The Islanders opened their season with a 60-49 win over Texas Lutheran on Saturday night, their fourth season in five opened with a win.
• The Islanders do not have a group of five players who will see action this year that had previously played together in a competitive contest.
• Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is ineligible for the postseason because of poor results in the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate. No Islander who played under Wilson had anything to to with the subpar score.
ANOTHER FAMILIAR FACE
For the second straight contest, the Islanders will do battle with a team that they saw in the American Bank Center last year. A season ago, A&M - Corpus Christi upset Utah State with a 58-55 overtime victory. Hameed Ali delivered the big shot, drilling a three in the extra session that gave the Islanders a lead they would not relinquish.
Morgan Grim led the way for the Aggies in the loss, delivering 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Brockeith Pane added 15 points. The Islanders were helped by 16 points off of 16 USU turnovers, and won the battle of second-chance points in convincing fashion, 22-8.
He's only a sophomore, but Houston native Johnathan Jordan has been thrust into the role of leader on the young Islanders squad. Jordan led the Southland in assists per game in 2011-12 and despite his newbie status, was also among the leaders in minutes per game. With 26 starts, he entered the year with nearly as many Division I starts as the rest of his teammates combined (34).
Jordan struggled from the field in the exhibition against UIW, going 3-for-15 from the floor, though he did record five steals. He bounced back with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists against Texas Lutheran, though he struggled to get into a rhythm early in the game and was not in the starting lineup. He followed that with 10 points and four assists at Denver.
The 5-foot-10 Jordan is also one of the most athletic Islanders, having twice won the slam-dunk contest at Islanders Invasion, thanks much to his 48-inch running vertical leap. His 138 assists last season were a new school record.
As the youngest member of last year's freshman class, Hameed Ali showed flashes of being a strong player for the Islanders, hitting game-winning shots against Utah State and Sam Houston State in addition to having the ball in his hands with the chance at a win against South Alabama.
But Ali, who turned 19 in August, has shown significant growth in his maturity, particularly as a vocal leader for the Islanders. Formerly one of the most shy members of the team, Ali has become a constant voice in practice – whether he is on the court or on the sidelines.
His game has seen a similar progression. After averaging 4.3 points per game a year ago, the native of Hayward, Calif., has seen significant improvement on both ends of the court. After scoring nine in the opener with Texas Lutheran, he became the go-to player at Denver, hitting 6-of-15 shots to match his career high with 15 points. He also had four steals, giving him six in the season's first two games.
WHERE THERE'S A WILL...
If it's possible for a team's leading scorer and rebounder, who hadn't played competitive basketball in a year and a half, to be off to a slow start, then Will Nelson is in that scenario.
The junior college transfer is averaging 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds through his first two Division I contests. But he has shot just 7-for-24 (.292) from the floor and 2-for-7 (.286) from downtown in those games. He has played 64 minutes on the year, tops among Islanders.
Nelson's performance would be viewed differently if it weren't for his effort in the team's exhibition against Incarnate Word. Playing his first game in an Islanders uniform, Nelson scored 26 points on 6-of-14 shooting and nabbed 10 rebounds – seven on the offensive glass.
Nelson is attending his fifth different school in the last five years, and the UIW game marked his first competitive contest in nearly two seasons. He took last season off of basketball to focus on his academics at Dodge City Community College. Prior to that, he played a year each at Hutchinson CC and Baton Rouge CC after playing for Port Allen (La.) High School.
TO THE MAXEY
Sophomore Nate Maxey also jumps off the page when looking at statistics and measurables. The San Diego native posted the fourth-highest block total (48) in school history in his freshman season, and heading into this season was measured as having a 7-foot-10 wing span.
Maxey, who averaged 3.5 points and 3.0 rebounds a year ago, has added about 15 pounds to his 6-foot-11 frame and has also matured greatly off the court heading into his sophomore season.
The opener against TLU was a microcosm of his career at A&M - Corpus Christi. In the first half, he had two blocks but struggled on both ends. In the second, though, he was a force, with two more blocks, five rebounds and six points – all finishing off alley-oops with a dunk. He followed that up with two blocks at Denver, scoring four points and grabbing six rebounds in limited action due to DU's small lineup.