ISLANDERS AT SOUTH ALABAMA
SUNDAY, NOV. 16 • 4:05 P.M.
MOBILE, ALA. • MITCHELL CENTER
RADIO: KUNO 1400 AM (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Islanders men's basketball team returns to the court after a two-week break for final exams, as it heads to Mobile, Ala., to take on South Alabama on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi has not played since Dec. 1, when they fell at the University of Iowa. The contest will air live on KUNO 1400 AM with Yannis Koutroupis on the call.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, two months and 17 days heading into today's matchup.
• Texas A&M - Corpus Christi had a tough road trip before the break, falling at Toledo and Iowa. The Islanders bounced back with their best two weeks of practice this season, according to Coach Wilson.
• Four players scored in double figures, led by Joy Williamson's career-high 14, at Iowa.
• Native Bahamanian Zane Knowles has increased his point output every game, capping it off with 12 points and eight boards against the Hawkeyes.
• Sophomore Hameed Ali leads the conference in both steals (2.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.3) this season. Ali was 21st nationally entering the week in assist-to-turnover ratio and 29th in steals.
• Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is ineligible for the postseason because of poor results in the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate. No Islander who has played under Wilson had anything to do with the subpar score.
COMING ON STRONG
Junior Zane Knowles has elevated his game every time out for the Islanders. The transfer from Pearl River CC entered the year as the team's most physical big man, and he has used that size to his advantage as of late. Knowles has increased his point total every game and has steadily improved upon his rebounding numbers as well.
His most recent outing was his most impressive. Against a physical Iowa team, Knowles rose to the occasion, battling his way to eight rebounds (six on the offensive glass) and adding a career-high 12 points as well. He went 6-for-10 in 33 minutes of action.
A native of Nassau, Bahamas, Knowles played sparingly as a freshman at Grambling before electing to move on to Pearl River, where he was a First Team Mississippi All-Star.
AS THE WORLD TURNS
The quality of the Islanders' play has been in concert with the number of turnovers they have committed as of late. In the Toledo game, A&M - Corpus Christi committed 16 turnovers, their highest total since the season opener, and fell by 12 to the Rockets. They followed that with 15 at Iowa.
The previous two games saw the Islanders take care of the ball like no other time in program history. After posting six turnovers at Utah State – the second lowest total in school lore – the Islanders matched the school record with only five turns against Houston. With an average of just 12.0 turnovers per game entering the week, the Islanders were 45th in the nation in the category. A year ago, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi was 291st in the nation in turnovers out of 338 teams ranked.
One of the primary reasons for the improvement in turnovers has been the youngest member of last year's freshman class. Hameed Ali showed flashes of being a strong player for the Islanders in 2011-12, 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.
Ali posted a career-best seven assists at Utah State, and followed that up with six more against Houston. In the Toledo game, where the Islanders struggled from the field, he still was able to post three assists. But far more impressive were his turnover numbers – 0, 1 and 1, respectively – in those three games.
The sophomore is currently seventh in the league in assists per game, and his 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio is far and away tops in the Southland. His 2.5 steals per game also lead the conference.
THICK AS THIEVES
Hameed Ali isn't the only Islanders player who is shining as a pickpocket this year. Joy Williamson is just two steals behind Ali, and sits second in the conference with his 2.2 per game. It is the only instance in the Southland where teammates occupy the top two slots in any major statistical category. The twosome both entered the week in the top 75 nationally, with Ali 29th and Williamson 73rd.
PRIDE AND JOY
Among the Islanders, there is no personality quite like that of the appropriately-named Joy Williamson. The junior transfer's ebullient and energetic personality is matched only by his intensity and pace on the basketball court.
Williamson has developed into an excellent sixth man for the Islanders, as he leads the team with 61 bench points on the season. The junior college transfer has developed into an impressive defender for the Islanders as well, with his 2.2 steals per game ranking second in the Southland.
Against Houston, the guard's offensive ability shined brightly, going 6-for-9 from the field for a career-best 13 points. But he filled the stat sheet in all other aspects of his game as well – Williamson snared seven rebounds, dished out four assists to no turnovers and registered three steals, all in a career-high 33 minutes.
Williamson, who had his first career game in double figures at Denver, has had five-plus points in each of his six games in an Islanders uniform. He has seen his minutes steadily increase, with four straight games over 30 minutes. He has been a consistent shooter overall (.431), from downtown (.381) and from the free-throw line (.727).
Williamson played two seasons at Redlands Community College, where he was coached by current Islanders assistant Yaphett King. The Oklahoma City native scored 18.7 points and grabbed 8.2 rebounds at Redlands after a standout high school career at Putnam City North High School.