ISLANDERS (2-16, 1-7) VS. LAMAR (2-20, 0-10)
THURSDAY, FEB. 7 • 7:30 P.M.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS • AMERICAN BANK CENTER
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team returns to the American Bank Center for a pair of games this week, starting with a matchup against Lamar on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The contest will be part of the annual Pink Game doubleheader for breast cancer awareness. Fans wearing pink will get $5 off their ticket purchase.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, five months, five days heading into today's matchup.
• Johnathan Jordan has posted back-to-back double-doubles, snaring 11 rebounds to go with 17 points against Sam Houston State. He is averaging 19.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the last three games.
• The Islanders are averaging 12.3 turnovers, the second-best mark in the Southland.
• Junior Will Nelson has three double-doubles in his last five games and has topped double-digit rebounds in four of the last five. He is now averaging 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in league play.
• Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is shooting .697 at the line this year, .097 higher at the line this year than they did a year ago. They rank second in the conference.
• 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.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders and Cardinals meet for the 12th time since the Islanders restarted their athletics program in 1999. Lamar is 6-5 against Texas A&M - Corpus Christi, with a 3-2 mark in Corpus Christi and a 3-3 record in Beaumont. The Cardinals won two in a row against the Islanders before this season's 62-56 victory by A&M - Corpus Christi. The Islanders previously won four straight contests against Lamar, sweeping the season series in both 2008-09 and 2009-10.
In the first game this season, the Islanders took an early lead and repeatedly parried the Cardinals' attacks to post a 62-56 victory, snapping a 12-game losing streak. Johnathan Jordan had his first of three double-doubles this season in that contest, matching the school record with 11 assists in the game. For a full recap and a box score of the game, turn to page 2.
SCOUTING THE CARDINALS
Lamar enters this weekend still in search of its first conference win and on a 10-game losing streak. The Cardinals are 2-20 on the season with wins over IUPUI and LIU-Brooklyn this season, as Pat Knight's squad rivals the Islanders for the title of youngest team in the Southland.
Stan Brown is the main significant returner, as the big man is averaging 10.8 points and 6.9 rebounds on the year. He is the lone player on the Cards to top the 10-point mark in scoring, while Rhon Mitchell (9.7) and Donley Minor (8.7) are just below double digits. Turnovers have been the major source of Lamar's undoing, as the Cardinals are averaging 19.0 turnovers per game this year, with a turnover margin of minus-7.3 on the season on average. In Southland play, Lamar is being outscored by an average of 19.1 points.
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 was also among the leaders in minutes per game.
Jordan was outstanding as a distributor a season ago, but his growth as a scorer is notable. After averaging 6.5 points last year, the point guard has contributed 13.1 points per game, largely on his ability to get to the rim and the free-throw line. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, he leads the team with 124 points in the paint and has hit a team-best 94 free throws, including a 12-for-13 performance at the line against McNeese. His 12 free throws are tied for fourth-most in a game in Islanders history and he is just two free throws away from cracking the single-season top 10.
Perhaps more impressive is Jordan's all-around game. His distribution is what he is most known for, and with 4.9 assists per game this year, he sits third in the Southland. On Jan. 12 at Lamar, he posted 11 assists, matching the school record, and had his second career double-double. In league play, he has 50 assists to 25 turnovers.
Jordan is also strong on the glass, having topped double-digit rebounds in each of his last two games. His last time out he snared 11 caroms against SHSU for his third double-double of the season. He shows high on the stamina scale as well, where he is second in the Southland at 35.8 minutes per game. He has been on the court for 37 minutes or more 12 times this year.
The diminutive guard is one of the most athletic Islanders, as evidenced by his two slam-dunk contest championships, thanks to his 48-inch running vertical leap. His 138 assists last season set a school record.
AS THE ISLANDERS TURN
Despite the Islanders' struggles in the win column and with offensive fouls, the team has been surprisingly efficient when it comes to turnovers. A&M - Corpus Christi is averaging 12.3 per game – fewer than their opponents' 12.5 – and ranked 67th in the nation entering this week. The Islanders have posted 10 turnovers or fewer in three of the last five games, including nine at Southeastern. They have six games this season with 10 turns or fewer.
Earlier in the year, the Islanders took 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.
Jan. 24 was a distinct exception, as the Islanders turned the ball over 20 times with Nicholls tallying just three steals. It marked just the fourth game this season that the Islanders had more than 15 turnovers (19 against TLU, 18 against Oklahoma, 16 at Toledo).
Nonetheless, it is a marked improvement from the ball control for the team from last season. A&M - Corpus Christi averaged 15.2 turnovers per game and ranked 291st in the country out of 338 teams. The Islanders had 14 games with 15 turnovers or more last year, and just three with 10 or fewer.
The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of just over 20 years, and are one of just a handful of teams nationally that have no seniors on their roster. In a fact that will make most reading this feel old, only one player – Will Nelson – was born in the 1980s. Just half of the Islanders roster is over 20 years old, and 10 of the players on the team are freshmen or sophomores.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is also one of just eight teams that entered the season with an average of less than one year of experience per player. The Islanders had 14 years of college playing experience among their 15 players, though only nine of those years were at the Division I level.
In total, the Islanders started this season having played a total of 2,933 minutes in Division I, just under 196 minutes per player. Taking Johnathan Jordan out of the mix and the remaining 14 players had averaged just 142 minutes in their careers.
THE OOP TO HIS ALLEY
The most physically noticeable player on the Islanders is 6-foot-11 Nate Maxey. The big man has one of the longest wingspans in the country with his 7-foot-10 reach, and he has already developed a reputation as one of the top shot blockers in the league. He backed up that reputation when he set a school record with nine swats against Houston.
The other play he has gained notoriety for has been when he is on the receiving end of an alley-oop, usually from fellow sophomore Johnathan Jordan. Maxey has finished off several alley-oops in the last four games, including a stunning reverse at McNeese State that was snubbed for SportsCenter's Top 10 plays. Maxey leads the Islanders with 26 dunks on the season.
His performance against UCA was his finest offensive game in an Islanders uniform. The big man played just 18 minutes, but went 6-for-8 from the field and scored a career-high 13 points. He also tallied four blocks and snared five rebounds in a losing effort. With 77 career blocks, he is tied with Filip Toncinic for fifth on the Islanders' all-time list.
HE IS AN ENGLISHMAN...
In a freshman class that is punctuated by a trio of skilled guards – Brandon Pye, Jelani Currie and Cole Martinez – the first-year player who has shined brightest has been a post from Leighton Buzzard, England, Dale Francis. The Canarias Basketball Academy product has been one of the most consistent performers for the Islanders as of late.
In conference play, Francis has averaged 22.9 minutes, including a career-high 31 at Nicholls. A strong defender, Francis is averaging 2.7 boards in Southland action, including five each at Nicholls and at McNeese. He has a strong jump shot, and emerged on the offensive end in Lake Charles, posting six points on 3-of-4 shooting. He is 11-for-25 (.440) from the field and has five blocks and five steals in league action.
KING OF THE ISLAND
Sophomore James King has emerged as a key role player for the Islanders this season. The walk-on from Schertz, Texas, has a strong ability to knock down threes and has improved his defense significantly. He also is one of the hardest-working players on the team.
He made his first career start at Nicholls, and in doing so, played a career-high 27 minutes with five points, two steals and two rebounds. He is one of six players for the Islanders that have appeared in every conference game.
On the year, King is shooting 33.3 percent (9-for-27) overall, but 44.4 percent (8-for-18) from beyond the arc. He hit two triples at Toledo and one in the Houston game. He added a trey against SFA in the conference opener.
King played his high school ball at Steele, where he set school records for threes made in a game, season and career. He is the only player from his district to have begun his career at a Division I school.