ISLANDERS (2-18, 1-9) VS. MCNEESE STATE (9-12, 3-8)
SATURDAY, FEB. 7 • 7 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 will play host to McNeese State in its annual Homecoming game on Saturday on Stripes Court at the American Bank Center. The game will be the culmination of Homecoming week, with the Court being announced at halftime. There will also be an alumni game featuring former members of both the men's and women's basketball teams at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, five months, seven days heading into today's matchup.
• Joy Williamson returned against Lamar after missing the previous three games, and delivered 12 points, including a 5-for-5 performance at the line.
• The Islanders have held a second-half lead in six of their 10 league contests this season, including three straight.
• Johnathan Jordan is the only player in the Southland – and one of just four nationally – to average 10-plus points, 5-plus rebounds, and 5-plus assists on the year. He has three double-doubles this season.
• Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is shooting .701 at the line this year, .101 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 will face the Cowboys for the ninth time since the program ascended to Division I for the 1999-2000 season. McNeese State has a 5-3 lead in the all-time series, but are just 1-2 in games played in Corpus Christi against the Islanders. McNeese State has won four straight games over the Islanders, including a 75-71 win earlier this year. As of late, the two teams have played some incredibly tight contests, as four of the last five games have been decided by four points or fewer.
In the first game this season, Will Nelson scored 24 points and Johnathan Jordan had 17, but DeSharick Guidry's 16 points led McNeese to the four-point victory. The Islanders had it down to a one-score game with two minutes left, but couldn't finish the comeback. For a full recap and a box score of the game, turn to page 2.
SCOUTING THE COWBOYS
McNeese State is coming off a momentous overtime victory over Sam Houston State on Thursday night. Dontae Cannon sunk a floater with 1.2 seconds remaining in overtime to lift McNeese to a 59-58 win. Cannon also sent the game into extra time with a layup with 2.9 seconds left in regulation. The victory snapped a four-game losing string for the Cowboys, who started their skid when Jarvis Garner's heroics led Central Arkansas to a 103-98, triple-overtime win.
Cannon leads MSU with his 12.0 points per game, while Desharick Guidry just behind at 11.8. Guidry is also averaging 7.8 boards, while Kevin Hardy is just behind with 6.4 boards to go with his 9.6 points. The game will feature the two least turnover-prone teams in the conference, as McNeese averages a league-best 12.1 per game.
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 12.8 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 128 points in the paint and has hit a team-best 95 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 one free throw 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 5.1 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 58 assists to 27 turnovers.
Jordan is also strong on the glass, having topped double-digit rebounds in two of his last three games. He snared 11 caroms against SHSU for his third double-double of the season. He is the only league player averaging at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. He shows high on the stamina scale as well, where he is second in the Southland at 35.9 minutes per game.
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.
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.
After missing three games due to injury, Williamson rebounded nicely against Lamar, scoring 12 points and hitting all five of his free-throw attempts. The Oklahoma City native has been remarkably consistent on the year, posting nine games on the year with between 10 and 14 points.
He finally broke the 15-point barrier with his career-best performance against UCA. He went 5-for-9 from the field, knocking down a pair of threes in a losing effort. That snapped a string where he failed to reach double figures in four straight contests.
After struggling to the tune of 2-for-16 in the games against UTSA and SFA, Williamson bounced back in his return to his home state at Oklahoma. Williamson matched his career high with 14 points, going 5-for-13 from the field to go along with a 3-for-4 performance at the line. He is fourth in the league in free-throw shooting (.778).
His finest game came against Houston, as the guard's offensive ability shined brightly. He went 6-for-9 from the field for 13 points, filling 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.
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.
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 12.2 per game – fewer than their opponents' 12.7 – and ranked 67th in the nation entering this week. The Islanders have posted 10 turnovers or fewer in four of the last six games, including nine at Southeastern. They have seven 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.