ISLANDERS (3-18, 2-9) AT CENTRAL ARKANSAS (9-13, 4-8)
THURSDAY, FEB. 14 • 7:30 P.M.
CONWAY, ARK. • FARRIS CENTER
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team returns to the road for its second to last trip of the season, as it will take on Central Arkansas on Thursday night in Conway. The Islanders are coming off a 61-58 win over McNeese State on Homecoming, where Joy Williamson and Hameed Ali both matched their career highs in points.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, five months, 12 days heading into today's matchup.
• Since missing three games with a concussion, Joy Williamson has returned with a fervor, scoring 12 and 15 points, respectively, in his two games last week. He led the team in scoring both contests.
• The Islanders have held a second-half lead in seven of their 11 league contests this season, including four 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.
• The Islanders' bench averaged 29 points last week to the starters' 33. The bench shot 20-for-43 (.465) over the two-game span.
• 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 Central Arkansas meet for the eighth time in the history of the two programs. The game earlier this season marked the first time Texas A&M - Corpus Christi has lost to the Bears, but the Islanders hold a 3-0 record against UCA in Conway. In each of the last two seasons, the Islanders won their season finale by defeating UCA.
In the first game this season, UCA posted a tremendous second-half comeback, spearheaded by the outside shooting of Jarvis Garner and Robert Crawford, as the Bears outscored the Islanders 52-33 in the second half of the contest. Joy Williamson (15) and Nate Maxey (13) both had career scoring days in a losing effort. For a full recap and box score from the game, please turn to page 2.
SCOUTING THE BEARS
After starting conference play 0-5, Central Arkansas used their win over the Islanders to start a string of four wins in five games, including a triple-overtime victory over McNeese State. However, the Bears are coming off a tough road swing, having fallen at the hands of conference leader SFA (72-36) and second-place Northwestern State (93-73). The Bears are 9-13 overall and 4-8 in conference to sit in seventh place, 1 1/2 games behind Nicholls for sixth and a game ahead of McNeese State in eighth.
UCA is one of the top scoring teams in the league, led by the trio of Jarvis Garner (15.8), LaQuentin Miles (14.4) and Robert Crawford (14.0). The Bears have taken 457 three-pointers on the year and are converting at a .357 clip. UCA, though, is at the bottom of the league in team defense, surrendering an average of 77.9 points 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 12.6 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 132 points in the paint and has hit a team-best 96 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 recently cracked the single-season top 10 in the category.
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 64 assists to 28 turnovers.
Jordan is also strong on the glass, having topped double-digit rebounds twice this season. He snared 11 caroms against SHSU for his third double-double of the year. He is one of just four players nationally 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 36.0 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 was outstanding in his two games last week. He led the team in scoring in both contests, netting 12 against Lamar and matching his career high with 15 in the win over McNeese State. He was tremendouslly efficient as well, going 7-for-13 from the field and 3-for-6 from beyong the arc. He has pushed his average back to double digits at 10.1 per game.
His career-high points would have been even higher had it not been for an uncharacteristic 5-for-10 performance at the free-throw line. Still, he sits eighth in the league in free-throw shooting (.727), just ahead of teammate Johnathan Jordan.
His other 15-point performance came in the first game against UCA, where 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.
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 12.0 per game – fewer than their opponents' 12.6 – and ranked 52nd in the nation entering this week. The Islanders have posted 10 turnovers or fewer in five of the last seven games, including eight last time out against McNeese. They have eight 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.