Men's Basketball Looks to Continue Winning Ways at ORU
ISLANDERS (4-18, 3-9) AT ORAL ROBERTS (15-10, 10-3)
SATURDAY, FEB. 16 • 7:30 P.M.
TULSA, OKLA. • MABEE CENTER
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (STEVEN KING)
TV: FOX COLLEGE SPORTS (CHANNEL FINDER)
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi men's basketball team heads to Tulsa, Okla., in search of its third straight victory when it takes on Oral Roberts on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised nationally on GEB America and Fox College Sports.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, five months, 14 days heading into today's matchup. There are no seniors on the team.
• Hameed Ali scored a career-high 18 points to go with six assists and three steals at UCA. He is 12-for-19 from the field over the last two games.
• The Islanders' bench has averaged 30.7 points over its last three games. The bench has shot 34-for-76 (.447) over the three-game span.
• Since missing three games with a concussion, Joy Williamson has returned with a fervor, averaging 11.3 points in his last three games.
• The Islanders have held a second-half lead in eight of their 12 league contests this season, including four straight.
• Johnathan Jordan is the only player in the Southland – and one of just five 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 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 Oral Roberts will meet for just the third time in program history and the second time as fellow Southland Conference members. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi won the lone matchup against the Golden Eagles before ORU joined the Southland, taking an 86-81 victory in overtime in the Dick's Sporting Goods Preseason NIT on Nov. 14, 2007.
In the most recent game against the Golden Eagles, Oral Roberts pulled away in the second half to post a 64-52 victory. Damen Bell-Holter was the principal architect in the win, posting 27 points and snaring 13 boards. ORU did a bevy of damage at the stripe as well, going 23-for-28. For a full recap and box score from the game, please turn to page 2.
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN EAGLES
Oral Roberts has had a strong start to its time in the Southland Conference, sitting 10-3 in league play after a 74-64 win over Sam Houston State on Thursday night. The Golden Eagles started league play 9-1 before falling in both road contests last week – at Northwestern State and at Stephen F. Austin. ORU is 15-10 overall after playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the Southland.
The Golden Eagles are led by Warren Niles, who averages 19.0 points and 36.3 minutes on the season. He is shooting 42.3 points from beyond the arc as well. Damen Bell-Holter is nearly averaging a double-double, at 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds. Shawn Glover averages 14.1 points, but he missed Thursday night's game against SHSU due to injury and his status is uncertain. The Golden Eagles are one of the best shooting teams in the conference and lead the league in free-throw percentage by a wide margin.
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 12.5 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 136 points in the paint and has hit a team-best 103 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 5.2 assists per game this year, he sits third in the Southland. He is already in the single-season top 10 in assists and is on pace to break his school record of 138, set last season. In league play, he has 70 assists to 31 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 five 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.
One of the primary reasons for the Islanders' improvement in offensive efficiency 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, delivering game-winning shots against Sam Houston State and Utah State.
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 has had his two best offensive games of the season in the last week, netting 15 points against McNeese State and following that up with a career-high 18 at UCA. Against the Bears, he went 7-for-10 from the field and added six assists and three steals. In a span of 1:01 in the second half, he hit a jumper, got a steal, drained a three, managed a second steal and fed Nate Maxey for an alley-oop.
The sophomore started the season among the national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio, and now has 46 assists to 28 turnovers. He leads the team and is fourth in the league with his 1.7 steal average.
Over the last three games, the Islanders have had strong performances off their bench. The bench had 32 points against Lamar, 26 against McNeese and then 34 in the UCA contest. The bench has shot 34-for-76 (.447) over the three-game span. Joy Williamson leads the team with 36 points off the bench in the last three, with Nate Maxey just behind with 17.
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 has been outstanding in his last three games. He led the team in scoring in both contests last week, netting 12 against Lamar and matching his career high with 15 in the win over McNeese State. He was tremendously efficient as well, going 7-for-13 from the field and 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. He had seven points last game at UCA. He has pushed his average back near double digits at 9.9 per game.
His career high in points against MSU would have been even higher had it not been for an uncharacteristic 5-for-10 performance at the free-throw line. Still, he is among the league leaders in free-throw shooting (.700).
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.