ISLANDERS (4-21, 3-10) VS. SOUTHEASTERN LA. (10-15, 8-6)
THURSDAY, FEB. 28 • 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 enters its final stretch of two home games with a contest against Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday, Feb. 28, on Stripes Court at the American Bank Center. Tickets to the game are buy one, get one free for the doubleheader, which starts with the women's game at 5 p.m. with the men to follow at 7:30.
• The Islanders have one of the youngest teams in Division I, with an average age of 20 years, five months, 27 days heading into today's matchup. There are no seniors on the team.
• 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 is six assists from matching his own school record.
• Freshman Jelani Currie had a breakthrough game last time out, going 6-for-8 from the field for a career-high 13 points off the bench. His previous career high was two points.
• The Islanders' bench has averaged 30.8 points over its last five games. The bench has shot 70-for-160 (.438) over the five-game span.
• Hameed Ali is averaging 12.6 points over the last five games and is 23-for-44 from the field (.523) and 9-for-17 from downtown (.529).
• 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 Southeastern Louisiana will lock horns for the ninth time in the Islanders era on Thursday. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi holds a 5-3 advantage in the all-time series against the Lions, including a 3-0 record against Southeastern in Corpus Christi. The Islanders are 1-3 in Hammond, and added a win over the Lions in the 2007 Southland Tournament.
The Islanders have lost their last two matchups with Southeastern, including a 67-53 defeat in Hammond earlier this season. Johnathan Jordan had 24 points and 10 rebounds in that affair, his first career double-digit rebound effort, but the Lions' second-half charge sent them past the visiting Islanders. For more details and a box score of that game, please turn to page 2.
SCOUTING THE LIONS
Southeastern Louisiana is currently in line for a first-round bye in the Southland Conference Tournament, as it sits in fourth place with a conference mark of 8-6 on the year. The Lions are 10-15 overall, but have heated up in conference play, delivering one of Stephen F. Austin's two conference losses on the season. Southeastern has lost three of its last four, though, including a 66-52 defeat at the hands of Winthrop in its Ramada Worldwide Bracketbusters matchup.
The Lions are led by Brandon Fortenberry, who is averaging 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds just a year removed from a season-ending injury suffered last year. Roosevelt Johnson is one of the top true big men in the league with his 10.7 points and 8.4 rebounds. The Lions average 62.0 points per game, with no other player averaging in double digits. Southeastern shoots 40.1 percent overall and 32.9 from long range.
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 156 points in the paint and has hit a team-best 110 free throws, including a 12-for-13 performance at the line against McNeese. He has entered the Islanders' single-season top 10 in minutes and free throws this year.
Perhaps more impressive is Jordan's all-around game. His distribution is what he is most known for, and with 5.3 assists per game this year, he sits second in the Southland. He is just six assists away from matching his own school record of 138, set last season. In league play, he has 82 assists to 39 turnovers. He is already fourth on the Islanders' career assist list, and is more than halfway to breaking Brian Evans' career record of 493.
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 leads the Southland at 36.4 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.
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 really heated up on the offensive end, where he has averaged 12.6 points in the last five games, best on the team. He netted 15 points against McNeese State and followed 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. He added 11 points at Oral Roberts, the second-best mark on the team, and posted 11 vs. Cal State Fullerton.
The sophomore started the season among the national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio, and now has 52 assists to 31 turnovers. He leads the team and is sixth in the league with his 1.6 steal average.
The Islanders have recently had strong performances off their bench. They had 32 points against Lamar, 26 against McNeese and then 34 in the UCA contest. Then it erupted for 43 against Northwestern State, a season high. With 33 against Fullerton, the Islanders have averaged 30.8 points over its last five games. The bench has shot 70-for-160 (.438) over the five-game span.
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 solid in his last three weeks. He led the team in scoring in both contests two weeks ago, 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 12 points vs. Northwestern State, and has pushed his average near double digits at 9.5 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 having a strong year in free-throw shooting (.682).
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.
Since beginning conference play, the Islanders have seen their best offense when they are getting contributions from several players. The trend started at Sam Houston State, when, due to foul trouble, Johnathan Jordan and Will Nelson – the top two scorers on the team – were limited to 14 minutes in the first half.
The Islanders had six different players score at least six points – Jordan, Nelson, Joy Williamson, Brandon Pye, Hameed Ali and Cole Martinez. The Islanders have had at least five different players with six points in nine of their last 13 games, including seven in the UCA contest.
Against the Bears, the Islanders placed four players in double figures for the first time in conference play, as Hameed Ali (18), Will Nelson (14), Johnathan Jordan (11) and Dale Francis (10) finished with 10 points or more. For Francis, it was a career high, and he became the eighth different player with a game in double figures this year.