ISLANDERS (3-5) AT HOUSTON (5-2)
SATURDAY, NOV. 30 • 7 P.M.
HOUSTON, TEXAS • HOFHEINZ PAVILION
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team heads to the road looking to snap a three-game losing streak when it heads to Houston for a Saturday night matchup against the Cougars. The game will be televised online through ESPN3 (visit ESPN3.com to check availability).
• Senior Zane Knowles had a career-high 16 points and added 13 rebounds against Central Michigan for his third double-double of the year.
• The Islanders were without point guard and leading scorer John Jordan for the CMU game due to an injury.
• Junior Hameed Ali is averaging 10.8 points per game after a recent surge. He scored a career-high 21 at UTSA on Saturday, going 8-for-12 from the field and 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
• Jelani Currie also had a huge game, mostly in the second half, at UTSA. He netted a career-best 15 points in just 11 minutes of play, becoming the first Islander since Scooby Johnson (3/11/07 vs. Northwestern State) to go 5-for-5 from the field or better. He has hit four straight threes.
• The Islanders took part in a 10-day, four-game tour of Italy in August, a trip that allowed them 10 extra days of practice prior to the tour.
• Though Coach Wilson has his most experienced team with the Islanders, only five players have more than one year of Division I playing experience (Ali, Knowles, Jordan, Douvier, King).
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has played a number of tight games with Houston, including a pair of overtime affairs. The Islanders' lone win in the series was an 81-78, overtime victory in 2010. Last year, the Cougars were triumphant at the American Bank Center when a Will Nelson shot at the buzzer rimmed out, giving U of H a 77-75 victory.
LAST TIME OUT
Blake Hibbitts' fifth three of the game, with 13.5 seconds left, lifted Central Michigan to a 68-64 win over the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team on Tuesday night at the American Bank Center. Zane Knowles had a double-double with a career-high 16 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.
BACK ON TRACK
It was a tough offseason for Hameed Ali. The junior suffered an injury, had surgery and was unable to play basketball from April to October. That meant he was unable to play during the team's foreign tour in Italy, and the staff even considered redshirting him this season.
But the junior who started 29 games a season ago was not to be kept off the court. Ali had two decent performances the first two games of the season, as he got his feel for the game back, then exploded in the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Tournament.
In the IPFW game, he scored 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, but was overshadowed by the 28 points his backcourt mate John Jordan scored. Against Tennessee Tech, he scored 12 more points, including a three in the closing seconds to put the Islanders in reach. In the final game of the weekend, he went 6-of-10 from the field and 3-of-4 from downtown to post 17 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists. He is now averaging 10.8 points per game on the year.
He had an off game against Rice, going 2-for-9, but came right back with a career-high 21 points at UTSA. Ali went 8-for-12 from the field, knocking down all three triples he took. He added four assists and four steals as well. Against CMU, he led the offense with John Jordan absent, and dished out six assists.
Ali is the second most experienced Islanders player (behind Jordan) with 1,632 career minutes and 49 career starts.
The Islanders' most physically notable player is, without question, senior Zane Knowles. The native of Nassau, Bahamas, stands 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds and is expected to be a force inside for the Islanders this year. He has improved significantly in the weight room, and his soft touch should help him be a scoring force inside.
He showed up in a big way in the season opener, scoring 12 points and snaring 18 rebounds for his first career double-double. The 18 rebounds matched the second-highest total in school history, and were the most for an Islander since Corey Lamkin grabbed 18 at Air Force on Jan. 21, 2004. It more than doubled his previous career high, as his prior best was eight boards vs. Lamar on Feb. 7, 2013.
He posted his second double-double in the win over Texas-Pan American. The senior netted a career-high 13 points and coupled it with 12 rebounds to help the Islanders to a strong performance inside against the Broncs. He narrowly missed a double-double in the Tournament opener against IPFW, finishing with nine points and nine boards. Last time out, he went 7-for-8 from the field en route to a career-high 16 points, adding 13 rebounds for his third double-double this season.
Knowles came to the Islanders after a year at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College and a season at Grambling.
THE GREAT DISTRIBUTOR
John Jordan is only a junior for the Islanders basketball team, but he's the most experienced player on the roster and one of the favorites for Southland Conference Player of the Year. The Houston native was named Preseason First Team All-Southland Conference by the league's coaches. He missed the last game with an injury.
He showed his worthiness for that selection in the opening game of the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Islanders Basketball Tournament. Jordan went off for a career-high 28 points, going 10-for-16 from the field. His final basket gave the Islanders a one-point lead with 4.2 seconds remaining en route to a 72-71 win. He added 18 points and nine boards against Tennessee Tech, then wrapped the weekend with just seven points, but dished out seven assists and snared six rebounds.
The honor is no surprise when looking at the numbers that the 5-foot-10 Jordan put up last season. Jordan was second in the league in assists (5.5 per game) and 12th in the league with 12.8 points per game. His 5.5 assists per game were 39th in Division I.
Jordan broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. With 327 career assists, he over halfway to the school record of 493, held by Brian Evans.
Freshman Jeff Beverly joined the Islanders as a highly-touted prospect out of the Houston area known for his scoring ability. Though he had a slow start to his career with a pedestrian seven points and four rebounds against Huston-Tillotson, he made his presence known in the game against Iowa State.
Beverly went 5-for-11 from the field with eight rebounds – four offensive - one block, one steal and one assist, all with just one turnover in a career-high 31 minutes. But what was more of a shock to the Cyclones was likely Beverly's range. The 6-foot-6, 245 pounder stepped back and drilled 3-of-5 shots from beyond the arc.
He showed more of the same for his home fans at the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Tournament. He set a new career high before halftime against Tennessee Tech, going 5-for-6 with 15 points in the opening stanza, finishing with 18. He has hit double figures in five games this year.
Beverly averaged 22.3 points and 11 boards at Clear Springs High School, and was named first team all-state.
Amid the down games for several Islanders at UTSA was a standout performance for a player who had been struggling to get going. Sophomore Jelani Currie came off the bench on Saturday and went off, scoring a career-high 15 points in just 11 minutes of action.
The Albany, N.Y., native went 5-for-5 from the field and 2-for-2 from beyond the arc in the contest. He became the first player since Scooby Johnson (2007 vs. Northwestern State) to have a perfect night from the field with at least five attempts. He also was the Islanders' leading rebounder with six boards in the contest. He added eight points and two assists against CMU last contest.
Currie had a quiet start last season, but on Feb. 23, he burst out of the gate, going 6-for-8 from the field for a career-high 13 points against Cal State Fullerton. Twenty-five of his 32 points on the year came in the final five contests.