Men's Basketball Seeks 2-0 Southland Start Saturday at ORU
THE OPENING TIP
Coming off a victorious conference opener, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team looks to make it 2-0 when they head to Tulsa to face Oral Roberts on Saturday night at the Mabee Center. The Golden Eagles won their opener, 88-55 over Houston Baptist, on Thursday as well.
• After missing the CMU game due to injury, John Jordan has averaged 16.5 points, 5.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds in the last six games.
• Having missed the first nine games with an injury, Rashawn Thomas made his debut in a big way, posting a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds at Oklahoma. Last time out he posted a career-high 18 points and four blocks.
• After several quiet games in a row, redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher exploded with a career-high eight rebounds and four steals in addition to scoring 14 points.
• The Islanders' 81 points were the most since scoring 82 against UTSA on Feb. 22, 2012. It was the most in regulation in the Willis Wilson era.
• 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 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 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.
He suffered an ankle injury earlier this year that forced him to miss the Central Michigan game. But he has returned with gusto, and is averaging 16.5 points, 5.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds over the last five contests. He has had posted 20 points or more on four occasions, five assists or more seven times and at least five rebounds in 10 games this year.
It's hard not to be impressed 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 356 career assists, he is now second in school history and closing on Brian Evans' 493.
A JAW-DROPPING START
Freshman Rashawn Thomas was one of the most electrifying players for the Islanders over the summer. During the team's trip to Italy, he had a double-double in each of the team's four games and was expected to make an immediate impact from the season opener on.
But the fates turned another direction for Thomas. The Oklahoma City native fractured his jaw on Nov. 7, the day before the Islanders' first game of the year against Huston-Tillotson. He missed the first nine games of the season.
Any doubts about the 6-foot-7 forward being tentative were instantly alleviated. Thomas missed his first two shots, but converted his first career points at the 8:25 mark. By the time the dust had settled in the game, the freshman had 12 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. He became the first Islander freshman with a double-double in his debut since Corey Lamkin had 16 points and 15 rebounds against Sul Ross State on Nov. 16, 2001.
He has had some struggles with foul trouble, but he came out with a thunderous performance at Central Arkansas. He posted a career-high 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting and blocked four shots while snaring eight rebounds.
Thomas was a McDonald's All-America nominee and was named City Player of the Year his senior season at Southeast HS.
OFF THE SCHNEID
The Islanders were able to snap their eight-game losing streak with a strong performance on both ends of the court. A&M-Corpus Christi shot 50.9 percent from the floor - the fourth time this season that the Islanders have hit half their shots or better. At the same time, they held the run-and-gun Central Arkansas team to just 66 points on 39.0 percent shooting, including a 5-for-23 performance from beyond the arc. The Islanders also forced the Bears into 21 turnovers.
Turnovers on the offensive side are still a concern, though. The Islanders turned the ball over 19 times - five from Zane Knowles - the second highest total this season and the third time in the last five games that A&M-Corpus Christi has turned it over 18 times or more.
DISCONNECT FROM LONG DISTANCE
One area that has fallen off within the Islanders offense has been their three-point shooting. A&M-Corpus Christi, which was dismal in that area last year, was shooting 35.6 percent from distance through the first nine games - a respectable percentage.
But over the last five games, the bottom has dropped out. The Islanders are just 14-for-60 (23.3 percent) from beyond the arc in the last five. Brandon Pye (3-for-13) has been the leading shooter in that time frame. The Islanders have seen their opponents hit an average of 4.4 more threes (13.2 points) in that span. Inside the arc, the Islanders are ourscoring their opposition by 6.4 points in the last five.
GUESS WHO'S BACK
In addition to the other newcomers, the Islanders have a welcome face back in the fold that was missing last season. Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher, who sat out 2012-13 after double labrum surgery, was back in the starting lineup in the season opener.
His return to the court was a triumphant one, as Kocher poured in 10 points to go along with a career-high six rebounds and four steals against HTU. He went through a cold stretch, but rebounded against Texas-Pan American. Kocher was 3-for-4 from the field for seven points with three rebounds in 21 minutes. He was a key piece in the Islanders' comeback against Rice, scoring six points with two assists and two steals – giving him 10 swipes on the year. In the UTSA contest, he played a career-high 25 minutes, totaling 11 points, four rebounds and four steals.
After that game, though, he had hit a bit of a wall, scoring just eight points and totaling 65 minutes in the next six games. But the start of conference play saw Kocher bust out of his slump, going 4-for-7 from the floor for 14 points, nabbing eight rebounds and posting a career-high five steals. It marked the first five-steal game for the Islanders since Garland Judkins had five swipes against Central Arkansas in 2011.
In 2011-12, Kocher did most of his damage down the stretch, including a career-high 15 points in the season's penultimate game at UT Arlington. He averaged 4.6 points in 17.0 minutes over the season's final seven games. He is the city of Austin's all-time leading scorer from his days at St. Michael's Academy.
PRIDE AND JOY
After being one of just five upperclassmen on the roster a year ago, Joy Williamson enters his second year as an Islander as one of just two seniors on the squad in 2013-14. The Oklahoma City native finished third on the Islanders in scoring a year ago, netting 8.3 points per game. He sat out the season opener, but returned to the floor at ISU with a mixed bag, scoring three points and pulling in four rebounds.
Though he was overshadowed by Jordan's stellar play, Williamson had an outstanding game against IPFW. The senior went 5-for-9 from the floor, scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds, four on the offensive end. He struggled to score the remainder of the weekend, but had a strong all-around game against Texas-Pan American, dishing out five assists and nabbing five rebounds. Still, his scoring had slackened, and he didn't even record an official shot against CMU.
Then, at Houston, he got off the schneid with a shot that was called for a goaltend, awarding him a bucket. Later in the first half, he knocked down a three pointer that banked off the glass and in. These two shots seemed to boost the senior's confidence, though, as he continued his strong play into the second half. He finished with a career-high 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting to go along with a 6-of-7 performance at the free-throw line.
He had another strong outing against Central Arkansas, going 5-for-8 from the field for 12 points, adding six rebounds and three assists.
The native of Oklahoma City played two years at Redlands Community College under current Islanders assistant coach Yaphett King.
Among all the impressive stats that the Islanders racked up in the win over Central Arkansas, perhaps none was more telling than the fact that the team piled up 50 points in the paint. Of the 26 field goals the Islanders registered inside the arc, 25 of those came in the paint - the lone exception a long two from Brandon Pye. The Islanders have had at least 20 points in the paint in each of the last 10 contests, but the previous season high had been 34 - against Cal State Northridge and Huston-Tillotson. The 5-foot-10 John Jordan leads the Islanders with an even 100 points in the paint on the year.