Battle For First Place Saturday as SFA Takes on Men's Hoops

Battle For First Place Saturday as SFA Takes on Men's Hoops

ISLANDERS (6-10, 3-0) VS.
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (14-2, 3-0)

Saturday, Jan. 11 • 6:30 p.m.

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With a 3-0 record, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team takes on Stephen F. Austin on Saturday night with first place in the Southland Conference on the line. The Islanders are coming off a decisive 101-87 win over Northwestern State on Thursday. 

• The 101 points scored by the Islanders were the most since scoring 107 against Nicholls on Feb. 8, 2007.

• Over the last three games, eight different players have posted at least one 10-point game. Rashawn Thomas has hit double digits in each contest.

• Six different players finished in double figures against Northwestern State, the first time that has occurred since 2006.

• A&M-Corpus Christi is 3-0 in the league for the fourth time in program history. The Islanders started 7-0 in 2006-07 and 5-0 in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

John Jordan is the only player in the conference in the top 20 in points, rebounds and assists.

• 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).

Six players scored in double figures and the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team had its most points since 2007 in a 101-87 victory over Northwestern State on Thursday in the American Bank Center. The Islanders continued their perfect start to the conference season.

John Jordan led the way with 22 points and eight rebounds for the home squad, while Brandon Pye kept his hot hand alive with 15 points and four assists. Joy Williamson had an efficient game, going 5-for-5 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line for 14 points in 14 minutes.

Jeff Beverly (13), Hameed Ali (12) and Rashawn Thomas (10) all finished in double digits as well for the Islanders. Zeke Woodley scored 27 points for the Demons on 10-of-11 shooting. Jalan West added 17 points and nine assists, while Brison White (16) and DeQuan Hicks (14) eclipsed 10 as well.

It was the first win over Northwestern State for the Islanders since 2010 and the first victory in the Willis Wilson era.

With Rashawn Thomas' putback layup, the Islanders cracked the 100-point barrier against Northwestern State on Thursday. It marked the 15th time in school history that the team has finished in triple figures (ninth time against a Division I school). The last game with over 100 points for the Islanders came against Nicholls on Feb. 8, 2007 – a 107-91 win over the Colonels.

It was also far and away the most points scored in the Willis Wilson era, besting the previous high of 82, coming in an overtime loss to UTSA in 2012. The previous high in a regulation game for the Islanders was the 81 scored at Central Arkansas a week ago. 

The Islanders won their conference opener for the first time since 2009-10 and have improved to 3-0 for the fourth time.  In each of the four times the team has won its opener, it has gotten off to a tremendous start. A&M-Corpus Christi started 5-0 in both 2008-09 and 2009-10 and began 7-0 in the 2006-07 championship season.

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 leads the team and is 11th in the league with his 15.5 points per game, while his 4.5 assists are third. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, he is also in the league's top 20 in rebounds, sitting 19th with 5.3 boards per game. He has posted 20 points or more on five occasions, five assists or more eight times and at least five rebounds in 11 games this year.

But the Oral Roberts contest showed he may be at his best when not being the go-to scorer. He had just seven points, but dished out six assists and commanded the offense to the signature victory of the Willis Wilson era. It was somewhat similar in the win over Northwestern State, as he ran the offense efficiently and was the principal architect of the press break that saw the Islanders commit just 10 turnovers in 75 offensive possessions.

Jordan did get 22 points against the Demons, but did so mostly on his ability to get to the free-throw line, where he went 11-for-16. On the year, he has gotten to the line 10+ times on five occasions and has hit at least 10 at the line three times. He is 91-for-133 on free throws 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 366 career assists, he is now second in school history and closing on Brian Evans' 493.

The Islanders' 3-0 start in league play can be attributed to a more efficient offense that is seeing a total team effort. In the last three games, eight different players have posted 10 points or more – Rashawn Thomas (all 3 games), John Jordan (UCA and NW State), Brandon Pye (ORU and NW State), Joy Williamson (UCA and NW State), Jeff Beverly (NW State), Hameed Ali (NW State), Zane Knowles (ORU) and Jake Kocher (UCA).

Against the Demons, A&M-Corpus Christi put six players in double figures, led by John Jordan's 22. It marked the first time that the team has had six players finish with 10 points or more since Nov. 16, 2006, the season opener of the team's Southland Championship season. 

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.

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 has come out with a fury in his first three conference games. At Central Arkansas, he posted a career-high 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting and blocked four shots while snaring eight rebounds. At Oral Roberts, he one-upped himself, posting his second career double-double with 15 points, 12 boards and two blocks in leading the Islanders to the upset victory. He added 10 points, seven boards and two blocks against Northwestern State in just 18 minutes. He is tied for the conference lead with 2.7 blocks per game in league play.

Thomas was a McDonald's All-America nominee and was named City Player of the Year his senior season at Southeast HS.

Another area that the Islanders had strong success in against ORU was in their outside shooting, as they knocked down five of their 10 triples in the victory. Brandon Pye was the principal architect, going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, the second player (Hameed Ali vs. UTSA) to go perfect from beyond the arc with at least three makes.

The team followed that up with a 6-for-10 night against Northwestern State from beyond the arc. Interestingly, the Islanders tried just one three in the second half – a Hameed Ali triple that came as the shot clock ran down with 2:34 to play.

That is in stark contrast to the previous five games. The Islanders were just 14-for-60 (23.3 percent) from beyond the arc in the last five. Pye (3-for-13) was the leading shooter in that time frame. The Islanders saw their opponents hit an average of 4.4 more threes (13.2 points) in that span.  

Heading into the Oral Roberts game, one of the Islanders' better producers had been sophomore Brandon Pye. The Mansfield, Texas, native - who is one of the quietest players on the team - had scored 30 points in his previous six games, including eight against Central Michigan and eight against Oklahoma. 

But against ORU, he took it to a higher level. Pye went 5-for-7 from the field, knocking down all three of his shots from distance, for 13 points in the victory. At one point, he scored eight straight points in the contest, spearheading an 8-0 run by himself. He added two assists, three steals and two rebounds in 20 minutes of work.

He showed it was no fluke in the win over Northwestern State. The sophomore went 5-for-10 from the field, knocking down both of his three pointers, and added a 3-for-4 performance at the line to finish with a season-best 15 points. He added a career-high four assists in the victory.

Pye, who has started each of the last five games, had flashes of brilliance last season as well, including a career-high 17 at South Alabama.  

An impressive attribute of the Islanders' three conference wins is the ability to grab a lead and maintain it. Over 120 minutes of league play, the Islanders have held an edge on the scoreboard for a total of 92:30. Furthermore, the team has led for every second after halftime.

A&M-Corpus Christi led for the final 30:45 of the Oral Roberts game, the last 30:09 of the Northwestern State victory and the final 28:45 against Central Arkansas. Holding a lead at halftime has been paramount to the Islanders' success on the year – the team has led at half in all six of its victories this season.