ISLANDERS (7-11, 4-1) AT
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team continues its road trip with a visit to Thibodaux to take on Nicholls in a pivotal early-season conference contest. Both teams sit 4-1 in league play, tied with Sam Houston State for second place in the Southland standings.
• During conference season, eight different players have posted double-digit scoring efforts, with all eight averaging at least 5.0 points per game.
• John Jordan had his fifth and sixth 20-point games last week, and is averaging a team-best 17.2 points per game in league play.
• The Islanders have been beasts in the paint in the conference, averaging 41.2 points in the paint with three games over 40.
• Joy Williamson is quietly averaging 10.8 points in league play and is yet to miss a free throw in Southland contests (12-for-12)
• The 101 points scored by the Islanders were the most since scoring 107 against Nicholls on Feb. 8, 2007. Six different players finished in double figures against Northwestern State, the first time since 2006.
• 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).
LAST YEAR'S RESULTS
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi split the season series with Nicholls last year, falling in the game at Thibodaux but knocking off the Colonels at the American Bank Center. In the first game, Nicholls jumped out to a big lead, then held off a late Islanders charge to win 69-62. All-Southland performer Fred Hunter had a big game, going 8-for-10 from the field for 19 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists.
In the second game between the teams, the Islanders knocked off the Colonels on senior night at the American Bank Center, 68-64. Will Nelson had a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while John Jordan scored 16 points and dished out nine assists. Hunter again had the bulk of the damage with 25 points and nine rebounds.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders won the first four meetings against the Colonels before losing three in a row between 2011 and 2013. The victory in the home finale last year was the first win against Nicholls in the Willis Wilson era, and represented the fourth time in eight games that the contest against Nicholls was decided by less than five points.
LAST TIME OUT
The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team got off to a blistering start and rode the momentum to a 77-61 victory over McNeese State on Thursday at Burton Coliseum. The Islanders improved to 4-1 in Southland play with the win – including a 3-0 road record – while McNeese is now 3-2 in the league.
Zane Knowles led all scorers with 16 points and added nine rebounds to lead three players in double figures for the Islanders. John Jordan (12 points) and Joy Williamson also topped 10 points for the road squad. Jake Kocher matched a career high with eight rebounds and added seven points and three assists, while Rashawn Thomas added nine points and six boards.
Desharick Guidry was the only player in double digits for McNeese, scoring 11 points. He nabbed a team-best five rebounds in the loss, as the Islanders won the battle of the boards, 37-25.
In the first half, A&M-Corpus Christi went 18-of-28 from the field (.643) as opposed to McNeese's 7-of-27 (.259).
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.
Against Oral Roberts, it was another strong performance inside, with 32 points in the paint (14 from Rashawn Thomas). Northwestern State provided another stellar inside performance, with nine different players recording points in the paint for a total of 48. Even against SFA, which is incredibly strong inside on defense, the Islanders posted 34 points in the paint. Of the 77 points A&M-Corpus Christi scored, 42 came in the paint.
The Islanders have had at least 20 points in the paint in each of the last 14 contests and are averaging 41.2 points in the paint in league play. The 5-foot-10 John Jordan currently leads the Islanders with 126 (see chart on page 5 for full breakdown).
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 leads the team and is sixth in the league with his 15.8 points per game, while his 4.5 assists are second. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, he has also pulled in 4.9 boards per game. He has posted 20 points or more on six occasions, five assists or more nine 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. He added 24 points (10 at the line) against SFA. On the year, he has gotten to the line 10+ times on six occasions and has hit at least 10 at the line four times. He is 107-for-154 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 374 career assists, he is now second in school history and closing on Brian Evans' 493.
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 three 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 has been among the Islanders' leaders in minutes the last two years, but has had significantly better numbers coming off the bench.
In his career, coming off the bench Williamson is averaging 9.5 points per game (209 in 22 games). When he is in the starting lineup, Williamson has averaged just 6.8 points per contest (143 in 21 games). His 99 bench points on the season are best on the Islanders.
He had a strong start to his conference season. Against Central Arkansas, he went 5-for-8 from the field for 12 points, adding six rebounds and three assists. He was tremendously efficient against NW State, scoring 14 points in 14 minutes on 5-for-5 shooting. He added 10 points at McNeese State, giving him at least nine points in every league contest. He is averaging 10.8 per game in league play and is yet to miss a free throw (12-for-12) in Southland action.
The native of Oklahoma City played two years at Redlands Community College under current Islanders assistant coach Yaphett King.
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 have seen an improvement on the offensive end with the advent of conference play. A&M-Corpus Christi has topped 70 points in each of its five conference contests and is currently fourth in the league with an average of 80.0 in league play. The Islanders are 10th overall with 69.1 points per game on the year.
Part of the offensive improvement can be attributed to remarkable efficiency. The Islanders are shooting .524 from the field in conference play, 40 percent better than Sam Houston State, which is in second place. Likewise, the Islanders have turned the ball over 10 times or fewer in each of the last four games after turning the ball over 19 times in the conference opener at Central Arkansas.
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.
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 five 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. In league play, Thomas is averaging 11.4 points per game, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. He is shooting .610 from the field in conference.
Thomas was a McDonald's All-America nominee and was named City Player of the Year his senior season at Southeast HS.
HOLDING THE LEAD
An impressive attribute of the Islanders' four conference wins has been the ability to grab a lead and maintain it. Over 160 minutes of league play in those contests, the Islanders have held an edge on the scoreboard for a total of 132:17. 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. In the win over McNeese State, it was even more extreme, as the Islanders took the lead on John Jordan's free throws just 13 seconds in and never gave it back. Holding a lead at halftime has been paramount to the Islanders' success on the year – the team has led at half in all seven of its victories this season.
The contrast in the SFA game could not have been more stark. The Islanders led for a total of just 20 seconds - from 16:11 to 15:51 of the first half.