ISLANDERS (9-12, 6-2) AT
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team begins a critical four-game road trip with a matchup against Sam Houston State in Huntsville. It will be a crucial matchup, with the Islanders and Bearkats tied for second place and meeting for the only time this season.
• With 20 points on Saturday John Jordan moved into the school's career top-10 in points, giving him 882 in his career. The junior is now in the career top 10 in points, assists, rebounds and steals in Islanders history.
• During conference season, the Islanders have posted 30 double-digit scoring efforts across eight players.
• Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher has 18 steals in conference season, including six against New Orleans. The six swipes were a career high and the second-most in a game in school history.
• The Islanders have been beasts in the paint in the conference, averaging 38.6 points in the paint with three games over 40. The team's last 16 field goals against New Orleans came in the paint.
• The Islanders have won their first four road games in conference play for the first time since 2006-07. That team started 6-0 on the road and went 7-1 on the season.
LAST YEAR'S RESULTS
The all-time series has seen a number of tremendous games between the Islanders and Bearkats, and last year's contests were no exception. Sam Houston State took both affairs by four points, with a 61-57 win in Huntsville and a 55-51 victory in Corpus Christi at the Dugan Wellness Center. In the first contest, the Islanders used a 10-0 run early in the second half to take a lead, then a back-and-forth affair was decided on Will Bond's three-ball with 3:17 remaining.
In the second meeting, the Islanders led for most of the contest, carrying an eight-point lead into the locker room. But DeMarcus Gatlin converted a three-point play with 58 seconds remaining to put SHSU ahead, and the Bearkats hit their free throws down the stretch to ice the victory. Jordan had a tremendous game for the Islanders, scoring 17 points and nabbing 11 rebounds to go with four assists. But the Islanders went just 8-for-27 from the floor in the second half in the loss.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Bearkats own the all-time series against the Islanders 12-5, including a 3-1 mark in Willis Wilson's tenure. Wilson's first matchup against the Bearkats was one of the memorable wins of his time, as Hameed Ali's jumper with 0.8 on the clock lifted the Islanders to a 50-49 victory. It is one of just two victories for the Islanders at SHSU, the other coming in the 2007 Southland Championship season. Each of the last six meetings have been decided by eight points or fewer.
LAST TIME OUT
Cory Dixon had 12 points and 16 rebounds, as New Orleans knocked off the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team 70-62 at the American Bank Center. The Privateers defense held the Islanders to 19-for-55 from the field and created 17 Islanders turnovers.
John Jordan scored 20 points and dished out seven assists, but went just 8-for-16 at the free-throw line in the loss. Jake Kocher added 10 points and six steals – the most since Kevin Palmer had seven on Dec. 22, 2008, against Georgia – for the Islanders. Joy Williamson added 11 points as well.
Christavious Gill scored 19 points for the Privateers while Tradarrius McPhearson added 14 points. UNO outrebounded the Islanders 41-36 in earning the victory.
The Islanders' 6-2 start in league play can be attributed to a more efficient offense that is seeing a total team effort. In the eight league games, the team has seen a total of 30 double-digit scoring efforts distributed over eight different players. (See chart on page 5 for more information.)
John Jordan is the only player with seven games in double figures, while Rashawn Thomas and Jake Kocher have five 10-point contests. Joy Williamson has hit 10 points on four occasions, while Brandon Pye and Zane Knowles have done so three times. Hameed Ali has two games in double figures, while Jeff Beverly has one. Six players are averaging at least 7.2 points per game on the season.
Against Northwestern State, 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.
Contrast that to last year in league play, when John Jordan and Will Nelson combined to average 28.4 points – 46.6 percent of the Islanders' offensive production. This year, Jordan and Rashawn Thomas are combining for 27.2, but that is just 35.9 percent of the offense.
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 4.8 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 seven occasions, five assists or more 11 times and at least five rebounds in 12 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.
Jordan's place in Islanders lore is also reaching new heights. With his 20 points against New Orleans, he moved into the school's top 10 in points. He is also already in the Islanders career top-10 in rebounds, assists, minutes and steals. He is on pace to become the ninth player in school history to score 1,000 points in his career later this season. He needs to average 11.8 points the rest of the way to pass that milestone.
Jordan has done much of his scoring by getting to the free-throw line. On the year, he has gotten to the stripe 10+ times on nine occasions and has hit at least 10 at the line four times. He is 132-for-190 on free throws this year, both of those numbers leading the Southland. His 132 makes are already sixth in school history and he is on pace to break Michael Hicks' school mark of 197.
Jordan broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. With 392 career assists, he is second in school history and closing on Brian Evans' 493.
With a 6-2 conference record, the Islanders are off to their best start in league play since starting 7-2 in the 2009-10 season. In the championship season of 2006-07, the Islanders started 11-1 en route to a 14-2 league mark.
On the road, the Islanders hold a 4-0 mark in conference affairs this year. It is the first time A&M-Corpus Christi has begun 4-0 on the road since 2006-07. That team started 6-0 away from Corpus Christi and went 7-1 on the season.
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. In the UTSA contest, he played a career-high 25 minutes, totaling 11 points, four rebounds and four steals. He went through a prolonged cold stretch in December, though.
The start of conference play saw Kocher bust out of his slump, going 4-for-7 from the floor for 14 points at UCA, 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.
Over the last six conference affairs, he has finished in double figures four times and is averaging 11.4 points over the last five. He has gone 22-for-42 (.524) from the field overall and 5-for-12 (.417) from beyond the arc in that span.
He has seen a knack for steals, fast-break points and three-point plays as of late. At Nicholls he had 13 points – 10 in the paint – including a pair of three-point plays after notching steals. He scored a career-high 15 against Southeastern, earning two three-point play opportunities and scoring all six of the Islanders' fast-break points. And against New Orleans he had a career-best six steals – one off Kevin Palmer's school record. He is second in the league with 2.3 steals per game in Southland play.
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 is the city of Austin's all-time leading scorer from his days at St. Michael's Academy.
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 seven of its eight conference contests and is currently fifth in the league with an average of 75.8 in league play. The Islanders are ninth overall with 69.0 points per game on the year.
Part of the offensive improvement can be attributed to remarkable efficiency. The Islanders are shooting .484 from the field in conference play, up from .430 in non-conference affairs. Likewise, the Islanders have turned the ball over 10 times or fewer in six of the last seven contests.
HOLDING THE LEAD
An impressive attribute of the Islanders' six conference wins has been the ability to grab a lead and maintain it. Over 240 minutes of league play in those contests, the Islanders have held an edge on the scoreboard for a total of 157:11. Furthermore, the team has led for 99:37 of the 120 minutes 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 win over Southeastern on Thursday was the first time this year that A&M-Corpus Christi has won after trailing at half.
The contrast in the two losses could not be more stark. Against SFA, the Islanders led for a total of just 20 seconds - from 16:11 to 15:51 of the first half. In the UNO game, the Islanders were ahead for just 1:08, and trailed for the final 34:43 of the contest.
The production that the Islanders have received from their bench players this season has been tremendous. In league play, A&M-Corpus Christi has seen its bench outscore the opposition in every game, totaling 271 points (33.9 per game) to the opponents' 150 (18.8). In fact, in conference play, the Islanders' second-, third- and fourth-leading scorers have all come off the bench in every contest. Rashawn Thomas leads the way with 10.6 as a reserve, while Jake Kocher (9.6) and Joy Williamson (9.5) are just under 10 per game.