ISLANDERS (10-13, 7-3) AT
THE OPENING TIP
In the midst of a four-game road trip, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team heads to San Antonio for a matchup with Southland newcomer Incarnate Word on Thursday night. It will be the first regular-season meeting between the Islanders and Cardinals.
• With 20 points against New Orleans, John Jordan moved into the school's career top-10 in points. The junior is now in the career top 10 in points, assists, rebounds and steals in Islanders history.
• The Islanders held Lamar to just 35 points on Saturday, the fewest points against the team in school history. It is the first time in Islanders lore that the team has not surrendered a three-pointer.
• During conference season, the Islanders have posted 36 double-digit scoring efforts across eight players.
• Sophomore Brandon Pye is selective in his shots, but is incredibly efficient. The Mansfield, Texas, native leads the conference with a .500 (24-for-48) shooting percentage beyond the arc.
• Zane Knowles tied a career-high with four blocks against Lamar. He is 10th in school history with his 42 blocked shots.
• Freshman Jeff Beverly busted out of a slump with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting at SHSU. He followed that up with 11 at Lamar for his second and third games in double digits in league play.
The Islanders and Cardinals will be meeting on the hardwood for the first time in the regular season, but the squads played preseason contests on multiple occasions. UIW knocked off Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2011 and 2012 and the Islanders needed a buzzer beater to topple the Cardinals in 2010.
LAST TIME OUT
The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team allowed the fewest points in school history, posting a 58-35 win over Lamar on Saturday in the Montagne Center. The Islanders improved to 7-3 in conference play with the victory.
Jeff Beverly led three players in double figures for the Islanders with 11 points, while Jake Kocher and Rashawn Thomas each had 10 points and seven rebounds. Zane Knowles snared seven rebounds and posted four blocks, as the Islanders outrebounded the Cardinals 42-20. Donovan Ross led Lamar with 11 points, as the Cardinals netted just 11 points before halftime.
The Islanders have prided themselves on their defense all season, but the performance against Lamar goes down as one of the finest in school history. The Cardinals scored 35 points, which marked the fewest by the team in the shot-clock era. Lamar scored 11 points before halftime, shooting 4-for-28, which marked the second fewest in LU history and the lowest by the Cardinals since the 1958 season.
The 35 points allowed were the fewest surrendered by an Islanders team in program history, and in fact marked the first time A&M-Corpus Christi has ever held an opponent under 40. The previous low was 42 points against Texas State on Nov. 18, 2007. However, the 11 points allowed in the first half were not a new record for the Islanders. A&M-Corpus Christi surrendered just seven points before halftime to Savannah State on Dec. 29, 2005, but the Tigers went on to score 38 in the second half. In that opening stanza, SSU went 2-for-23, while Lamar logged a 4-for-28 half on Saturday night.
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 front-runners 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 eighth in the league with his 15.3 points per game, while his 4.8 assists are second. Despite his 5-foot-10 frame, he has also pulled in 4.6 boards per game. He has posted 20 points or more on seven occasions, five assists or more 12 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 12.0 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 10 occasions and has hit at least 10 at the line five times. He is 144-for-206 on free throws this year, both of those numbers leading the Southland. His 144 makes are already fifth in school history and his 129 against Division I teams are 19th nationally.
Jordan broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. With 402 career assists, he is second in school history and closing on Brian Evans' 493.
The Islanders' 7-3 start in league play can be attributed to a more efficient offense that is seeing a total team effort. In the 10 league games, the team has seen a total of 36 double-digit scoring efforts distributed over eight different players. (See chart on page 4 for more information.)
John Jordan is the only player with eight games in double figures, while Rashawn Thomas has six. Jake Kocher (6) and Zane Knowles (4) have both hit 10 points on more than four occasions, while Brandon Pye, Joy Williamson and Jeff Beverly have done so three times. Hameed Ali has two games in double digits. 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 25.8, but that is just 35.0 percent of the offense.
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 eight of its 10 conference contests and is currently fifth in the league with an average of 73.8 in league play. The Islanders are ninth overall with 68.8 points per game on the year. Those numbers were significantly harmed by the 58 points Saturday at Lamar.
Part of the offensive improvement can be attributed to efficiency. The Islanders are shooting .484 from the field in conference play, up from .430 in non-conference affairs.
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 hip labrum surgery, was back in the 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 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 five conference affairs, he has finished in double figures four times and is averaging 10.0 points to go with 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals.
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 third in the league with 2.1 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.
NO TURNS ALLOWED
The Islanders have done an impressive job taking care of the basketball since conference play started, averaging 11.7 turnovers and only turning the ball over more than 10 times on three occasions. In the last four games, John Jordan's numbers in this area have been spectacular, with 26 assists to just four turnovers. The Islanders as a team have had more turnovers than their opponents just three times in conference play.
With a 7-3 conference record, the Islanders are off to their best start in league play since starting 7-3 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 lost their first contest in conference affairs at Sam Houston State. It is the first time A&M-Corpus Christi has begun 5-1 on the road since 2006-07. That team started 6-0 away from Corpus Christi and went 7-1 on the season.