February 19, 2014

Men's Basketball Hits Road For Final Time at HBU

ISLANDERS (13-14, 10-4) AT
HOUSTON BAPTIST (5-21, 2-12) 

Saturday, Feb. 22 • 7:30 p.m.
HOUSTON, TEXAS

TICKETS
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RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)

GAME NOTES: ISLANDERS | HUSKIES

     

THE OPENING TIP
After a week of respite, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team takes on Houston Baptist for the first time in program history on Saturday at Sharp Gym. The Islanders are looking to improve to .500 for the first time since November.

QUICK HITS
• Junior John Jordan moved into ninth on the all-time scoring list with his 22 points against Oral Roberts. He is just 31 points away from joining the 1,000-point club.

• With last Thursday's win over UCA, the Islanders clinched their first postseason berth since the 2009-10 season.

• During conference season, the Islanders have posted 49 double-digit scoring efforts across eight players, including five players in double figures against Central Arkansas.

• Bench play has been a significant strength for A&M-Corpus Christi, averaging 31.0 points from the reserves, while the opposition averages just 16.8. 

• The Islanders are off to their best start since the 2006-07 Southland Champions went 14-2 en route to the NCAA Tournament.

• Sophomore Brandon Pye is leading the Southland with his .700 3-point percentage in conference action, while his .526 overall mark is also best in the league and fourth nationally. 

LAST TIME OUT
John Jordan scored or assisted on 25 of the final 26 points for the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team in a dramatic, 74-72 overtime victory over Oral Roberts on Saturday night. Zane Knowles posted a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds), while Brandon Pye knocked down a crucial three to help the Islanders take control of the extra session.

The Islanders solidified their hold on third place in the conference with the victory.  Shawn Glover led all scorers, potting 23 for the Golden Eagles in a losing effort, while Korey Billbury and Brandon Conley each came up just short of a double-double. 

A JAW-DROPPING START
Freshman Rashawn Thomas was one of the most electrifying players for the Islanders over the summer, 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 at Oklahoma, but converted his first career points at the 8:25 mark. By the time the dust had settled, 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 vs. Sul Ross State on Nov. 16, 2001.

He has been on a roll the last four games. It started with his finest outing of his young career at UIW, going 7-for-10 from the floor for a career-best 21 points. He followed that with 20 points on 7-for-7 shooting, becoming the second Islanders player (Josh Ervin the other) to go 7-for-7 or better in a single game. He added a 7-for-9 performance on Thursday, making him 21-for-26 from the field over the three games. In league play, he is averaging 11.9 points and 5.9 rebounds. 

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

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 15.5 points per game, while his 5.3 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 nine occasions, five assists or more 16 times and at least five rebounds in 13 games this year.

He earned his first career weekly honor on Monday, as he was named Southland Player of the Week. He started the week with a solid 10 points and eight assists with just two turnovers in a win over UCA. He had a tremendous finish against Oral Roberts, scoring or assisting on 25 of the Islanders' final 26 points, scoring 22 in total to go with nine assists.

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 this season, needing to average 7.8 points in the remaining four regular-season games.

As of late, his presence as a distributor has been exceptional. He has averaged 7.3 assists over the last seven games and has a 3.1 assist-to-turnover ratio in that time. 

Jordan broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. His 137 dimes this year are third in school history, giving him the top three assist totals in Islanders lore. He is closing on Brian Evans' career record of 493.

COUNTDOWN TO KATY
The victory against UCA officially clinched a spot in the 2014 Southland Conference Basketball Tournament. It will mark the Islanders' first trip to the postseason in Willis Wilson's tenure and the first trip to Katy since the 2009-10 campaign. The Islanders advanced to the semifinals of the event in 2008-09 and 2009-10 in addition to winning the Tournament in 2006-07.

OFFENSIVE OUTBURST
In the victory over UCA, the Islanders went 33-for-50 from the field to shoot .660 in the contest. It marked the second-highest field-goal percentage in school history, and the best since going 43-for-64 (.672) against Huston-Tillotson on Feb. 22, 2006. It was the highest field-goal percentage against a Division I program in school history. 

BIG Z
The Islanders' most physically notable player is, without question, senior Zane Knowles. The native of Nassau, Bahamas, stands 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds and has shown he can be a force inside for the Islanders this year. 

He showed up in a big way in the season opener, scoring 12 points and snaring 18 rebounds for his first career double-double. The 18 rebounds matched the second-highest total in school history, and were the most for an Islander since Corey Lamkin grabbed 18 at Air Force on Jan. 21, 2004. He has posted five double-doubles on the season.

But his finest performance came at McNeese State, as he went 8-for-9 from the field, scoring 16 points and snaring nine rebounds. He had a quiet offensive day at Nicholls, but grabbed 10 boards in the win, then followed that up with his fifth double-double against Southeastern, posting 11 points and 11 boards. 

After combining for just 10 points and one rebound in two games the prior week, he was tremendous a week ago. He posted 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting and added nine boards against UCA, then followed that up with his sixth double-double of the year, with 12 points and 11 rebounds against ORU.

Knowles is fifth in the conference with his team-leading 7.3 rebounds per game. He is second in the Southland in field goal percentage, shooting .593. He came to the Islanders after a year at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College and a season at Grambling. 

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

But at 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. In the win over UCA, he hit all three of his shots from beyond the arc, posting 13 points in just 24 minutes of action.

He has also been able to hit shots with the game on the line. He came up huge at Nicholls, as his triple with less than two minutes to play was the dagger in sealing the Islanders victory.  He drilled a trey from the corner with less than five seconds left to lift the team to a two-point win over Abilene Christian. And his three-ball in overtime gave the Islanders a lead they would not relinquish against ORU.

His deadly accuracy from downtown has been simply stunning in conference play. In 14 league contests, he is 21-for-30 from beyond the arc, for an incredible .700 percentage from downtown. Next best in league play is Southeastern's Dre Evans at .528. Pye is also the only player in the league shooting over 50 percent overall, clocking in at .528. That percentage is currently fourth-best nationally. 

BENCH PRESSING
Another key for the team has been the contributions from its bench. In league play, A&M-Corpus Christi has seen its bench outscore the opposition in every game but one, totaling 434 points (31.0 per game) to the opponents' 235 (16.8). 

The Islanders' second-, third- and fourth-leading scorers have all come off the bench. Rashawn Thomas leads the way with 11.9 as a reserve, while Joy Williamson (8.4) and Jake Kocher (7.8) are just behind. The Islanders have outscored 12 of their 14 conference opponents in bench points.

DISTRIBUTION LINE
The Islanders' 10-4 start in league play can be attributed to a more efficient offense that is seeing a total team effort. In the 14 league games, the team has seen a total of 49 double-digit scoring efforts distributed over eight different players. (See chart below for more information.)

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 27.6, but that is just 37.0 percent of the offense.