THIBODAUX, LA (Islanders Athletics) - John Jordan locked down Jeremy Smith on the final possession of the game, and Smith's three rimmed out to give the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team a 70-67 win over Nicholls on Saturday at Stopher Gym. Four players finished in double figures as the Islanders improved to 5-1 in league play.
Jordan led the Islanders with 13 points, while Jake Kocher added 13 as well. Rashawn Thomas and Brandon Pye each posted 11 in the victory. Joy Williamson snared a career-high 11 rebounds to go with seven points and two steals, while Zane Knowles posted 10 boards as well.
Smith had a game-high 17 points to lead the Colonels (7-8, 4-2 Southland), while Dantrell Thomas and T.J. Carpenter each posted 11 points. The Islanders won the battle of the boards, 35-28.
The first half was a tremendous back-and-forth affair, with each team showing off its offensive prowess. The two teams traded baskets early, with the first real separation coming on a Rashawn Thomas putback and foul that turned into a three-point play to make it 12-8 Islanders at the 15:00 mark. But Nicholls ratcheted up the offense, putting together a 12-0 run to gain its largest lead of the game, 20-12, culminating in a Carpenter three.
A triple for Pye stopped the bleeding, and slowly the Islanders chipped away at the advantage. A steal and fast-break layup for Kocher with 8:48 left cut the deficit to one, and then the Islanders regained the lead with a pair of Jordan free throws. But Nicholls responded with a 10-2 run to regain a seven-point lead when Amin Torres' triple hit nothing but twine to make it 37-30 with 5:35 left.
The Islanders locked down defensively over the remainder of the half, and finished the stanza on a 9-2 run, as Thomas' off-balance finish sent the teams to the locker room locked up at 39 apiece. The Islanders shot .545 in the first half, while Nicholls shot .500 from the field. The main difference was the six A&M-Corpus Christi turnovers to Nicholls' two, both of which came on steals by Kocher.
The back-and-forth continued out of the locker room, with each team responding to the other's scores nearly every time down the court. Nicholls finally got the first separation, getting a Luke Doyle three to cap off a 7-0 run for a 56-51 lead at the 11:58 mark. The Colonels pushed it to a 61-55 advantage with 9:15 remaining.
With 7:55 to play, things got a little chippy, resulting in matching technicals for Jordan and Cade Towers. Jordan went to the bench, but the Islanders got two huge plays in rapid succession. After the foul, Cole Martinez knocked down a three to cut the deficit to 61-58. Then on the ensuing inbounds, Kocher came up with a steal, then got a layup and a foul, converting a traditional three-point play to tie the game with 7:35 left. The Islanders then got jumpers from Knowles and Williamson to pull ahead 65-61.
Nicholls refused to wilt, though, cutting the lead to two on a pair of occasions. But Pye came up with the shot of the game, knocking down a triple from the right wing with the shot clock waning to push the lead to 70-65 with under two minutes to play. The Colonels got it to 70-67 on a jumper by Smith with 51.2 seconds to go. A&M-Corpus Christi came up empty on the ensuing possession, but Jordan and the Islanders cashed in the crucial stop at the buzzer to finish off the victory.
The Islanders return home next week for a pair of Southland Conference contests. Southeastern Louisiana visits the Dugan Wellness Center on Thursday night for the only matchup this season between the teams. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available by calling 825-BALL (2255).
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