CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M-Corpus Christi made one more play than Northwestern State did Wednesday night, getting a game-winning 14-foot jumper in transition by Myles Smith in the final second and avoiding overtime after NSU’s bid to tie was just off the mark in the Islanders’ 67-65 Southland Conference basketball triumph.
Two free throws by freshman Darian Dixon with 7.4 seconds left brought NSU even at 65. A&M-CC inbounded to Smith, who moved across midcourt and then cut to the left side of the lane, hitting his shot with 0.3 second remaining. Remarkably, the Demons’ Ishmael Lane threw a court-length inbounds pass to Malik Metoyer, behind the Islanders defense at the free throw line. Metoyer twisted away from the basket to make the catch, stretched and scooped a 6-footer off the glass that banked just too long at the buzzer.
The outcome handed the Demons (3-11 overall, 0-3 in the Southland) their sixth straight defeat despite a career-best 26 points from senior swingman Iziahiah Sweeney and a season-best 20 by Lane. Each had a team-best six rebounds.
The Islanders, who had missed five shots in the final minute at home Saturday in a five-point loss to Lamar, rose to 4-9, 1-2 as they hit 50 percent overall and 79 percent (22-28) at the free throw line. The Demons sank 42 percent overall but just 61 percent (11-21) at the line.
“The biggest negative was not knocking down our free throws, along with a couple of missed dunks, and not winning our share of the 50-50 balls,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “I liked our coachability. They listened and tried to do the things we needed to win. They competed. We had guys make big plays to get us right there, but we didn’t make a stop on their last possession and we had some bad turnovers, especially late in the game, that hurt.”
Dixon added 11 points for NSU, which suffered nine second-half turnovers after only four in the first half of a 30-all tie. The Islanders made 18 turnovers but NSU outscored them only 17-15 in points off turnovers in a game with eight ties and six lead changes.
A&M-CC picked up 17 points and eight rebounds by Sean Rhea, with Tre Gray scoring 10 points. The 55 percent free throw shooter went 5 of 6 at the line in crunch time.
NSU got a pair of pressure 3-pointers, the first by freshman point guard C.J. Jones with 3:05 left and A&M-CC trying to stretch a 60-55 advantage. The latter one came from Sweeney with 34 seconds left off a Jones pass to get NSU within 64-63.
Gray’s only free throw miss, with 28 seconds left, was rebounded by Lane with NSU down by two. Dixon, who was 4-4 from the floor and 3-3 at the line, delivered the tying free throws on the Demons’ next chance.
“It’s a positive that guys made plays under pressure. At the end, we didn’t defend well enough, they made a nice play, and then Malik nearly got us to overtime. It was a tough shot but I know he expected to make it,” said McConathy. “I’d have loved to seen these guys battling in overtime. We had our ups and downs, but we kept battling every moment and that will pay off sooner than later.”
The Demons, who played away from home for the seventh straight outing, get back to Prather Coliseum for a Saturday afternoon contest against Stephen F. Austin in a 3:30 game that is the back end of a doubleheader between the schools. The women’s game starts at 12:30.