CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Following the events of Thursday night, Stephen F. Austin junior guard Ivan Canete may be referred to by a different name - Ivan the Terrible - around the campus of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
The junior from Lake Worth, Fla., preserved a late one-point Stephen F. Austin lead by notching his career-high sixth steal with 20 seconds left, converting the ensuing fast-break layup and hitting a pair of huge free throws all in the last 20 seconds to lift the ‘Jacks to a 61-58 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at the American Bank Center.
Canete finished with a team-high 15 points for the ‘Jacks, who ran their Southland Conference winning streak to three games and captured their first road win of the season. The Islanders’ own junior guard - Ehab Amin - had a chance to send the game to overtime, but his half-court heave at the buzzer was no good.
Junior guard Ty Charles added 13 for the ‘Jacks who led for all but 28 seconds in the second half. For the game, the ‘Jacks put in 50-percent (20-of-40) of their field goals and converted on 14 of their 18 tries (77.8-percent) at the free throw line.
Although SFA’s defense let the Islanders’ offense operate at a 52.2-percent (12-for-23) shooting clip in the second half, it would up beating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at its own game. The Islanders came in averaging 10 steals per game - the seventh-best average in the nation - but the ‘Jacks racked up 12 and held the home team to eight.
The slow starts that have been known to hinder the ‘Jacks’ efficiency in road contests continue to hurt them early on in the Southland Conference battle. By attacking the paint, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi opened the game on a 6-0 run consisting entirely of layups. It took 5:45 for the ‘Jacks to finally score their first points of the tilt, but Dallas Cameron finally did so by sinking a fast-break layup after one of Ivan Canete’s xx steals in the tilt.
Offense proved to be a difficult commodity to produce for the visitors as they mustered just eight points through the game’s first 10:52. Trailing the Islanders by a 10-8 score with 9:08 to go in the opening frame, the ‘Jacks captured the lead for the rest of the half when Aaron Augustin pulled up and hit a wing triple with 8:45 remaining in the stanza.
That long-range hit proved to be the starting point of a 9-0 run by the ‘Jacks that consisted entirely of three-point buckets. Ty Charles and Isaiah Traylor each slung in a downtown field goal, pushing SFA’s edge to 17-10 over the Islanders as 5:27 remained in the first half.
Stephen F. Austin maintained that advantage all that way through the opening stanza and increased it to as many as eight points after Canete’s buzzer-beating two-point jumper right before the conclusion of the first half.
Early in the deciding frame, Kevon Harris connected on a straightaway three-pointer that handed the visitors their first 10-point lead of the game, 29-19. From there, Amin pumped in the next seven points - including a deep three-point hit - to trim the ‘Jacks’ edge to 29-26, but Cameron started a 9-2 Lumberjack run with a pair of makes at the free throw line and Gilmore III finished the surge with two more makes from that distance. Those makes at the stripe allowed SFA to reestablish its double-digit advantage, 44-34.
Jovan Grujic tapped in a wide-open put-back attempt at the rim, keeping SFA in front 46-36 with 9:59 to go before the Islanders made their final push.
Over the next 5:49, the Islanders scored 15 of the next 19 points and took their final lead of the game on a Kareem South three-pointer which put SFA at a 51-50 disadvantage with 4:20 to go.
Just as quickly as the Islanders had seized control, however, the ‘Jacks wrested it from them with a big-time play from Charles. The junior rose up from the far wing and, after accepting a pass from Cameron, drilled a cold-blooded three-pointer with 4:00 left that handed SFA a 53-51 edge.
Never again would the ‘Jacks trail, but Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was nowhere near finished. On two occasions in the final two minutes of the game, the Islanders pulled within one point. Each time, however, the ‘Jacks had an answer.
Before Canete’s heroics in the final 20 seconds, Gilmore III blew by the Islanders’ defense for an easy layup that pushed the ‘Jacks’ lead back to 57-54. Amin connected on two more free throws to make it a one-point game following Gilmore III’s basket and the last of SFA’s 23 turnovers gave the Islanders their last chance that Canete eventually stole from them.
Kareem South put in a game-high 18 points for the Islanders while Amin added 15. SFA junior Josh Huntley tied a career-high by grabbing a game-best six rebounds and was part of a Lumberjack defense that created 21 turnovers.
Now the ‘Jacks head north to San Antonio, Texas, to try and stretch their Southland Conference winning streak to four games. On Saturday night, SFA enters the McDermott Convocation Center to battle Incarnate Word at 7:30 p.m. The Southland Conference tilt will be shown nationwide on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.