The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders overcame the loss of one of their top players Tuesday night and won the first NCAA tournament game in school history, holding off the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks, 75-71, in Dayton, Ohio.
Playing in the NCAA First Four for the second year in a row, the Islanders utilized the speed and attacking style of senior point guard Jalen Jackson, who scored a career-high 22 points. Jackson is a familiar face in San Antonio, as he led the Wagner Thunderbirds to the state finals in 2019.
Jackson, a 5-10 guard who started his college career at North Texas, scored 18 in the second half for the Islanders. After Jackson made two free throws to give his team a three-point lead, drama unfolded in the final seconds.
Southeast Missouri guard Phillip Russell came down and missed an open three with two seconds remaining. Isaac Mushila gathered the defensive rebound, got fouled and hit a free throw on the other end for the game’s final point.
With the victory, the Islanders (24-10) will move on to play the Alabama Crimson Tide (29-5) in the tournament’s round of 64 on Thursday night. The Tide are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA South region.
The Islanders were one-and-done in two previous trips to the NCAA tournament.
In 2007, they opened as a 15th seed in the round of 64 at Chicago and lost to Wisconsin, 76-63, Last season, in a round-of-68 game at Dayton, they were matched against the Texas Southern Tigers and bowed out, 76-67.
Islanders guard Terrion Murdix started against Texas Southern a year ago and produced 10 points and six assists. Murdix, one of the team’s key players, was unavailable to play against SEMO with a knee injury.
Chris Harris scored 23 points to lead the Redhawks (19-17), who earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament by winning four games in four days for the Ohio Valley Conference postseason title.
Mushila, a 6-foot-5 forward, had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Islanders, who won the regular-season and postseason titles in the Southland Conference. Guard Ross Williams had 13 points off the bench and Trevian Tennyson added 12.