The UTSA Roadrunners knew coming into Friday night’s game in Corpus Christi that they would need to keep Isaac Mushila off the glass, and they still couldn’t do it.
Mushila, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, poured in 22 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to lead the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders past the Roadrunners, 75-55, at the Dugan Wellness Center.
A relentless player, Mushila basically matched his effort from last season when he produced 21 points and 17 rebounds in a 77-58 victory over the Roadrunners in San Antonio.
This time, he exploded in the second half to spark a huge rally by the home team, lifting A&M-Corpus Christi (1-1) to its first victory of the season.
“Isaac played great considering they doubled the post a little bit,” Islanders coach Steve Lutz said on the ESPN Plus television broadcast. “I just thought he worked at a high level.”
At one point, UTSA (1-1) led by eight points early in the second half and appeared to be taking charge against a 23-win, NCAA tournament team from last year.
The Islanders, however, had other ideas. Mushila kept pounding the glass and scored 14 points in the second half to lead the comeback.
Behind Mushila, Trevian Tennyson and others, A&M-Corpus Christi outscored UTSA 47-19 in the final 17:30 to turn what had been a highly-competitive game into a run-away.
“Second half was pretty disappointing,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on the team’s radio broadcast. “Exact opposite of what we did the first half. Second half, they drove it over and over and over … just absolutely bullied us. It wasn’t even close.”
Freshman DJ Richards led UTSA with 14 points. Japhet Medor and Jacob Germany also had nine for the Roadrunners, who hit 33.3 percent from the field for the game. Leading by three at intermission, UTSA came out strong early in the second half.
The Roadrunners got a field goal and a three-pointer from Medor. John Buggs III followed with a three to make it 36-28. From there, it was all A&M-Corpus Christi the rest of the way, with the Islanders shooting 58.6 percent from the field in the second half.
Asked by radio voice Andy Everett what he would work on leading into a Monday night home game against the Division II St. Mary’s Rattlers, Henson said he might need to re-think his defensive approach.
“Getting tougher is a hard thing to work on, but we’ll try to figure out something in that regard,” the coach said. “We’ve got a lot to work on. We’ve got to make a decision. Defensively, we’ve been man to man since June. We’ve got to figure out if we’re good enough.
“We were good enough man to man in the first half, but we weren’t any good in the second half. So, we got to figure out a lot of things. It’s not time to panic. But this is a disappointing result. An extremely disappointing 20 minutes of basketball.”
A&M-Corpus Christi 1-1
St. Mary’s University at UTSA, Monday, 7 p.m.
Trinity University at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, at American Bank Center, 7 p.m.
For the UTSA offense to work, the Roadrunners need to make threes, and they had a hard time doing that in a smaller venue, at A&M-Corpus Christi’s campus recreation center.
UTSA was 7 of 29 from three for the game, for 24.1 percent. DJ Richards emerged as the only reliable shooter from distance, hitting 4 of 7. Meanwhile, Isaiah Addo-Ankrah was 1 for 9 from behind the arc, and Buggs 1 for 8.
Normally, A&M-Corpus Christi plays its home games at the more spacious American Bank Center in the downtown area, but since the city’s minor league hockey team had the date booked in advance, officials elected to play the UTSA game on the floor of its campus facility.
UTSA’s defense held Texas A&M-Corpus Christi without a field goal for seven minutes late in the first half Friday night, allowing the Roadrunners to steady themselves, setting the stage for a late rally at the end of the half.
Finally, the Roadrunners, who were in a funk themselves for much of the opening period, snapped out of it with a few big plays at the end to take a 28-25 lead.
First, a dunk by John Buggs III had the Roadrunners cheering from the bench. Finally, Japhet Medor whipped a pass into the corner for freshman DJ Richards, who knocked down a three and gave UTSA a 28-25 lead at the break.
Initially, the Islanders seemed to have everything going their way. They scored nine points in a row for a 9-2 lead. Later, they made it 11-3. Then it was 20-15. Trevian Tennyson was leading the way with 12 early points. He finished the half with 5 of 8 shooting.