The Islanders first won national attention with a 70-67 victory at Florida State in 2004.
But head coach Ronnie Arrow’s team truly arrived on March 11, 2007, beating Northwestern State 81–78 to win the Southland Conference Tournament.
With the win, the school earned its first bid to the NCAA Tournament, the sports moment judged the greatest in school history.
“This is a culmination of all the players who for eight, nine years have helped build this program,” Arrow told ESPN. “We’ve come a long way.”
At South Alabama, he led the No. 11 seeded Jaguars to an 86-84 upset of Alabama in the first round of the 1989 NCAA Tournament. He led TAMU-CC to consecutive 20-8 records in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, but the Islanders were an independent and left out of the Big Dance.
The school joined the Southland Conference in 2006, and the Islanders rolled to a 26-7 record and the conference tournament championship game.
The Islanders never trailed but almost fell victims to premature celebration. Taurean Mitchell made a steal and Kevin Menifee made a layup to give TAMU-CC a 79-75 lead with 5 seconds remaining. As TAMU-CC players jumped around and celebrated, Northwestern State’s Luke Rogers pulled up from far beyond arc and sank a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left to make it 79-78.
But TAMU-CC’s Josh Ervin made two free throws after being fouled to secure the Islanders’ win. Mitchell intercepted a pass to end the game.
“This is a great feeling,” said Chris Daniels, the conference player of the year who led TAMU-CC with 19 points. “I think we deserve it.”
The Islanders twice saw 13-point second-half leads dwindle to one point, a trend that caught up to them in the NCAA Tournament. As a No. 15 seed, they lost in the first round to No. 2 seed Wisconsin, 76–63, after jumping out to a 10–0 lead and then 25–7 lead.
But they had arrived.
“The bottom line is we’re going dancing and I’m happy for our seniors,” Arrow said after beating Northwestern State. “People do not understand where we have been the last nine years. If we weren’t in this conference right now we’d be going home. We’re very appreciative of the Southland Conference inviting us in.”
On the cover and above: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi celebrates an 81-78 victory against Northwestern State in the 2007 Southland Conference Tournament championship. The Islanders clinched their first NCAA Tournament berth. (Courtesy Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Archives
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Stephen F. Austin and UT Martin
• Tuesday: Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech
• Wednesday: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and UTEP
• Thursday: Texas Rio Grande Valley and UTSA
• Friday: The Citadel and Toledo