Balling in Belfast

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This past week saw the USF men’s basketball team travel overseas to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where they competed in the 2018 Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.

The tournament tipped off on Nov. 30 when the Dons battled the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin University in a Goliath Bracket semifinal match. The Dons came into the game with a record of 7-0, their best start since the 1981-82 season.

Both teams came out firing on all cylinders as the Dons and the Lumberjacks traded 5-0 runs within the first three minutes of play. The rest of the first half saw the Lumberjacks shorten any offensive gaps created by the Dons. At halftime, USF led the Lumberjacks by three points and outshot their opponents 51.7 percent to 46.7 percent.

Coming out of the locker room, the Dons cranked up their intensity. USF succeeded in passing the ball around and finding open men as they finished the second half with eight assists. The Lumberjacks struggled on offense as USF held their opposition to 24 points and 37.7 percent shooting from the field. USF’s offensive prowess held the key to victory.

Junior Jordan Ratinho led the team in scoring with 19 points. Jimbo Lull spent the afternoon hustling for boards and finished his afternoon with a game-high eight rebounds. Senior Frankie Ferrari acted as the playmaker, ending the game with nine assists. The Dons crushed the Lumberjacks 76-58 and punched their ticket to the championship game.

On Dec. 1, the Goliath Bracket final saw a battle of unbeatens as the Dons played the No. 17 Bulls of the University at Buffalo.

USF struck first as they led the Bulls by four points with 14:17 left in the first half. The Bulls countered the Dons’ offense with points of their own and turned the game around thanks to a 9-0 run. The largest deficit of the first half came when the Dons trailed their opponents by 11 points, but they chipped the Bulls’ lead to 6 points going into halftime.

The second half showcased USF’s determination as the Dons tied the game at 53 with 11:23 remaining. Even after breaking the tie, the Bulls struggled to put the Dons to rest. USF trailed the Bulls 71-78 with 1:37 left in the second half, but went on a scoring run to keep the game close till the end. The Bulls scraped by the Dons with an 81-86 win, handing USF their first loss of the season.

Several players shined in the Dons’ toughest game so far this year. Ferrari led the team in minutes, points and assists as he spent 34 minutes on the court with 19 points and 6 assists. Redshirt sophomore Charles Minlend crashed the boards with nine rebounds.

The Dons will return to War Memorial on Dec. 13 to host the Eastern Washington University Eagles.

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