After a thrilling 61-58 win against Santa Clara (14-13, 8-6 WCC) in their first game of the week, USF had a chance to extend their win streak to five games. It would have been their first five-game win streak of the season and a great way to cap of their dominant regular season at home against the visiting Brigham Young Cougars (18-9, 9-5 WCC). But unfortunately for the home crowd gathered for senior night, San Francisco fell victim to a 52-68 loss. With just their fourth home loss, USF finished with an impressive 12-4 record at home.
BYU came into War Memorial limping in with a 3-3 record in their last six games but didn’t look it opening up the first half shooting 51.9 percent shooting from the field and holding USF to 22.2 percent from the field. Of their 36 first-half shots, 22 were from beyond the arc where they shot just 27.3 percent. Not getting to the line, even once, didn’t help their situation. Both teams had 7 turnovers and five steals in the first half but even with 36 shots compared to BYU’s 27 shots, San Francisco were down 36-22 after one half of play.
After five and a half minutes of play BYU took their second lead of the game and never let go. Though San Francisco was able to match buckets, USF was only getting one basket back for every two Cougar made field goals. Brigham Young expanded the lead to 17 points with a little under one minute remaining in the first half. Freshman Jordan Ratinho led USF in scoring with an effective 3-of-6 from distance in the first half and recorded two rebounds and one assist as well.
In the second half, junior Chase Foster found his shooting stroke and dropped in 10 points, six points coming from a pair of made three’s. Another inefficient half didn’t help the Dons battle back as they shot a boorish 10-of-37 from the field and 6-of-21 from distance. They also couldn’t convert from the free throw line only making four of their nine attempts. Fast break and second chance points on both sides were at a premium. BYU stuck to their strengths, their starters, who scored 67 of their 68 points. The Cougars bench only took two shots, both were misses. BYU’s one bench-point came from Davin Guinn splitting his free throw chances in the closing seconds of the first half.
San Francisco took 21 more shots than BYU and even won the turnover battle 11-16 and assists 10-7 but USF’s inefficiency was their Achilles heel. Their bright spot on the Dons score sheet was their 31 bench points.
The victory against the SCU Broncos was a hard fought team win. Only one player reached double-digit scoring, sophomore Matt McCarthy with 10 points. USF shot 23-for-52 from the field but only 7-of-14 from the charity stripe. San Francisco won the rebounding battle 38-29.
In the first half alone, USF climbed out to a 20-point lead, 44-24 thanks to red-hot 15-30 from the field and 8-17 from range. In the second half though, SCU nearly came all the way back with San Francisco going ice cold. Though the Broncos shot a very average 44.4 percent from the field, the Dons shot 34.8 percent from the field and didn’t hit a three-pointer in comparison to Santa Clara’s five three’s. With 1:15 left remaining, USF’s lead at half was nearly eliminated as they found themselves only up by one point 59-58. A paint jumper by Foster San Francisco back up three. An SCU turnover, a missed three, and two missed free throws kept the Dons on top and helped prevent a near epic collapse.
Before Saturday nights game we celebrated Ronnie Boyce during senior night and gave him a final standing ovation before he took the court one last time at War Memorial at the Sobrato Center.
With four games remaining and an 18-9, 8-6 WCC record, USF will look to finish strong en route to Vegas for the WCC tournament. The next challenge will be against the No.1 team in the nation Gonzaga in Spokane, Washington on Thursday, February 16 at 6pm then Portland in Portland on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7pm. Be sure to follow live online or stream the game on theW.tv.
Photo Credits: Dons Athletics/ Flickr