Dons and Bulldogs Battle at Chase Center: Dons Swarm Warriors Ground

Alana Loya, among hundreds of USF students, took in the moment as the Dons battled the Bulldogs at Chase Center. Photo by Kaleb Martinez/SF Foghorn.

Conference rivals USF and Gonzaga went head to head at the home of the Warriors in a heavily anticipated leap day matchup. The Dons played their second Chase Center game of the season on Feb. 29, in a 68-86 loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs. 

As the countdown to tip-off drew closer, Dons fans made their presence known, creating a sea of black, green and gold in the lower level. Many students repped the newly introduced Dons Athletics Nike “415” shirt, which pays homage to San Francisco’s area code.

The track and field and cross country team, who are often spotted at the front of the student section, showed their support for the men’s basketball team, despite not being in the usual venue of War Memorial Gym. Sporting eye black and the “415” shirt, senior runner Danny Skovron expressed his excitement for the game. “We gotta show our support for one of the biggest games of the season,” he said. “This environment at the Chase Center is gonna be huge, even bigger than Santa Clara, but Dons supporting Dons is all that matters, and we’re here to show them what we got.”

One group of students went above and beyond in their preparation for the game, creating a five-foot-five cutout of their favorite Dons player, Junjie “Barry” Wang. “This is our second Barry sign. It got a lot bigger than the first one,” said Mayumi Gibson, a first-year kinesiology major. “We had to upgrade for the big game.” 

Mayumi Gibson went all out in supporting the Dons, specifically Ryan Beasley. Photo by Kaleb Martinez/SF Foghorn.

First-year kinesiology major Sebastien Trinidad said, “It took us about 2 hours of hard labor last night.” First-year nursing major Paul Uong added, “31 pages out of the printer, several pieces of cardboard, and five glue sticks.”

Tipping off at 8 p.m., the game began with strong chants of “Defense” and “Let’s go Dons” by the students. In the first half, guards Marcus Williams and Malik Thomas and forward Jonathan Mogbo led the charge, scoring or assisting on all 34 of USF’s points. Thomas led the team with 13 points, knocking down three 3-pointers, two of which were assisted by Williams. As the team’s main distributor, Williams also had two assists to Mogbo, including a bounce pass that led to a strong two-hand dunk. In an intense first 20 minutes, Gonzaga finished the half with a narrow 35-34 lead.

During halftime, fans shared their excitement for the upcoming second half. Senior finance major Brian Hendricks said, “This is a fabulous experience here at the Chase Center today. It’s been a great atmosphere so far. Just mixing with the students, the fans from the city, and the alumni. Dons put up a great performance in the first half, really looking forward to what they have in the second half.” Former USF Women’s basketball manager, Bria Stokes, took a more serious approach, saying, “Everyone needs to turn it up a little bit. The nerves are out of the way because it’s such a big crowd, it’s going to be a lot better in the second half.” 

Despite the optimism, Gonzaga came out the gates swinging to start the half, going on a 13-0 run and holding the Dons scoreless for the first four minutes. It wasn’t until first-year guard Ryan Beasley drilled a corner three that put the Dons on the board. Even with the team’s attempt to weather the storm, Gonzaga kept their foot on the gas, pushing the lead to 20, when guard Nolan Hickman hit a free throw. 

For the remainder of the second half, the Bulldogs maintained control over the game, keeping the lead floating around 20 points. In the last two minutes, Beasley and the team made a final comeback attempt, ending the game on a 13-2 run. Regardless of the last-second push, Gonzaga won comfortably by 18 points.

“When you’re playing a top 25 team, the margin of error is so small,” said USF Head Coach Chris Gerlufsen. “We did not step on the floor the way you need to start the second half.” He added, “Some of that is credit to Gonzaga too. I thought they upped their defense and increased their intensity. A lot of it has to do with them, but we need to get better as well.” 

With this victory, the Bulldogs won the season series against the Dons, after beating USF 77-72 in Spokane Wash. on Jan. 25. 

Gerlufsen was the only Don to provide post-game media availability. No players were present. “Our staff and our team were just disappointed we didn’t take advantage of the great turnout we had,” he said. “I thank all our fans, our alumni, our students, the Gonzaga fans that came out. I thought that had a really cool college basketball feel to it. It was fun to be a part of that.”

Heading into the 2024 West Coast Conference Tournament (WCC), the third-seeded Dons will play in the quarterfinal round in Las Vegas. USF will play the winner of Loyola Marymount University (LMU) vs Portland on Saturday, Mar. 9 at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

The Dons will find out if they won a bid to the NCAA Division I March Madness Tournament on “Selection Sunday” on March 17 at 3 p.m. on CBS.

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor:Jordan Premmer, Sports Editor: Chase Darden

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