With West Coast Conference play in full swing, the USF men’s basketball team recently found themselves in a three-way tie for second place with their next two opponents: the Saint Mary’s College of California Gaels and the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars.
On Jan. 23, the Dons journeyed to nearby Moraga, California for a nationally-televised game against the Gaels, the latest installment in a storied Bay Area rivalry.
Heading into the contest, the Dons rode the wave of a three-game winning streak.
Early in the night, junior Jamaree Bouyea helped the offense come alive, scoring 11 points in the first half. Defensively, the Dons limited open looks for the Gaels, forcing their opponents’ bigger men to take shots. Proficiency on both sides of the court gave the Dons a 23-9 lead.
As the first half came to a close, the Gaels worked to halt the Dons’ momentum. A stretch of multiple turnovers and less-than-ideal shot selection saw the Dons’ lead shrink down to 28-25.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Gaels took a one-point lead. From that moment on, the Dons found themselves in a cold spell. After sinking 39% of their shots in the first half, the Dons were only able to drain 33% of their second-half field goals.
The Dons also saw a decline in 3-pointers as they went from shooting 38% beyond the arc in the first half to shooting 18% in the second half.
Despite the Dons mounting a promising comeback, the Gaels proved to be too much of a force on the hardwood. They forced an additional nine turnovers and opened up the court for playmakers who had not seen much action in the first half.
In the end, the Dons lost by a score of 58-48, the fewest amount of points they have produced this season.
After dropping their last contest, the Dons returned to the Hilltop for a Jan. 25 match-up against the Cougars of BYU.
Redshirt sophomore Khalil Shabazz had an outstanding game. He went 10-10 in field goals and 6-6 in 3-pointers, scoring a career-high 32 points. Redshirt junior Charles Minlend led the Dons in rebounds with seven boards.
USF started the game with a 5-4 lead over the Cougars, but the opposition pulled out in front with a 3-pointer. With 10 minutes to go in the first half, the Dons drained a pair of 3-pointers to even the game at 20 points apiece.
As the half wound down, the Cougars found an offensive spark and extended their lead over the Dons by 11 points. The Dons strung together a 9-0 run to bring the game within two points with just over a minute to go in the first half.
Two successful free throw attempts and a 3-pointer from BYU sent the Dons into halftime trailing the Cougars by a score of 45-38.
After going scoreless for the first three minutes of the second half, the Dons took the lid off the rim and went on a 21-0 run. The Dons carved out a seven-point lead over the Cougars, marking USF’s first lead since the first half.
For the remainder of the game, the Dons refused to collapse against the Cougars. With 17 seconds left, BYU faced a one-possession game. The Dons opted for an intentional foul which sent the Cougars to the charity stripe for two free throws. Had BYU made their first free throw, they would have been rewarded with another attempt. The first shot banked off the rim, effectively ruling out a second chance and keeping the game in the Dons’ favor.
The Dons took two trips to the free-throw line and squeaked by with an 83-82 victory, finishing the night shooting 54% from the field and 52% from beyond the arc.
USF returns to action on Jan. 30 when they travel to face the University of San Diego Toreros at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.