With two matchups left on the calendar, the last home game of the season gave the USF women’s basketball team plenty of cause for celebration.
Before tipoff, the team commemorated Senior Day, honoring its three seniors, forwards Mikayla Williams and Dolapo Balogun and guard Rojeen Sharifi. By the end of the afternoon, the trio was rewarded with more than flowers and framed jerseys as the Dons walked away with a two-point win over their conference foe, the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars.
Points were hard to come by for the entirety of the game. In the first quarter, the Cougars implemented a full-court press to disrupt the Dons’ offensive flow. When not searching for open shots, both sides contributed to their teams’ respective hustle stats by chasing down every loose ball. Back-to-back BYU baskets gave the Cougars a two-possession lead over the Dons as the first quarter came to a close.
The second quarter told a different story offensively for the Dons. USF found holes in the Cougars’ defense and managed to go on a 16-2 run, putting the Dons out in front by a score of 30-24. BYU gathered their bearings and erased the six-point deficit with a pair of 3-pointers, but a right-wing jumper by Balogun put the Dons up 32-30 heading into halftime.
Out of the locker room, BYU knotted the game up at 35 points apiece. Sophomore Kia Vaalavirta limited offensive looks for BYU’s Brenna Chase Drollinger, taking away a majority of the Cougars’ offense. The Dons ended the quarter on a high note with a 7-2 run, thus building a three-point lead over their opposition.
With 10 minutes left in regulation, BYU scored another pair of baskets to bring the game within striking distance. USF scored five unanswered points to push their lead back up to seven points with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. With the game up for grabs, the Cougars tied the game at 54 points apiece with a little under three minutes left in regulation. USF split a trip to the charity stripe, and BYU drove to the basket to take a 56-55 lead.
As time wound down, the game reached its fever pitch. USF drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key, taking a 58-56 lead, but a BYU layup tied the game at 58 points. With 1.8 seconds left and the game knotted up, USF took their last timeout.
In what was their final possession of the night, Williams tried draining a jumper off an inbound pass from guard Lucie Hoskova. Heavily guarded in the paint, Williams lobbed up a shot that sailed wide. Sophomore Abby Rathbun was in the right place at the right time as she collected Williams’ missed field goal and laid up the game-winning buzzer-beater.
USF’s 60-58 victory marked the first time that the Dons beat the Cougars in two years. The Dons will end their season with a two-game road trip against the University of the Pacific Tigers and the Saint Mary’s Gaels on Feb. 27 and Feb. 29 respectively.