The Dons continued their three-game road trip on Saturday, Feb. 8, visiting the Brigham Young Cougars. BYU was the West Coast Conference coming into the game with a per-game average of 86.7, but USF limited the Cougars to only 68. Unfortunately, the Dons only put up 63 points themselves.
A major rebounding deficiency for USF (15-10, 8-5 WCC) played a big part in the game, as BYU (16-9, 8-4 WCC) outrebounded the Dons 47 to 29, including 20 offensive rebounds that led to 16 second-chance points. A positive takeaway from the Dons’ loss was the 7-for-8 shooting night from sophomore guard Tim Derksen, who led the Dons in scoring with 17 points off the bench.
“Tim [Derksen] was phenomenal. I love his toughness and aggressiveness. You know where his heart is and what he is about,” head coach Rex Walters told usfdons.com.
On Thursday, the Dons put forth a strong effort that resulted in a 74-67 comeback victory over San Diego. Rallying from a 10-point deficit late in the second half, the Dons put together a 28-11 run to seal the game.
Four Dons registered double-figures in points, including senior forward Cole Dickerson’s pace-setting 21 points. Sophomore guard Avry Holmes had 15 and Derksen finished with 13 off the bench. Junior forward Kruize Pinkins also finished with a double-double, scoring 14 points and hauling in 11 important rebounds which lead to the Dons’ 38-35 rebounding advantage.
The game was highly contested from the opening tip, and the Dons went to halftime hanging onto a 34-30 lead. However, the Toreros came out aggressive in the second half and turned their four-point deficit into a 10-point lead. The run was capped by a three-pointer from Johnny Dee, who led San Diego with 18 points.
The turning point for the Dons arrived on the following possession as Derksen answered with a three-pointer of his own that cut the lead to seven, but more importantly ignited a 12-2 Dons run that put them back in the game. The Dons closed out strong, turning a 61-58 deficit into a 68-61 lead which was never lost despite the Toreros staying in contention till the end. With eight seconds remaining in the game and the score at 72-67, Holmes sank two game-deciding free throws and sealed San Diego’s fate.
The Dons shot 50% from the field, making up for their deficiencies at the free-throw line, where they only shot 47.6% as a team.
The Dons’ defensive effort also contributed largely to their victory.
“I was really proud of our defensive effort, especially at the end of the game,” Walters told usfdons.com. “We made some key stops when we needed to and that was the difference. We didn’t bring our ‘A’ game tonight but we found a way to win on the road.”
The Dons’ next game is an key WCC matchup as they travel to Santa Clara to face the Broncos. The game is set for Saturday, Feb. 15 at 8:00 p.m., and will be televised on ESPNU.