Women’s Basketball: Freshman Rachel Howard Takes Charge of USF Offense, Earns All-Tournament Honors

Rachel Howard shoots over the outstretched hand of Cal Poly sophomore Beth Balbierz. The freshman averaged 17.5 points during the Cal Poly Holiday Beach Classic. (Photo courtesy of Dons Athletics)
Rachel Howard shoots over the outstretched hand of Cal Poly sophomore Beth Balbierz. The freshman averaged 17.5 points during the Cal Poly Holiday Beach Classic. (Photo courtesy of Dons Athletics)

USF suffered a 76-65 loss to the Cal Poly Mustangs on Nov. 30 after competing in a back and forth game came that down to rebounding, in which Cal Poly excelled. The Mustangs held a 52-42 rebounding edge, 18 of their rebounds being offensive boards that led to 15 second chance points. The Dons (2-4) were coming off of a 69-67 victory over UC Davis in their first game of the Cal Poly Holiday Beach Classic tournament in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The Cal Poly game was the first time in this young season that only two Dons were able to score in double digits. Freshman guard Rachel Howard had another excellent performance, scoring 18 points and dishing out four assists to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. Sophomore forward Taylor Proctor was the only other Don to score in double digits, adding 12 points to San Francisco’s total.

Cal Poly opened the game with an 8-3 run, to which the Dons responded with an 11-0 run of their own. This gave San Francisco a six-point lead, their largest of the night. Cal Poly continued to fight back offensively, and closed out the half up three baskets on the Dons.

After the half, the Mustangs stretched their lead to 54-46, due largely in part to their dominance in the paint and on the boards. Howard put a three-point shot in the basket, beginning a rally on both offense and defense for the Dons. San Francisco cut the deficit to one point before the Mustangs began an 18-5 run that gave them a 14-point advantage that USF could not recover from. This game marked the end of the tournament, and the end of San Francisco’s Thanksgiving road trip.

In their opening game of the tournament on Nov. 29, the Dons defeated the UC Davis Aggies in a game that came down to the final seconds, and was sealed by the excellent rebounding of Proctor.

Like the game against Cal Poly, USF’s opponent jumped out to an early lead. The Aggies went up 6-0 early on, but the Dons quickly came back to tie the score at 9-9. The game was a back-and-forth affair, with several notable defensive and offensive plays. In a span of 90 seconds, junior guards Jamie Katuna and Taj Winston took charges along with Howard to come up with defensive stops that allowed the Dons to stay on the offensive side of the ball. The Dons went to halftime up five points.

UC Davis came out of the half just like they did at the beginning of the game, scoring the first basket that led to a 16-5 Aggies run. This time, San Francisco quieted their scoring streak with a 7-0 run of their own. The Aggies did not give up, and tied the game 62-62 with a 3:32 left to play in the second half. The score was 66-66 with under a minute left, and with 23.3 seconds remaining in the game, Howard made a three-point basket to give the Dons a three point advantage. The Aggies made one of two free throws to cut the lead to two points with 2.5 seconds left. Proctor secured the loose ball off the missed free throw, running the clock out and sealing the game.

Howard ended the game with 17 points, leading her team in scoring. Proctor added 12 points along with 11 points from Winston. Freshman forward Claudia Price also tacked on 10 points, making it four games in a row that four or more Dons scored in double digits.

San Francisco now comes home to play against University of Nevada, Las Vegas in their own War Memorial Gym. The game will be on Monday, Dec. 6 at 7:00 p.m.

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