What began as a close game between USF and the Gonzaga Bulldogs became a crushing 101-66 defeat for the Dons on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the McCarthey Center in Spokane, Wash. The Dons scored just below their season average of 68.6 points, but were unable to stop No. 22 Gonzaga’s overpowering offense from lighting up the scoreboard.
Despite the lopsided score at the end of the game, San Francisco (8-14, 3-8 West Coast Conference) tested Gonzaga (20-3, 10-1 WCC) throughout the first half. Gonzaga scored the first basket of the contest, but senior guard Alexa Hardick quickly responded with a three-pointer, putting the Dons on top early. Hardick was one of four Dons to score in double digits, notching 11 points in only her second career start.
Junior guard Taj Winston, who scored 10 points, began a 9-0 run for the Dons with a layup of her own. This gave San Francisco its first lead of the game at 31-29 with 7:55 left in the first half. The Dons lead 46-42 with just 2:25 left in the half, but Gonzaga fought back to regain the lead before time was called. The Bulldogs were on top 50-46 when both teams headed to the locker rooms.
Gonzaga began the second half with seven straight unanswered points. They then continued to pull away from the Dons, who struggled with turnovers, committing 23 as a team. Turnovers have been a lingering issue this season for the Dons, who have averaged 15.8 per game as of Feb. 1.
Overall, USF was outscored 51-20 in the second half, turning a potential upset bid into a blowout. Sophomore guard Zhane Dikes was the top point scorer for the Dons, putting up 14 points to go with 5 assists.
San Francisco had better luck in its game on Thursday, Jan. 30, defeating the Portland Pilots 74-73. The Dons were led by Hardick, who had a spectacular game in her first career start, scoring a team and career-high 21 points. Redshirt junior forward Paige Spietz also earned herself a career-high, adding 13 points.
USF had a rough start to the game, starting 0-10 from the field and digging themselves into a seemingly insurmountable 19-0 hole. However, the Dons kept their composure and slowly gained ground on the Portland Pilots. They cut the lead to 13 at halftime, and still trailed 57-42 with 13:20 left in the game, but a 17-0 run gave the Dons their first lead of the night at 59-57.
In the last five minutes of the game there were multiple lead changes, with no team leading by more than three points. With just 3.2 seconds left, Portland’s Amy Pupa scored off of an offensive rebound to put the Pilots up by a bucket, 73-71. Then, in the game’s most crucial moment, sophomore forward Taylor Proctor responded with a three-point play, scoring a basket and hitting the go-ahead free throw with 0.7 seconds left to win the game.
“We were trying to draw [Alexa Hardick] out and pretend that she was shooting the three,” Proctor told usfdons.com. “We had three seconds so that was enough time to settle down, look for a lane and draw the foul, and that’s what we did.”
San Francisco will now return home from their four game road trip that included three unfortunate losses and one inspirational win. In their next game, the Dons are faced with the challenge of avenging a 76-58 loss against the University of San Diego Toreros on Thursday, Feb. 6 at War Memorial Gym.