The women’s basketball team battled it out at War Memorial Gym against Pepperdine (8-20, 3-14 WCC) last Saturday but stumbled even with a double-double effort from senior guard Taj Winston (14 points, 13, rebound and 2 assists). Two days prior on Thursday night, the Dons earned their 15th win, 87-75, against Loyola Marymount (5-23, 3-14 WCC).
Saturday afternoon’s game was the last the Lady Dons would play at home for the 2014-15 season. It was also the final game in front of a home crowd for forward Paige Speitz, guard Aundrea Gordon, and guard Taj Winston who are seniors and in their last season for USF.
The 11-point loss was unexpected considering the Dons visit to Malibu ended in an 11-point win. From the start, USF was playing from behind but did manage to knot the score once during the first half. In the final 90 seconds USF was down 22-28. During those 90 seconds Spietz hit three of four free throws during her two trips to the line, Pepperdine hit two free throws of their own and freshman forward Michaela Rakova dropped in a layup to get within one possession by halftime, 27-30.
At half, the Dons were winning the rebounding battle 23-18, and even had five more free throws, but the Waves’ five of twelve three-point shooting was the difference. Coming out of the break it was more of the same; the Waves tried to pull away but USF kept it close enough to keep the away supporters nervous. After a Pepperdine three, Winston received a pass in the corner on the next possession, jab stepped, drove baseline and blew by two defenders to finish softly off the glass to bring the score to 32-39. With five minutes left in the game, Pepperdine’s lead had inflated to 11, 46-57, but with time winding down to 2:50, USF worked the score back to single-digits, 52-59. Even with a valiant effort and fairly effective full-court press in the final minutes, the buzzer sounded and the scoreline read 65-76. Although the top scorer for the night, Gordon, finished with 21 points, the team’s 21 turnovers as well as Pepperdine’s 27 made free throws were too much to overcome. The frustration was obvious but even more so among the seniors of the Dons squad.
USF’s Thursday night game was a different story though. Gordon scored the opening bucket of the game from three-point distance, where the team would do damage the rest of the night. The first half rolled on and the Dons couldn’t pull away; LMU tied the game on three different occasions in the first half. Gordon and freshman guard Anna Seilund each had 11 points with three 3-pointers to give USF a 40-34 lead at the break. Not much separated the two teams statistically at half; both were shooting over 50 percent from the field, USF led in rebounds 16-13, and each had 10 assists and nine turnovers. Although the second half was just as tightly knit as the first, it really was a story of runs. With 5:05 remaining, the team opened up a 10-point lead, 69-59. The Lions closed the gap with a 9-2 run of their own and were within a 3-point bucket, 71-68, with 2:56 remaining. USF pushed right back to finish the game on a 16-7 run, with 11 of those points coming from the free throw line. In the end, Gordon’s 20 points, junior forward Taylor Proctor’s 15 points, Seilund’s four 3-pointers and the teams’ 18 of 19 clips from the free throw line lifted the Dons over the Lions 87-75.
The Dons have two games remaining, both on the road. USF (15-12, 6-10 WCC) seeks their 16th victory in Moraga against Saint Mary’s on Thursday, Feb. 26 at 6:00 PM. Be sure to support the Dons during their second to last game of the regular season by following the gamecast and live updates on usfdons.com.
Photo Credit: Courtesy OF Dons Athletic