Dons Basketball Wrap-Up

The Dons finished their season as the third seed in the West Coast Conference. Pictured: Ryan Beasley. Photo courtesy of Darren Yamashita/Dons Athletics.

The USF men’s basketball team’s postseason run ended on Mar. 20, after a 73-72 overtime loss to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

The Dons traveled to Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati, OH to take on the Bearcats. Both teams went back and forth with Cincinnati going into halftime with a narrow one-point lead. Despite a strong performance from guard Malik Thomas, who posted a career-high 31 points on 11-19 shooting, the Dons couldn’t get over the hump. USF and Cincinnati went into overtime tied at 67 after Thomas made a free throw followed by a contented three-pointer with nine seconds left in regulation. Thomas scored nine of the Dons’ last 11 points in regulation.

Thomas’ dominance continued as he scored all of the Dons’ five points in overtime. Though the Dons held a four-point lead with 2:38 left in overtime, the Bearcats didn’t go down without a fight. Cincinnati guard Jizzle James led the comeback effort as he brought his team within two points down the stretch. Following James’ heroics, the Dons met their fate as Cincinnati’s Simas Lukosius sent the Dons back to the Bay after coming off a screen and knocking down a game-winning three-pointer with under four seconds left. The Dons couldn’t get another shot off,  falling to the Bearcats by one point.

Though the Dons’ hoped to make a deeper run in the postseason, head coach Chris Gerlufsen reflected on the game and the season in a postgame press conference. “I’m extremely proud of my team,” he said. “For us to come all the way out here, travel this distance, and play a really quality Big 12 team. I’m really proud of our group and where we’re going as a program. Not the result we wanted but there’s a lot to build on. I love my team and I love our group.”

The Dons finished the season as the third seed in the West Coast Conference (WCC) with an overall record of 23-11 and a conference record of 11-5, their best season since the 2021-22 season. This season was headlined by the arrival of newcomers Thomas, Jonathan Mogbo, and Ryan Beasley

Mogbo was named a finalist for the Lou Henson National Player of the Year award which is awarded to the top mid-major player in Division I college basketball. Mogbo finished the season leading the Dons in points, rebounds and steals. He finished in the top 20 in all of Division I in total rebounds, field goal percentage, double-doubles, average rebounds, and total offensive rebounds. Mogbo finished the season shooting 63.6% from the field, which is the second-highest ever in USF history, only behind three-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Champion and USF’s all-time leading scorer Bill Cartwright.

Also notable are breakout seasons from Marcus Williams, and Ndewedo “Chips” Newbury.

Mogbo and Beasley were awarded Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year from the WCC, while Mogbo and Williams were also named to the All-WCC First Team. Newbury and Thomas were Honorable Mentions.

The Dons will potentially be without a familiar face next season as forward Isaiah Hawthorne announced on Mar. 25 via Instagram that he will be entering the transfer portal for his graduate year. 

The Dons won’t return to War Memorial Gym until November for the start of the 2024-25 season. 

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, Sports Editor: Chase Darden

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