The men’s basketball team wrapped up West Coast Conference (WCC) regular season play on the evening of Feb. 29 in Los Angeles with a convincing and close two-point victory over the Loyola Marymount University Lions. The contest was close throughout, coming down to one of LMU’s best 3-point marksmen missing as time expired. The Dons walked out with their fourth straight 20-win season, the first time that this occurred since the late 1970s to the early 1980s (1977-1982). The Dons fell behind early to LMU but responded with a 14-2 run to take the lead 24-23 and held the lead going into the half 31-30.
The Dons were not shooting the ball particularly well against LMU, with 41% for the Dons versus the Lions’ 55%. Offensive and defensive rebounding were in favor of the Dons (30-26), which lead to 16 second-chance points, nine more than the Lions compiled. The Dons were also active defensively, forcing 15 turnovers which lead to 20 more points. LMU was only able to muster seven points off turnovers from USF.
The Dons seniors dug in deep and had themselves big games, particularly Jordan Ratino, who poured in 16 points and knocked down three 3-point baskets — the sixth time this season he has made three or more baskets from beyond the arc (Dons are undefeated in those games). Jimbo Lull also poured in 10 points, contributing to the Dons’ dominant presence in the paint (30 total in the game), which was critical in sparking USF’s big run to close out the first half and keep the Dons in the ballgame. Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz also had double-digit scoring outputs, aiding in the critical win on the road on the last day of the regular season.
This win sets up the Dons as the No. 5 seed for this weekend’s WCC tournament, netting a first-round bye as well. The match against LMU may have been a preview, as USF will play the winner of The Lions and University of San Diego Toreros for their first match in tournament play. The good news is USF is riding high coming into tournament play as winners of their last three games in a row and after beating some of the conferences tougher opponents (BYU, Pepperdine, and Pacific).
Last year, the Dons carried a three-game losing streak into WCC tourney play, and it resulted in a crushing loss to the Pepperdine University Waves. This year’s win streak may be the spark needed to make noise in the tournament and add a little madness to March.