The Dons wrapped up their regular season on Saturday with a hard-fought game against Loyola Marymount, which they won 80-79. Just two days earlier, USF took care of business against Pepperdine, controlling the contest and cruising to a 75-61 victory.
Before the Dons’ final game of the season against Loyola Marymount, USF recognized the lone senior on the team, guard Alexa Hardick. In front of her family, friends, and fellow Dons, Hardick scored nine points, shooting three-for-three from the three-point line.
San Francisco’s narrow win over LMU came thanks to a game-winning offensive rebound and putback by junior guard Taj Winston, who scored 14 points. Sophomore forward Taylor Proctor also had an excellent game, leading the Dons with a team-high 19 points along with 12 rebounds, her sixth double-double of the season.
San Francisco trailed Loyola Marymount throughout the first half, struggling to contain Loyola’s guards. Sophomore point guard Zhané Dikes kept the Dons afloat in the beginning of the contest with drives to the basket that kept LMU defenders on their toes. Redshirt junior Paige Spietz handled the ball down low, pulling down six rebounds and scoring 11 points. Spietz propelled the Dons ahead of the Lions just before halftime with a layup in traffic, earning a trip to the free throw line as well. The Dons closed out the half with a score of 45-43.
In the second half, Loyola Marymount found the gaps in San Francisco’s defense and began to pull away. The Lions led 66-59 with 9:31 to play, but Winston answered with a three-pointer from the corner that kickstarted a 15-8 Dons run. This scoring spurt would even the score with under four minutes left.
With the crowd cheering her on in her final game at USF, Hardick scored a three-pointer from the corner to put the Dons up by three, 77-74. LMU responded with a jumper of their own to tie the game. With only seconds left and the score deadlocked at 78, Dikes put up a shot to try and win the game. The shot bounced off the rim, but was rebounded by Winston, who scored the winning basket for the Dons. In celebration, San Francisco’s bench ran out onto the court, but was given a technical because there was still time on the clock. Loyola Marymount was awarded two free throws, but the Lions’ Hazel Ramirez missed a free throw, giving the Dons the win.
“It feels really good, especially because we won,” Hardick said. “I think that it is the first time in who knows how long, I think six years, that we have swept LMU in a season. I am really proud of my team and how we played.”
Unlike the game against Loyola Marymount, San Francisco rolled to a victory against Pepperdine, winning by 14 points. The game was dominated by San Francisco’s post players, who outscored Pepperdine 34-22 in the paint, and brought down 16 more rebounds than the Waves.
Pepperdine challenged San Francisco until the 3:03 mark in the first half, when Hardick swished a three and put the Dons ahead 32-29. USF was ahead 34-32 going into halftime, and in the second half, San Francisco stretched its lead further thanks to multiple trips to the free throw line. The Dons led by as many as 23 on the way to their comfortable win.
USF is now preparing for the West Coast Conference (WCC) Championships. The WCC Tournament begins on Thursday, Mar. 6 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, and the title game will be on Tuesday, Mar. 11.
“I think that we have a good chance to upset some teams this year,” Hardick said.