Rachel Howard drives the ball against a Long Beach State defender. In the Dons’ double overtime loss to the 49ers, Howard was the team’s top scorer with 16 points. (Photo courtesy of Dons Athletics)

Winston Hits Clutch Shot, But Dons Lose Double-OT Nail-Biter to 49ers

The Dons fell to the Long Beach State 49ers on Sunday, Nov. 18 at War Memorial Gym. The 85-82 loss was a heartbreaking one for the Dons, who fought through two overtime periods but could not hold on late.

San Francisco dueled with Long Beach State throughout the game, with the two teams trading the lead back and forth until the beginning of the second half. The Dons were finally able to open up a 10-point lead thanks to an 11-0 run led by junior Jamie Katuna. The 5-foot-7-inch guard reeled off nine straight points within the first three minutes of the second half.

San Francisco had 28 turnovers that led to 27 points for Long Beach State. Head coach Jennifer Azzi said of the turnovers, “It’s very hard to win if you turn the ball over 28 times, and they were, in my mind, unforced turnovers. That’s something that we absolutely have to fix and, we had talked about it at halftime of the game” (usfdons.com).

The double digit lead soon vanished when San Francisco began committing many careless turnovers. The 49er’s responded to the scoring run of the Dons with a 13-3 run of their own to tie the game at 46, and by continuing their newfound energy, they were able to take a 60-55 lead with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Long Beach State capitalized on USF’s miscues all game long, scoring a total of 27 points off of the Dons’ 28 turnovers.

“It’s very hard to win if you turn the ball over 28 times, and they were, in my mind, unforced turnovers, Head Coach Jennifer Azzi told USFDons.com. “That’s something that we absolutely have to fix, and we had talked about it at halftime of the game.”

In the final minute of the game that San Francisco sophomore forward Taylor Proctor swished a three point shot, cutting the 49er’s lead to only two points. The Dons were then able to come up with a huge defensive stop, and during their next possession the ball found the hands of  junior guard Taj Winston, who drained a three with 7.1 seconds remaining to tie the score. Long Beach had one more chance to respond, but they could not convert and the game headed into overtime.

In the first overtime, the 49ers quickly jumped out to a five-point lead. However, USF kept the score close throughout the five-minute period, Proctor sunk two free throws with 10.3 seconds to go, tying the game once again.

In the second overtime, Winston and Howard were able to score earlier in the period, but it was the 49er’s that came out on top in the end. The Dons took an 82-80 lead with 2:29 left, but Long Beach State scored the game’s last five points to win the contest 85-82. Howard scored a team-high 16 points, and Winston trailed closely behind with 15 points. In total, five Dons scored in double figures, yet the turnovers the team committed got them into a deficit that they could not quite come back from.

“I’m not happy about turnovers and mistakes, but two overtimes, our team not giving up – there’s a lot of the effort stuff that I’m proud of,” Azzi told USFDons.com.

The score of USF’s game at San Jose State on Wednesday, Nov. 20th available at press press time. The Dons now have a nine-day break until they participate in the Cal Poly Holiday Classic in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where they will take on UC Davis on Nov. 29 at 5:00 p.m., and then Cal Poly on Nov. 30 at 7:00 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Dons Athletics

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