With the season nearing its end, every game is becoming a must-win for the Dons. They seemed well aware of that on Saturday, when they pulled through for a tough 69-63 victory over the Santa Clara Broncos at the Leavey Center. The exciting win moved the Dons to 16-10 overall and 9-5 in West Coast Conference (WCC) play. Meanwhile, Santa Clara’s loss dropped them to 11-16 (4-10 WCC).
Junior forward Kruize Pinkins was in the center of the action throughout the game, scoring a career-high 26 points. Due to his performance Pinkins was named the WCC’s player of the week.
Senior forward Cole Dickerson also had a great night as he achieved his sixth career double-double of the season with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Sophomore forward Mark Tollefsen pushed the team forward as well, adding 13 points and holding Santa Clara’s leading scorer, Jared Brownridge, to only 14 points.
Towards the end of the first half, the Dons went ahead on a three-point play by sophomore point guard Avry Holmes, capping a 9-0 run and giving USF a 33-32 lead. The Dons had a 35-33 advantage at intermission, and stretched that margin to 41-33 early in the second half. The Broncos battled back with a 17-8 run of their own, but sophomore Guard Tim Derksen’s bucket put the Dons up 51-50, and San Francisco would never trail again. A Brownridge jump shot tied the game at 58-58, but it was the Dons who made big plays down the stretch. Two Derksen free throws and a key tip-in from Pinkins helped USF push its lead back to six at 64-58. Then, with 21 seconds left in the game and the Dons hanging onto a 64-61 lead, Pinkins would secure three-point play to shatter the Broncos’ hopes and ice the game.
“We had some timely buckets, made free throws down the stretch and executed the game plan, which was to make [Brandon] Clark and Brownridge work for everything,” head coach Rex Walters told usfdons.com.
Although the Dons shot a dismal 37.5 percent from the floor against Santa Clara, they succeeded in an area where they have struggled of late – rebounding. USF controlled the glass with a 43-36 rebounding advantage against the Broncos, and moved to 14-4 on the season when they outrebound the opposing team. The Dons are just 2-6 when they fail to grab more rebounds than their opponents.
USF’s win, combined with St. Mary’s loss to Brigham Young, means that the Gaels and the Dons are now tied for third place in the WCC standings heading into their pivotal matchup this week. The Dons have the opportunity to jump ahead of St. Mary’s when they host the Gaels on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 8:00 p.m.
Last 5 posts by Mariana Osorio
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