(Photo courtesy of Dons Athletics)

Women’s Basketball: Second Half Struggles Doom Dons Against Pacific, St. Mary’s

USF struck first against Pacific on Saturday, but the Tigers took control early and handed the Dons an 83-65 defeat at the Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton, Calif. The Dons’ undoing was not turnovers, as it has been in past games, with both the Dons (9-18, 4-12 West Coast Conference) and Tigers scoring 19 points off of 13 turnovers. Instead, the difference came in the rebound battle, which Pacific won 43-32.

Junior Paige Spietz began the scoring with a layup 20 seconds into the game, but the Dons’ narrow lead would be short-lived.  Pacific took a 7-4 lead with 17:40 remaining in the first half and never gave up ground, leading by as much as 20 points during the game. USF kept pace throughout much of the first half but struggled to close the period. After getting as close as 37-30 on a layup from sophomore Zhané Dikes, the Dons allowed Pacific to score the final five points of the half. Despite 50 percent shooting in the second half, the Dons only managed to break the Tiger’s double-digit lead once; sophomore Taylor Proctor’s layup brought the Pacific lead down to nine with 17:24 remaining.  However, the Tigers would respond quickly and often, closing out the game for good.

Junior Taj Winston led the Dons in scoring with 17 points, and Proctor pitched in a double-double, putting up 14 points to go with 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, five Tigers scored in double digits, including a game-high 21 from KiKi Moore.

On Thursday, the Dons took on the St. Mary’s Gaels in Moraga, Calif. After playing a very highly contested first half and trailing by only two points at halftime, the Gaels took control in the second half to win 83-64. St. Mary’s held the Dons to 25.8 percent shooting (8-31) in the second half,  and capitalized on 15 total second-chance points for the game. Another key to the Gaels’ win was the disparity at the free throw line. Their 27 made free throws on 30 attempts, including a perfect 17-17 in the second half, was decidedly better than a 4-6 overall night at the charity stripe for the Dons.

The lead traded hands a total of 11 times in the first half, but zero times in a second half in which the Gaels outscored the Dons 38-21.  The only category where the Dons held an advantage was fast break points, in which the Dons held a 10-2 advantage throughout the game. Aside from that the statistics tell the story of two halves, as the Dons’ second half woes—such as 50% first half to 25% second half in shooting—kept a declining effort from the Gaels from affecting the outcome.

Dikes led the Dons in points and rebounds with 17 and seven, respectively.  Winston also contributed 16 points on an efficient 7-10 shooting to go with three rebounds and two steals.

The Dons return home to play Pepperdine—a team they defeated 77-61 on Jan. 4 of this year—at War Memorial Gym on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 7:00 p.m.  The game is the second-to-last game of the regular season before the beginning of the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas.

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