Dons finish regular season 20-10 with wins over LMU and Pepperdine
The Dons capped off their impressive 20-win regular season on a high note Saturday
night, edging Loyola Marymount 65-61. Backed by a career-high 25 points from sophomore guard Avry Holmes, who was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week, USF took down a short-handed Lions team that only had six players available due to injury.
It was a wire-to-wire victory for the Dons, who were in the lead for the entire duration of the game. USF held off various runs, including a last-minute surge that included a five-second inbounding violation on the Dons. Despite the miscue, a missed three-pointer by LMU’s C.J. Blackwell, and a subsequent rebound by sophomore guard Tim Derksen kept the lead at 64-61. A free throw by Derksen made it a two-possession game and ended the scoring for the night.
Junior forward Kruize Pinkins registered his sixth double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and gathering 11 rebounds. In all, four Dons scored in double figures on the night, including 14 from senior forward Cole Dickerson and 10 from Derksen. The win resulted from a complete team effort, but the hero of the night was clearly Holmes. He scored his last seven points in the final three minutes, including a three-pointer with 3:16 remaining and a circus shot with 33 seconds left. These clutch shots from Holmes were both big buckets that held off late LMU runs.
“When [Avry Holmes] shot it down the stretch, I knew it was going in,” head coach Rex Walters told usfdons.com. “That’s the kind of player he his and the kind of confidence he has in his abilities.”
On Thursday, the Dons played a close first half before outscoring Pepperdine 47-21 in the second half en route to a 77-53 victory. Dickerson led the way for USF in the contest, scoring 21 points on an efficient 7-13 shooting, including a 2-3 night beyond the three-point arc. He also recorded his eighth double-double (22nd in his career) of the year as well, garnering 10 rebounds for the Dons.
An evenly matched first half—Pepperdine held a two-point lead at halftime after clawing
their way back into the game—became ugly for the Waves, as the Dons gained separation at the 12-minute mark of the second half and never looked back. Holmes came on strong in the final 20-minute period, scoring 14 of his 17 points. Pinkins complemented the big games from Dickerson and Holmes, pitching in 12 points in 20 minutes.
USF led by as much as 24 in the game, while the largest lead held by Pepperdine was four, at the outset of the second half. The rebound battle was also uneven, as the Dons held a final advantage of 40-29. Obtaining an advantage in rebounds has proven to be crucial for the Dons, who are 15-4 in games where they outrebound an opponent. USF’s defense was also top-notch, causing Pepperdine to struggle offensively throughout the game. The Waves registered a subpar 33.3 percent shooting percentage on the night, including a 2-16 night from the three-point line (12.5 percent).
“I’m proud of our guys because it’s been about the team,” Walters told usfdons.com. “It’s been a difficult year emotionally for everyone but we’ve come a long way…It’s not over – we have a long ways to go.”
The Dons do have a long ways to go, and they can thank their record for that. A 20-10 final regular season record marks the Dons’ first 20-win regular season since the 1981-82 season, and the second 20-win season in three years under head coach Rex Walters. On Monday, it was announced that Walters had been named the WCC’s Coach of the Year, and Dickerson was also awarded first team All-WCC honors.
Even more admirable than the 20-win season is the Dons’ 13-5 conference record, which placed them in a tie with BYU for second in the conference. Due to the Cougars winning the season series against USF, BYU will be seeded second and the Dons third in the West Coast Conference (WCC) Tournament, which begins this weekend. San Francisco will take a five-game winning streak to Las Vegas for the tournament, where they are schedule to face off against San Diego on Saturday, Mar. 8 at 12:00 p.m.