The Dons won both of their two games last week, beating the Pacific Tigers in a close matchup on Saturday after defeating St. Mary’s for the first time since 2006 just two days before. The wins improve the Dons’ season record to 18-10 and their conference record to 11-5, currently putting them at third in the Western Coast Conference.
Despite a late drive by Pacific that almost won them the game, USF managed to hang on for the win against the Tigers in a 64-59 victory, aided in part by 15-point games from both senior forward Cole Dickerson and sophomore guard Avry Holmes. Dickerson also tacked on 13 rebounds for the Dons in his final home game for USF before he graduates.
“I’m sure emotions played a big part with Cole [Dickerson] today,” head coach Rex Walters told usfdons.com. “He doesn’t show much on the outside, but he wanted this one bad for obvious reasons.”
The Dons jumped out to an early lead against the Tigers and maintained it throughout the course of the first half. USF headed into halftime up 33-21, but the Tigers rallied fiercely in the second half and managed to take the lead a couple of times, but only by two points at most. A layup by Dickerson broke a 57-57 tie, and free throws from both Holmes and redshirt sophomore forward Mark Tollefson helped the Dons cement their lead and secure the victory.
USF’s win on Saturday was their second of the week, and it came after a commanding performance against St. Mary’s on Thursday that concluded with the Dons shutting down the Gaels 73-62. USF had lost 17 straight games to the Gaels over the last nine years.
Before Saturday, the Dons’ last victory against the Gaels was on Jan. 10, 2006.
The first half was very similar to that of the Pacific game, as the Dons performed well and maintained a double-digit lead going into halftime. Their performance was highlighted by massive dunks from both Tollefson and junior forward Kruize Pinkins. Tollefson, Pinkins, and junior guard Matt Glover led the Dons in scoring with 16 points each.
Although there were times in the second half when it seemed like the Gaels might rally for a comeback, USF always managed to stay on top and respond to St. Mary’s attempts at a run. The Gaels were able to cut the lead to 61-52 with 3:40 to play, but they would get no closer than that. A fastbreak dunk by Tollefson with 1:14 to go put USF up by a comfortable 12 points, and effectively sealed the win for the Dons. As a team, the Dons shot 50 percent both from the field and from beyond the arc, while also giving up only four turnovers.
The games against Pacific and St. Mary’s were the last Dons home contests of the year. USF has two games left in the regular season, with the first coming on Feb. 27 at 7:00 p.m. in Malibu, Calif. versus Pepperdine, and the second on Mar. 1 at 7:00 p.m. in Los Angeles, Calif. against LMU.