The Dons fell to the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs 81-68 in the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals in Las Vegas, Nev. after narrowly defeating Loyola Marymount 63-62 in the first round.
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.
The Dons lost by a single point after leading for nearly the entire of the game against the Santa Clara Broncos on Saturday, Feb. 15. at War Memorial Gym. San Francisco seemed to be in control of the contest throughout the first 39 minutes of the game, but a scoring drought allowed the Broncos to catch up and steal the win from the Dons.
The Dons ended their 13-game losing streak against San Diego on Thursday night with a 78-74 victory over the Toreros in War Memorial Gym. USF was outrebounded by the Toreros 49-30, but managed to hang on for the win thanks to a career-high 28 points from sophomore guard Zhané Dikes.
What began as a close game between USF and the Gonzaga Bulldogs became a crushing 101-66 defeat for the Dons on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the McCarthey Center in Spokane, Wash. The Dons scored just below their season average of 68.6 points, but were unable to stop No. 22 Gonzaga’s overpowering offense from lighting up the scoreboard.
Despite the lopsided score at the end of the game, San Francisco (8-14, 3-8 West Coast Conference) tested Gonzaga (20-3, 10-1 WCC) throughout the first half. Gonzaga scored the first basket of the contest, but senior guard Alexa Hardick quickly responded with a three-pointer, putting the Dons on top early. Hardick was one of four Dons to score in double digits, notching 11 points in only her second career start.
Junior guard Taj Winston, who scored 10 points, began a 9-0 run for the Dons with a layup of her own. This gave San Francisco its first lead of the game at 31-29 with 7:55 left in the first half. The Dons lead 46-42 with just 2:25 left in the half, but Gonzaga fought back to regain the lead before time was called. The Bulldogs were on top 50-46 when both teams headed to the locker rooms.
Gonzaga began the second half with seven straight unanswered points. They then continued to pull away from the Dons, who struggled with turnovers, committing 23 as a team. Turnovers have been a lingering issue this season for the Dons, who have averaged 15.8 per game as of Feb. 1.
Overall, USF was outscored 51-20 in the second half, turning a potential upset bid into a blowout. Sophomore guard Zhane Dikes was the top point scorer for the Dons, putting up 14 points to go with 5 assists.
San Francisco had better luck in its game on Thursday, Jan. 30, defeating the Portland Pilots 74-73. The Dons were led by Hardick, who had a spectacular game in her first career start, scoring a team and career-high 21 points. Redshirt junior forward Paige Spietz also earned herself a career-high, adding 13 points.
USF had a rough start to the game, starting 0-10 from the field and digging themselves into a seemingly insurmountable 19-0 hole. However, the Dons kept their composure and slowly gained ground on the Portland Pilots. They cut the lead to 13 at halftime, and still trailed 57-42 with 13:20 left in the game, but a 17-0 run gave the Dons their first lead of the night at 59-57.
In the last five minutes of the game there were multiple lead changes, with no team leading by more than three points. With just 3.2 seconds left, Portland’s Amy Pupa scored off of an offensive rebound to put the Pilots up by a bucket, 73-71. Then, in the game’s most crucial moment, sophomore forward Taylor Proctor responded with a three-point play, scoring a basket and hitting the go-ahead free throw with 0.7 seconds left to win the game.
“We were trying to draw [Alexa Hardick] out and pretend that she was shooting the three,” Proctor told usfdons.com. “We had three seconds so that was enough time to settle down, look for a lane and draw the foul, and that’s what we did.”
San Francisco will now return home from their four game road trip that included three unfortunate losses and one inspirational win. In their next game, the Dons are faced with the challenge of avenging a 76-58 loss against the University of San Diego Toreros on Thursday, Feb. 6 at War Memorial Gym.
Crippled by a large number of turnovers, the Dons dropped their sixth straight West Coast Conference game to the San Diego Toreros in a 76-58 loss this Saturday. Five USF players turned the ball over three or more times, leading to 27 total turnovers and 21 points for the opposition.
Redshirt junior forward Paige Spietz opened the game with two free throws, kicking off an 8-0 run to start the game for the Dons (7-13, 2-7 WCC). However, USF’s lead would get no larger than eight. The Toreros missed their first eight shot attempts but went on a 13-3 run after hitting their first basket, a three-pointer. After the run, San Diego and San Francisco traded baskets until the seventh minute of the first half, when San Diego hit another three-pointer to put them two baskets ahead.
Still, the Dons were able to keep pace with San Diego for most of the first half, and found themselves down by just two points with two minutes left in the half thanks to trips to the free-throw line by freshman guard Rachel Howard and sophomore guard Zhané Dikes. After that, a six-point run by the Toreros solidified their lead, and they finished the half up 35-27.
The Dons kept the game close in the start of the second half with Spietz again scoring the first points. With 16:34 left in the second half, a layup by junior guard Taj Winston cut San Diego’s lead to just three. San Diego’s offense then took control of the game, scoring 11 of the next 14 points, and putting San Francisco in a position that they could not recover from. Dikes and Howard led the Dons in scoring, tallying 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Two days earlier, USF was dealt a demoralizing 81-47 loss to the Brigham Young Cougars at the Marriott Center. The Dons were outmatched from the opening tip, falling behind 11-0 to start, and trailing 34-15 by halftime. Dikes led the team with 13 points, and was the only Don to reach double figures.
San Francisco hopes for a better outcome on Thursday, Jan. 30 when they face the 12-8 Portland Pilots in Oregon at 7:00 p.m.