The Dons won their most recent regular season game against Pepperdine but couldn’t pull off the victory when they needed it most, losing to the Waves 86-90 in the quarterfinals of the WCC tournament in Las Vegas. USF was the five seed team playing the four seed in Pepperdine. The game featured great performances from a few Dons but overall they struggled on offense with just three of their players scoring more than five points.
Going into the game it was sure to be a close matchup. The teams were seeded next to each other in the bracket and had previously split the season series 1-1, with a combined point differential of +4 in favor of Pepperdine.
The first half was a back and forth fight with neither team gaining a significant edge, the largest lead being just six points for Pepperdine near the halfway mark. In terms of field percentage the two teams were dead even in the first half with each team taking 28 shots and making 14. The Waves came out on top in three point percentage, 55.6% to 44.4%, but the Dons made up for it by shooting much better from the stripe with 83.3% compared to just 42.9% from Pepperdine.
One area where USF struggled was turnovers, giving up the ball six different times leading to 13 extra points for the Waves. yet when it came to rebounding USF were the clear victors grabbing 17 to Pepperdine’s 12. Despite their turnover problems and lower three point percentage the Dons managed to go into halftime up by one point, 37-36, thanks to their accuracy from the line and hustle on the boards.
While the first half went point for point down the stretch the second would only be that way for the first ten minutes. After letting the Waves go up for a second USF jumped back ahead and maintained a small lead up until the eleven minute mark, when Pepperdine tied the game. Soon after that they would grab the lead and push it to ten points. The Dons managed to stay close but for the most part were just outside of striking distance.
As the game came to a close the Dons put all their weight behind one final push. Down 6 with just eleven seconds left on the clock senior guard Sean Grennan hit a three pointer to bring USF within one score. On the inbound sophomore forward Chase Foster fouled Pepperdine’s Jeremy Major who went to the line and missed his first shot but then made the second. Down four points senior guard Tim Derksen put up a three as a last ditch effort at victory but it missed, ending the game, and the Dons’ season.
Despite the loss the game featured stellar performances from both Derksen and sophomore guard Devin Watson. Derksen scored 23 points, five rebounds, and three assists, while Watson tied his career high of 33 points.
This loss knocked the Dons out of the WCC tournament and extinguished any hope of making it to March Madness for what would have been the first time since 1998. Overall USF ended the season with a 15-15 record going 8-10 in the WCC conference. Dons basketball will return next November.
Photo courtesy of Dons Athletics