As classes started on the Hilltop, the USF men’s basketball team was on the road, tipping off Thursday night in Portland against the Pilots. The Dons shot down the Pilots in dramatic fashion on a buzzer-beater by junior forward Cole Dickerson that gave USF the 75-72 victory. Dickerson and the Dons battled back from an 11-point deficit in the second half to record their sixth straight win over the Pilots. After struggling to find their shooting rhythm during their last two contests, the Dons drained nine three pointers, none bigger than Dickerson’s with 0.01 left on the clock.
Things started out well enough for USF as Dickerson, who put up 15 points, netted the game’s first basket, giving USF a 2-0 lead two minutes into the game. Portland, however, had an answer for everything and traded buckets with the Dons until junior guard Korey Theileke hit a deep three with 11:40 left in the first half, giving the Pilots an 8-point lead. For a team struggling to find its shot, being down early on the road is treacherous territory. The Dons shot a combined 32.6% percent from the floor in their two pervious games, losing both by a combined 40 points. Instead of forcing low percentage shots, San Francisco started its comeback on the defensive end of the floor, forcing five turnovers during a 10-3 run that gave the Dons a one point advantage with 7:00 left in the first. That lead would not last, as Derrick Rodgers put Portland back on top 15 seconds later. The half would end in ironic fashion as senior guard Oskars Reinfields hit a deep three with 0.01 left in the first, giving the home team a four point edge at the break.
The second half started with an outburst of scoring from the Pilots, highlighted by 15 point half from junior forward Ryan Nicholas, who scored a game high 26 points. Things looked dire at the nine minute mark, as Portland held a commanding 11 point lead and showed no signs of slowing down. The Dons, however, were saving their best defense for the final act, as they forced Portland to settle for contested, long range jump shots for the remainder of the half. USF kept Portland from making a single shot for over seven minutes, from the time they took the 11-point lead until the 2:20 mark. During that stretch, the Pilots were hard pressed to get a clean look at the basket and when they did, the Dons fouled the shooter, forcing the Pilots to make pressure free-throws and stopping the clock, giving USF ample time to tie it up. With a minute left in the contest, senior guard Cody Doolin sank a clutch three, tied the game, and set the stage for a USF win.
After the Doolin three, Portland used up 30 seconds of the allotted 35 second shot clock and had nothing to show for it as Reinfield’s missed a challenged three pointer. With the miss giving USF the last possession of the game, the Dons slowed down their offense and looked for an open shot. With time running out, Doolin spotted Dickerson in the left corner and sent his seventh assist of the night into the hands of the junior forward.
The last second win was short lived for the Dons, as they were slated to tip-off in Spokane on Saturday night against the 10th ranked Zags, a game which they lost 66-52.