GAME NOTES: The West Coast Conference regular season comes to an end on Saturday night, as the San Francisco Dons venture to Gersten Pavilion to take on the Loyola Marymount Lions.
USF has had a strong campaign overall at 19-10, and at 12-5 in the WCC, it is tied for second place with BYU. The Dons are riding high as the season comes to a close with four straight victories, most recently making easy work of Pepperdine on Thursday night, 77-53, to improve to 6-5 on the road.
LMU had been losers of a season-long seven straight games coming in to its latest bout but managed to break out of that funk on Thursday with a 75-71 home victory over Santa Clara. The Lions are a mere 12-17 this season at 4-13 in league play, but they have been solid at home at 6-5.
The Dons dismissed the Lions in the first meeting this season, winning at home back on Jan. 2, 75-61, to improve their standing in the all-time series to 108-39
USF actually trailed Pepperdine at the half of its most recent game, but after shooting just 40 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, it improved to a lofty 65.2 percent in the second stanza as it pulled away for the 24- point victory. The squad made good on 10-of-23 from 3-point range and also won the rebounding battle, 40-29. Cole Dickerson was the spark plug with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, Avry Holmes netted 17 points on 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and Kruize Pinkins added 12 points.
Offensively, the Dons have played very well this season, shooting just shy of 48 percent from the field (including 36.8 percent from 3-point range) for 75.7 ppg, which has successfully masked their lackluster scoring defense (71.9 ppg). Dickerson is one of the league's top forwards with 14.7 ppg and 7.6 rpg, but while he shoots an impressive 51.8 percent from the floor, his free-throw efficiency (.481) has been dreadful. Pinkins (12.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) has also been stellar in the frontcourt, while Holmes (12.0 ppg) ad Mark Tollefsen (11.3 ppg) round out the double-digit scorers.
LMU also overcame a halftime deficit earlier in the week to capture a victory, as it held off Santa Clara down the stretch in the four-point final. It shot 45.5 percent from the floor, made the most of its free-throw tries (23-of-28) and scored 23 points off of 20 Santa Clara turnovers. Evan Payne was outstanding with 27 points on 11-of-17 from the field and perfect 5-of-5 at the free-throw line. Anthony Ireland poured in 20 points, Gabe Levin netted 10 and Alex Osborne narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and 11 boards.
Scoring points hasn't been the Lions' problem this season, as they shoot 44.1 percent from the field and 76.2 percent at the charity stripe for 73.9 ppg, but they have been held back by one of the nation's worst scoring defenses, as they yield 77.7 ppg. Ireland runs the point, scoring 18.9 ppg, handing out 5.3 apg and swiping 1.7 spg. Payne is in the midst of a strong freshman campaign with 15.5 ppg, while Levin is a solid presence in the frontcourt with 11.1 ppg and 7.0 rpg.
Despite LMU owning the homecourt advantage and coming off a solid win, USF has been rolling of late and likely won't be intimidated by its road surroundings with a double-bye in next week's WCC Tournament still in play.
Game Date and Time