By Kellan King
The San Francisco Dons and Saint Mary’s Gaels both came into tonight’s game needing a win to keep themselves in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament in March. Jamaree Bouyea and Yauhen Massalski got the Dons off to a hot start, combining for 15 and getting USF out to a 28-8 early lead. After the early run, the Dons didn’t let up. They held SMC’s leading scorer, Matthias Tass, to 2-9 from the field.
However, the Gaels didn’t go away. They went on a 9-0 run, cutting the lead to 14. Backup big man Mitchell Saxen came in and had an immediate impact, scoring 4 points and playing good defense. However, the Dons were able to keep the momentum when Bouyea hit a contested 30 footer to give USF a 17 point lead at the half.
The Gaels came out of the half fighting. They cut the lead to 11 behind 11 quick points from Matthias Tass, and kept going from there. They turned up the defensive intensity, and got consecutive stops. They kept grinding, and cut the lead all the way down to 6. USF went 0-5 on free throws, leaving a lot of points on the line.
Around halfway through the half, USF woke up from their 10 minute long slumber. They made their free throws, moved on offense, and got the lead back up to 9. But the Gaels weren’t done. They kept fighting, and took the lead with 3 minutes left. Zane Meeks responded, with a big 3 to put USF back up 2. But then, the Gaels took over. They crashed the offensive glass, and got stops when it mattered. In the end, they held on for a 72-70 win.
From a USF perspective, this loss is one of the worst in program history, a devastating loss. Up 23 points at home, with a chance to get a statement win, and they couldn’t get it done. The Gaels fought harder and got the win. Barring a win over Gonzaga, USF’s tournament chances look slim.