By Kellan King
USF came into tonight’s game against Santa Clara with a lot of questions to be answered. How would they respond to Thursday’s devastating loss against Saint Mary’s? Would they be able to bounce back and keep their tournament hopes alive? And would they be able to do all of this against one of the top teams in the WCC in the Broncos?
WIth both teams coming off intense games, the game got off to a sluggish start. The Broncos got off to an early 13-6 lead, with Jalen Williams leading the way with 6. After Santa Clara extended their lead to 12, the Dons started to make their push. Jamaree Bouyea and Julian Rishwain hit back to back 3s, and cut the lead to 3 with 10 minutes to play in the half. The Dons continued to push, and got a 5 point lead. Jalen Williams wouldn’t let the Broncos stay behind long though, leading SCU on a 10-0 run. At the half, the Dons led by 1 after a Bouyea 3.
The second half got off to a similarly slow start. The Dons extended their lead to 5, but failed to convert on many chances to pull away. With both teams struggling to score, the Broncos were able to cut the lead to 1. After 5 minutes of back and forth play, the Broncos were able to build a 4 point lead. After that, there was no defense. From the 10 minute mark to the 6 ½ minute mark, both teams did not miss a shot. At the media timeout, the Broncos led by 2.
Down the stretch, it was a battle. Both teams traded leads, with Josip Vrancic scoring 5 points before missing 2 layups. Khalil Shabazz hit a key 3 with around 3 minutes to play, giving the Dons a 1 point lead. The Dons extended their lead to 5, before big man Yauhen Massalski fouled out with a minute to play. Josip Vrankic knocked down 2 free throws, and the Broncos scored again in transition to cut the lead to 1. Then came the free throw game. The Dons were able to make 6 straight free throws, and hold on to win 83-80. The Dons had 17 assists, and after the game Coach Todd Golden said “When we’re moving the ball like that, we’re hard to guard.”
This win is a big one for USF. They were able to win a close game, and make free throws down the stretch, something they didn’t do on Thursday. They also get a win over their rivals, and a very good team in Santa Clara, and keep their tournament hopes alive. The Dons will now turn their attention to BYU, in another key WCC game.
After the game, I spoke with Coach Todd Golden