Today’s clash between rivals San Francisco and Santa Clara has big implications in the WCC. The winner would move into 3rd place in conference standings, and stay of out the dreaded 4th place, and a possible matchup with Gonzaga in the WCC tournament semifinals.
The Dons certainly treated it like it was a big game. From the start, they played with incredible defensive intensity, and a measured approach on offense. USF started the game on a 16-7 run behind 8 quick Yauhen Massalski points, and a Julian Rishwain 3. The Dons continued to control the game, until Santa Clara went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 1, and get the Leavey Center crowd fired up.
USF was not flustered though. They responded with an 8-0 run, and the Broncos would never get within 7 the rest of the game. The Dons got good contributions from Rishwain and Zane Meeks in the first half, who both hit 3s to help boost USFs offense. Khalil Shabazz added multiple assists in the first half, and USF seemed to really be looking inside on the pick and roll. After the game, Coach Todd Golden said “We have 3 great ballhandlers,” in Shabazz, Bouyea, and Gabe Stefanini, and all of them helped move the ball, and keep USFs offense flowing in the first half.
In the 2nd half, it was more of the same. USF limited leading scorer Jalen Williams, and held Josip Vrankic in check. With around 10 minutes left, it looked like Santa Clara was coming to life. A thunderous Vrankic dunk cut the lead to 8, and the Bronco faithful came alive. However, the momentum would be short lived, as Gabe Stefanini hit 2 silencing 3s, extending the lead to 14, and stopping the Bronco run in its tracks. The Dons would control the rest of the game, with Jamaree Bouyea keeping Santa Clara at bay, and leading USF to a 74-58 win.
This win was massive for USF. A 16 point Quad 1 win will really boost USFs resume, and give them some breathing room in a competitive WCC. The Dons will face Pacific next.
After the game I spoke with Head Coach Todd Golden