By Kellan King
After a brutal first six conference games, tonight’s clash with one of the worst teams in the conference, Pacific, could’ve been described as a must win for USF. However, early on both teams looked sluggish, with the first bucket not being scored for three and a half minutes, when Zane Meeks layed it in to give USF a 2-0 lead.
The game continued to be ugly during the early first half, with USF getting some offense from Vova Markovetskyy inside, including a tip-in to make it 7-3, before Pacific countered and cut it to 7-6. Ndewedo Newbury, who was expected to redshirt, made his first appearance of the year for the Dons, checking in with around 12 minutes to play. Marcus Williams gave the Dons a spark off the bench, scoring five quick points off a dunk and then a three that gave USF a five point lead.
The Dons started to find their rhythm with eight minutes left in the half, and Tyrell Roberts and Josh Kunen knocked down back to back threes to make it 22-13 USF. Newburry also got in on the action, scoring a layup and hitting a three of his own to give USF a 14 point lead. Newburry continued to have an impact when he checked back in, tipping out a rebound to Josh Kunen who knocked down a three to make it 38-22, Dons. Roberts gave the Dons even more momentum going into the half, hitting a deep off the dribble three that made it 41-22.
The Dons started the half just as strongly as they closed it, with Zane Meeks scoring four quick points to give USF their biggest lead of the game, 45-22. Newbury continued to get lots of minutes and had a positive impact in the second half. He was the first sub off the bench, and quickly hit his second three of the game to extend the lead to 25. Pacific made a little 7-0 run after USF extended the lead, capped by a pair of Donovan Williams free throw that made it 53-33.
The Dons didn’t let it get much closer though, hitting three threes, including another by Kunen to put USF’s lead at 26. USF kept pouring it on, and after a Saba Gigiberia dunk the score was 70-40. The game slowed down a little, with both teams going cold, but USF was able to maintain a large lead down the stretch. After Pacific cut the lead to 22, Vova got two straight dunks for the Dons to end the short run. After a couple minutes of garbage time, the final score was 78-57, Dons.
USF shot a season high 56% from three, 13-23, and will hope to bring some of that shooting into Saturdays game, when they welcome BYU to The Hilltop.
After the game I spoke to Head Coach Chris Gerlufsen and Sophomore Forward Ndewedo Newbury