By Kellan King
After Thursday’s dominant win over Pacific, the San Francisco Dons looked to carry that momentum into tonight’s clash against a better opponent, BYU. The Dons got off to another hot shooting start, getting two threes from Zane Meeks and Khalil Shabazz to take an early 6-2 lead. The Cougars cut the lead down to one after a Jaxson Robinson three, but a 10-0 USF run capped off by a Saba Gigiberia layup gave the Dons a 16-5 lead.
Ndewedo Newbury once again came off the bench for USF, and took a charge in his first defensive sequence. On the ensuing possession, Newbury was blocked on a layup, but Meeks got the putback layup to go to make it 18-7, Dons. The Cougars responded though, going on a quick 6-0 run to cut the lead to five. USF punched right back with some outside shooting, getting a pair of threes from Isaiah Hawthorne and Tyrell Roberts that made it 24-13 USF.
Jaxson Robinson got BYU back into the game, scoring five quick points on tough jumpers, helping cut the lead back down to five. USF responded when their lead was trimmed, and didn’t let the Cougars cut it below five. Saba Gigiberia gave the Dons some good minutes off the bench, getting a steal and holding the Cougars leading scorer, Fousseyni Traore, largely in check. Both teams went into a bit of a rut in the last four minutes, but going into the half USF still maintained a solid 37-28 lead, led by Tyrell Roberts’ 16 points.
USF started the second half just like the first, with a Zane Meeks three that gave them a 12 point lead, the largest of the game. The Cougars didn’t let things get out of hand though, going on a 8-2 run finished by a Gideon George three to make it 42-36. Foussenyi Traore started to get it going early in the second half, getting easy looks at the rim, including a dunk to cut the Don lead down to seven. Tyrell Roberts continued to answer the call for USF though, back to back threes to make it 55-42 Dons.
In the next five minutes, USF continued to control the pace, getting to the line a lot and even extending the lead to sixteen after a Josh Kunen layup. Rudi Williams was one of the few Cougars playing with energy, and he was able to get a putback layup to cut the lead to 13, 62-49. Khalil Shabazz, struggling from 3, started to find some success in the paint, making two layups to make it 69-53 USF. Williams did his best to keep BYU in the game, scoring a tough layup to give himself 19 for the game and cut the lead back down to 12 at the under four timeout.
BYU went to a full court press out of the timeout, and it gave USF some problems. After forcing a turnover in the backcourt, Gideon George got a look at the rim and layed it in to make it a nine point game, and then minutes later Rudi Williams cut the lead down to seven. After a final couple that felt like an eternity, USF finally closed it out, 82-74.
After the game I spoke with Head Coach Chris Gerlufsen and Senior Guard Khalil Shabazz