Shabazz Leads Dons on Senior Night

By Kellan King

It was Senior Night for USF on The Hilltop as they welcomed Portland, and the Dons were looking to move closer to .500 in conference play, and solidify a top-6 seed that would allow them to avoid the dreaded Thursday night WCC Tournament game. USF got off to a hot start, with Seniors Khalil Shabazz and Toni Rocak knocking down three treys to give the Dons an early 9-5 lead. 

Rocak and Shabazz continued to lead the Dons offensively, scoring the first 15 points for USF. Portland was also hot early, and after a Moses Wood three the score was tied at 15. Both teams continued their fast offensive starts when the substitutes came in, and after a Tyrell Roberts three to make it ten total threes, it was 26-21, Dons. 

Just when you might’ve thought it could cool off however, USF kept knocking down threes. Marcus Williams came off the bench and made three off them, including one to make it 35-28, Dons. The Pilots came right back with a 7-1 run, capped off by an Alden Applewhite three to cut the lead to one. Both teams leading scorers, Moses Wood and Khalil Shabazz, continued to be unconscious from three, and after a Wood three the score was 43-41. Justin Bieker gave the Dons a spark off the bench, getting a steal and kicking it ahead to Shabazz for a layup to make it 50-48, USF. After a few more minutes of back and forth play, USF went into the locker room leading 56-53.

The Pilots came out of halftime in a zone, but it did little to slow down the Dons. Isaiah Hawthorne and Khalil Shabazz both hit threes, and Rocak got a steal and layup to give USF a 66-56 lead, their biggest of the game. Portland came right back with a 7-2 run, and after a Mike Meadows jumper the lead was down to five. The Pilots continued to chip away at the lead, and after a layup by Chika Nduka, the score was 73-71, Dons. 

The game started to turn into a bit of a free throw shooting contest in the second half of the second half, with both teams getting into the bonus with over ten minutes to play. After Portland tied the game up, USF went on a 7-0 run, punctuated by a Marcus Williams dunk to make it 80-73, Dons. Portland came right back with a 9-0 run of their own, led by Moses Wood who made a jumper to give them a two point lead. Play went back and forth, with both teams going a little cold, and with two and a half left to play it was all knotted up at 84. 

Khalil Shabazz lifted the Dons late, and USF also caught a break when a Portland timeout was not given, leading to a fastbreak and one for Shabazz to put USF up five. After a tense final few minutes, USF closed out the game to win 92-89. USF will now head to Provo to take on BYU in the Cougars final WCC game.

After the game I talked to Head Coach Chris Gerlufsen, and Seniors Khalil Shabazz and Toni Rocak

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