The Dons fell to the Gonzaga Bulldogs 75-65 on Saturday night at War Memorial Gym to end their three-game winning streak. USF was held to just 34.5 percent shooting from the field and made only 22 free throws compared to the Bulldogs’ 34.
The Dons jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in the first half, with a three-pointer by sophomore guard Avry Holmes starting the scoring as the crowd erupted into cheers. Holmes led the Dons in scoring with 18 points, and shot 38.5 percent from the floor and 50 percent from beyond the arc. After the Dons’ hot start, the Bulldogs picked it up and scored 13 unanswered points, which included an easy dunk by center Przemek Karnowski. With 9:09 remaining in the first half, Karnowski went up for a rebound but collided with a teammate, leading to a cut that continued bleeding and forced Karnowski to be substituted out of the game multiple times. This spawned cheers of “WE WANT BLOOD!” from the USF fans.
The Bulldogs gave up a number of turnovers in the first half, but the Dons failed to capitalize off of them and gave up many of their own, which kept the score in Gonzaga’s favor for the remainder of the half. Though the Dons didn’t take they had a number of big plays at the end of the half including an alley oop dunk by junior guard Matt Glover with 3:07 to go, and another three by Holmes to close the half the way he started it and bring the score to 32-28.
The Dons only scored six fewer points than the Bulldogs in the second half, but Gonzaga was never seriously tested as it held USF’s two leading scorers, senior forward Cole Dickerson and junior forward Kruize Pinkins, to just six points apiece.
“We weren’t efficient offensively,” Head Coach Rex Walters told usfdons.com. “We didn’t make the simple plays. Their length bothers us and I think [Gonzaga Coach] Mark [Few] did a great job in his post defense. That’s the first team that’s been able to double us and take us out of our stuff. They have a great combination of size, athleticism and feel.”
Sophomore forward Mark Tollefson went 50 percent from both inside and outside the arc, scoring the second most points for the Dons at 15 to go with seven rebounds. Gonzaga center Sam Dower, Jr. led the Bulldogs in scoring with 24 points, and made 12 out of his 13 free-throw attempts.
USF had previously bested the Portland Pilots 84-71 at home on Wednesday, Jan. 29. In that game, four Dons scored in double digits and the team finished shooting 56.3 percent from the floor. The loss to Gonzaga drops the Dons down to an overall record of 14-9, and a 7-4 mark in West Coast Conference (WCC) play. USF currently sits at third in the WCC behind Gonzaga and BYU.
The Dons will now leave for a road trip that includes games against the San Diego Toreros on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 7:00 p.m., and the BYU Cougars on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 6:00 p.m.. The Dons’ next home game will be against the Saint Mary’s Gaels on Feb. 20 at 7:00 p.m.