Saint Mary's came into tonight trying to rebound from a difficult home loss against BYU, hoping to ride Brad Waldow's post presence and the distance shooting of Stephen Holt and Kerry Carter to victory on the road. San Francisco, on the other hand, was hoping that Kruize Pinkins (the latest WCC Player of the Week) could help them win back-to-back games for the first time in a month.
For most of this game, it seemed as though the Dons could do no wrong, and the Gaels could do no right. In the first half, USF switched to a 2-3 zone and dared the Gaels to make their threes. Saint Mary's responded by making exactly three of their 16 attempts.
When that didn't work, they dumped the ball down to Waldow, which went a little better given Pinkins' struggles figuring out how to play him, but he didn't help matters by making only one of his five free throw attempts. The Dons, on the other hand, had Mark Tollefsen all over the place; blocking a fast break layup attempt by Holt, tipping in a missed free throw, assisting on baskets. The Dons racked up nine assists on 12 made baskets in the half, while only turning the ball over once.
Beau Levesque didn't help matters for the Gaels, as he replicated his performance from the last two games: less than 25 minutes played and five or fewer points for the third straight contest. He made a three early in the contest, but did little else all night. Most impressively, he had committed zero fouls with two minutes left in the first half, and five and a half minutes of game action later, he was parked on the bench with four fouls. Just like against San Diego, he racked up his third and fourth fouls in less than a minute.
The game leveled out in the second half as both offenses struggled to really find any rhythm. The Dons never relinquished control, however, as Randy Bennett was playing lineup roulette to find something that worked and kept coming up empty. San Francisco led by 10 at the half, 33-23, nailed a three to push that lead to 13 on their opening second half possession, and never saw that lead drop to single digits until the 3:40 mark of the second half.
That was largely due to both Cole Dickerson and Matt Glover needing to sit with four fouls each, but the Dons immediately pushed the lead back to 12 at the free throw line. Glover was the big story tonight, though. He entered this game having scored 17 points in his last four outings, and he had exactly one game this season, way back against Oregon, where he scored more than 12 points in regulation against a DI opponent. After the Gaels began to focus on Pinkins down low, Glover kept finding easy shots and suddenly racked up 16 points, even with the time he spent in foul trouble.
The Dons are now a truly balanced team: 16 points and six rebounds for Glover; 16 points, five rebounds and four assists for Tollefsen; 16 points and five rebounds for Pinkins; 12 points and seven rebounds for Dickerson. Gone are Cole Dickerson and the Donettes - these boys are deep and dangerous when they play sound defense, are patient on offense, and can catch a few breaks. They're definitely not an at-large team, but they're also the kind of group that can cause some nightmares come tournament time.