A stifling defensive effort from the Dons' held the WCC's fourth most efficient offense in check this afternoon in Portland. 12 turnovers, leading to 18 points, doomed the Pilots as the Dons picked up a much needed victory to improve to 2-4 in conference play.
Kevin Bailey, the Pilots leading scorer last season, made his first start after a foot injury sidelined him for eight straight games. His presence wasn't enough to help Portland escape the trap-happy defense run by San Francisco.
Portland turned the ball over three times before they managed to score from the field. While the Dons made just one of their five shots during that span, the missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Pilots.
San Francisco made five of their next six shots to pull out to a 15-7 lead.
Mark Tollefsen was dominant in the first half, scoring 10 points on 4-5 shooting. The 6-foot-9 junior had been struggling with the three ball in conference play but that was not the case this afternoon. His two first half threes helped push the Dons ahead of the home team. In the second half, timely threes from Tollefsen silenced the home crowd just as the Pilots looked ready to make a push.
Alec Wintering, who had been averaging 21.5 points per game in WCC play, struggled mightily today. Had Kevin Bailey, 20 points, not been available this game might have been a blow out.
The Pilots pulled within two points to open the half but then sat stagnant at 38 points for over three minutes.
San Francisco ran off on an 11-0 run and would hold a multi-possession lead for the remainder of the game. Kruize Pinkins scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half to help the Dons maintain a comfortable lead. But, it was freshman point guard Devin Watson who really stepped up over the final 20 minutes.
Watson was moved into the starting line up for the San Francisco's second WCC game and his presence has slowly steadied the once stumbling Dons. His career high entering today was 14 points — against Houston Baptist and Pacific — which he topped in the second half alone, during which he scored 15 of his 21 points.
All in all this was a game that San Francisco absolutely needed to win. They did, with stout defense and an efficient 1.25 points per possession on offense. Despite the 2-4 conference record, Rex Walters' Dons seem to be pointed in the right direction as they enter the middle of conference play.
Portland, on the other hand, is a team that expected to compete for a spot among the league's big three teams in the standings — and the team I picked to finish third in the league. If the Pilots are serious about making that step this season, they can't be losing home games to teams with seriously inferior records.