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San Francisco’s 9-0 start shows added depth of WCC

San Francisco won its first nine games behind solid defense and an improved offense from a season ago. The Dons are one of the final remaining unbeatens in the country and will remain in contention in a strong WCC.

NCAA Basketball: San Francisco at Gonzaga
Todd Golden’s Dons are off to a 9-0 start for the first time since 1975.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Party like it’s 1975 – at least if you’re a San Francisco Dons fan.

The Dons are off to their best start in 46 years with a 9-0 record after defeating UNLV 83-62 Saturday night.

On multiple occasions, the Dons extended the lead to double figures only to see the Runnin’ Rebels claw their way back into the game, and it was just a three-point game at halftime.

Behind the home fans, San Francisco poured in 43 points and limited UNLV to 25 points in the second half to open the game up. After allowing the Rebels to shoot 52% in the first half, the Dons held them to 25% over the final 20 minutes.

The offense was powered by Jamaree Bouyea, who scored the first 12 points for the Dons, all on 3-pointers.

“Coming into today, my teammates believed in me,” he said. “I was kind of lacking confidence, honestly… I came out and hit like the first two, and then I hit the third one. After that I kind of just got into a rhythm. I just kept finding a way, and they kept going in.”

Bouyea finished with eight 3-pointers, which ties the school record. He was 8-for-10 from beyond the arc and 11-for-16 from the floor for a season-high 30 points. He ranks second in the West Coast Conference in scoring at 19.2 point per game.

Yauhen Massalski also had a monster double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds.

This win over UNLV was the latest of impressive victories for the Dons over top mid-major foes. They have also picked up victories over a tough Davidson team from the Atlantic-10 and a gritty Nevada squad.

San Francisco’s defense has clamped down as well. The Dons have given up more than 70 points just once this season. They allowed more than 70 nine times last year in 25 games. Their scoring is improved too. They are averaging seven more points per contest at 78.33. Their shooting percentages are up as well.

Last season snapped a streak of four straight 20-plus win seasons as the Dons managed just 11 wins and finished below .500. They have basically passed that win total and have not even begun conference play yet.

And the West Coast Conference is going to be incredibly exciting this season. Five teams in the conference are at least 7-3. Behind the Dons’ perfect 9-0 mark are No. 24 BYU at 7-1, Saint Mary’s at 8-2, No. 5 Gonzaga at 7-2 and Portland at 7-3.

In recent memory the conference has been dominated by Gonzaga. Over the last five seasons, the Zags have run the table in WCC play twice and lost just one game the other three seasons. However, this year they are going to face some stiffer competition.

BYU already has wins over Oregon and Utah from the Pac-12. The Cougars only loss came in overtime to Utah Valley. Saint Mary’s also beat Oregon and topped Notre Dame as well en route to the Maui Jim Maui Invitational title game two weeks ago.

In the conference primarily known for its one dominant team, the WCC has shown it is much deeper this year: with two ranked teams, plus one of the final 12 remaining unbeatens and several wins over power-five teams.