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USF hangs tough with No. 15 Gonzaga, falls to within a game of .500

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Frankie Ferrari goes up for a layup against Gonzaga on Saturday. (Courtesy Christina Leung/USF Athletics)

WAR MEMORIAL GYM — Even with Chase Foster, the lone senior on USF’s roster, out with an ankle injury, the Dons gave the 15th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs a formidable fight on Saturday night before ultimately falling 75-65 in front of a sellout crowd.

If it wasn’t for a 9-for-19 performance at the free-throw line, the Dons may have even pulled off the upset.

San Francisco (10-9, 2-4 WCC) stayed close behind a game-high 22 points from Souley Boum and 18 from Frankie Ferrari, who grew up idolizing Adam Morrison. Ferrari and his brother Ralph, now USF’s video coordinator, were seen together wearing fake mustaches to imitate Morrison in a nationally-circulated photo during Gonzaga’ 2006 NCAA Tournament run. Morrison was in attendance on Saturday night as one of Gonzaga’s radio commentators.

“I noticed him sitting there during warmups,” said Ferrari. “I thought it was awesome playing in front of him.”

Gonzaga (16-3, 6-0) got 17 points from Johnathan Williams, 16 from Josh Perkins and 14 from Silas Melson while Rui Hachimura added 10 off the bench. With a shortened bench as a result of injuries to Foster and Taavi Jurkatamm (concussion), the USF reserves were outscored by a 13-7 margin, the first time all season an opponent has outdone the San Francisco bench.

Aside from the missed opportunities at the line, including six straight during one stretch in the first half, the Dons had chances literally slip through their fingers, such as a loose ball after forcing a Gonzaga turnover while trailing by just six points in the final minutes.

The Bulldogs used an 11-2 run to open up a 62-48 lead, but USF got within six points on back-to-back threes by Jordan Ratinho (16 points), the latter of which came with 3:27 remaining.

There were multiple chances for San Francisco to get within six, but Hachimura had two critical blocks late in the game and Erik Poulsen airballed a 3-point attempt with 30 seconds left.

Still, it was an encouraging performance for a shorthanded team coming off a heartbreaking loss on Thursday at Loyola Marymount despite Gonzaga putting up 41 first-half points and getting impressive performances from both Williams and Perkins.

The loss puts the Dons in seventh place in the WCC, but they’ll have three straight home games, with Santa Clara and last-place Pepperdine coming to town next week before a visit from Pacific on January 25.

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