The San Francisco Dons rebounded both literally and figuratively on Monday night, controlling the glass en route to a drama-filled 78-76 win over the Central Arkansas Bears to snap a two-game losing streak.
In a game full of runs and lead changes, the only constant was USF’s dominance on the glass, as the Dons held the visitors from Conway, Arkansas to just one offensive rebound and outrebounding the Bears 42-30.
“In the first half, we looked funky,” said head coach Kyle Smith. “I’m proud of the way we rallied.”
The hosts overcame a slow start, closing the first half on a 24-11 run and taking a 62-52 lead with 8:50 remaining before Central Arkansas tied the game at 67 on a pair of Darraja Parnell free throws just three-and-a-half minutes later. A Frankie Ferrari layup off a feed from Jordan Ratinho put the Dons back ahead on the following possession, and while Central Arkansas closed the gap to one on multiple occasions, the Dons would never give up the lead again.
Ratinho’s 3-pointer stretched the lead to 77-72 with 2:45 left, but San Francisco (4-3) wouldn’t score from the field again. Jordan Howard scored four points to get the Bears within one and had a chance to win the game after Chase Foster made one of two free throws with 13.6 left, but Howard’s corner three hit the rim as time expired.
With lead scorer Souley Boum out for a second straight game (concussion), USF turned to depth to get the job done. Ratinho led the team with 17, but the biggest boost the Dons got came from the bench, with four reserves combining for 39 points. Ferrari emerged from his cold streak in Saturday’s loss at Arizona State and continued to produce on Monday, with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Mladen Djordjevic, who played a season-high 16 minutes in Boum’s absence and scored eight points. In his sophomore year, Djordjevic averaged just 3.6 points per game.
“It’s all part of the game,” said the Serbian junior. “They were playing under the screens, and that created opportunities.”
Howard continued his phenomenal senior season for Central Arkansas (4-5) with 27 points, including 20 in the second half. Thatch Unruh scored 11 in the first half and Mathieu Kamba added 16 as the Bears continued to look far better than their 11th-place Southland Conference projection.