University of San Francisco guard Charles Minlend (14) goes up for a layup in the first half of a game against Northern Arizona on Dec. 19, 2018, at War Memorial Gymnasium in the Sobrato Center in San Francisco, Calif. Minlend finished with 18 points. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

Charles Minlend helps lift USF over NAU on off shooting night for Dons

WAR MEMORIAL AT THE SOBRATO CENTER — With their best start to a season since 1999, the San Francisco Dons are in some unprecedented territory.

For example, after a 76-60 victory over a two-win Northern Arizona team, there were questions about whether or not the Dons had even played all that well.

“I know we’re decent because we’re getting questions about our performance when we win by 16,” said head coach Kyle Smith. “That comes with the territory.”

San Francisco (11-1) barely shot 40 percent from the field, missed nine free throws and shot 9-for-30 on 3-pointers for the game, but still won comfortably thanks to a 15-4 turnover advantage, highlighted by senior point guard Frankie Ferrari’s five steals.

His 17 points were second only to Charles Minlend, who marked his 21st birthday with 18 points, including an and-1 in the second half to put him over 500 points for his USF career.

“I didn’t even know where I was at (in terms of career scoring), to be honest,” Minlend said. “That’s pretty cool, though, especially when we’re getting success as a team.”

On a night when the Dons had difficulty putting the ball in the hoop, Minlend still went 7-for-9 from the line and pulled down eight rebounds, including three of the 12 that USF collected on the offensive end.

He was 7-for-9 on free throws and Ferrari went 4-for-4, but the rest of the team shot a paltry 4-of-11 at the charity stripe. Combine that with solid interior defense from the Lumberjacks, and it made for a frustrating night for the Dons’ bigs.

“They were packing it in on our 5,” said Smith.

That did open things up a bit at other positions for players like Dzimtry Ryuny, who came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer to open up a 22-16 lead. Jimbo Lull’s third-chance layup on the next possession capped off a 16-2 USF run after Northern Arizona (2-7) had taken a six-point advantage with a 12-2 run into the second media timeout.

A Jordan Ratinho three sent the Dons into the half with a 10-point advantage, and though they never led by less than eight in the second half, it would take until the final eight minutes to grow the lead beyond 15, which came on a Jamaree Bouyea dunk with 7:45 left. From there, the gap grew to as large as 21 with Matt McCarthy emerging from a difficult offensive night with two late dunks, giving him 11 points to go with his game-high nine rebounds.

NAU, which lost previously to Santa Clara and San Jose State, got 13 points from Bernie Andre and 12 from Luke Avdalovic, who went to Vista del Lago High School in Folsom. He went 4-for-6 on 3-pointers. Bishop O’Dowd alum Isaiah Thomas, the lone Bay Area product on the Lumberjacks’ roster, had two points, two blocks and four rebounds.

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