Five days removed from allowing a season-high 85 points to Gonzaga, the USF Dons found themselves in a tough spot against perennial West Coast Conference whipping boys Portland, trailing 43-41 at halftime.
Those issues didn’t last for long.
Instead, the Dons went on a 32-10 run to open the second half and outscored the Pilots by 26 over the course of the final minutes for an 88-64 win.
“We were a little snakebit in the first half,” head coach Todd Golden said of the early struggles. “Their two frontcourt players hit four threes, and towards the end of the half we did a bad job of keeping them off of the line. The combination of those two was what allowed them to come back and take the lead, and in the second half we cleaned that up.”
San Francisco (8-5, 2-1 WCC) limped into the break trailing after allowing an 8-0 run over the final two minutes of the first half, but a Josh Kunen steal and Jamaree Bouyea’s 3-pointer to open the second half started what would prove to be a decisive run. Another basket by Bouyea and five of Khalil Shabazz’s game-high 19 points forced Pilots head coach Terry Porter to use a timeout, and aside from a quick basket out of the break by Isiah Dasher, who led Portland (6-4, 0-1) with 19, there would be little the visitors could do to stop the momentum. Another basket by Shabazz and a second 3-pointer from Bouyea, who scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, opened up a double-digit lead, and the margin would grow to 16 before the under-12 timeout as Dzmitry Ryuny knocked down a three and Shabazz scored three more of his game-high 19 with an and-1.
Ryuny, who broke out during his sophomore year as a 39.3% 3-point shooter, has expanded his game significantly so far this season, becoming the third main scorer alongside the backcourt tandem of Bouyea and Shabazz. He finished with 14 points, including a couple of crafty elbow jumpers. The fourth Don to finish in double-figures was Grand Canyon transfer Damari Milstead, whose 3-pointer with nine minutes left opened up a 73-53 lead. Golden was able to empty the bench in the final minutes as the lead grew as large as 25 on the last of Ryuny’s 3-pointers, one of the 10 USF would hit in the second half. Portland, meanwhile, scored just 21 points over the final 20 minutes and went 0-for-8 from beyond the arc in that stretch after knocking down five of eight attempts in the first half, including a pair from Michael Henn (eight points) and two from Eddie Davis (10).
USF would punctuate the win with a pair of dunks from Senegalese center Samba Kane, a transfer who had played at Illinois before spending a year playing juco ball.