The San Francisco Dons have been mired in a bumpy stretch as of late, but even the most skeptical of USF fans would have been surprised to see the team needing overtime for a 68-63 win over Portland, a team that’s winless in West Coast Conference play.
Yet that’s exactly how it went down at the Chiles Center on Saturday night as the Dons were unable to create separation from a team that hasn’t won a game since Dec. 21, never leading by more than six and trailing with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation against a team that they had beaten by 22 last month at home.
The win gave the Dons a 20-win campaign for the third time in three years under head coach Kyle Smith, but ominous clouds hung over the gym on Saturday night until San Francisco hit three 3-pointers in overtime to pull away.
The Dons (20-6, 8-4 in WCC) took the lead for good at 60-58 on a Jordan Ratinho layup with 3:04 left, then went up by five on a three by Charles Minlend, the second of the extra period for the redshirt sophomore.
Portland (7-20, 0-12) answered with a three-point play from Marcus Shaver Jr., who would get the last of his team-high 15 points on a pair of free throws with 45 seconds left to answer a basket by Jimbo Lull. Rather than foul, the Pilots tried to get a defensive stop, and point guard Frankie Ferrari delivered the dagger, a 3-pointer with 18.3 seconds left to make up for the potential game-winner he had missed at the end of regulation.
Ferrari led all scorers with 20 points, shooting 6-of-11 from 3-point range. He did miss two late free throws that could have put the game on ice, and San Francisco went just 4-for-14 at the line overall.
Minlend scored 15 for the Dons and Lull added 14. JoJo Walker scored 11 for Portland, including a pair of free throws to tie the game with 28.3 seconds left. Tahirou Diabate scored 10 in just 12 minutes for the Pilots, who lost their second overtime game this month. They dropped a 69-63 game that went beyond regulation two weeks earlier at Santa Clara.