Thursday’s 53-52 win at Pacific certainly wasn’t the most glamorous game the San Francisco Dons have played this season, but to grind out a one-point conference win on the road is the hallmark of a good team.
Last year’s team saw four of nine conference losses go down to the final possession, so for the Dons to be able to win despite scoring just 23 points in the second half — and turning it over 15 times on the night — is no easy feat. The Tigers kept San Francisco off the board for nearly the final five minutes before late plays by Jordan Ratinho and Charles Minlend won the game for USF.
“They were scrappy and defended really hard,” point guard Frankie Ferrari said after Pacific held him to seven points and two assists. “We’re happy to come away with the road win.”
After a Ratinho 3-pointer with 5:18 left gave the Dons (15-3, 3-1 in WCC) a 49-48 lead, the Dons wouldn’t score again until Ratinho’s game-tying three-point play with 37.1 seconds left.
During that span, Pacific (11-9, 1-4) took the lead on a Lafayette Dorsey drive to the basket and opened up a three-point lead on two free throws by Kendall Small. There was no shortage of opportunities for USF in that span, but the Dons missed seven consecutive shots and turned it over twice on fast breaks that could have led to easy points.
Small’s two free throws, which came with 44.9 seconds left after an offensive rebound when the Tigers were forced to throw up a shot at the end of the shot clock, made it look like it wasn’t USF’s night, especially considering that he entered the game shooting just 52 percent at the line.
Ratinho quickly changed the mood for the visitors, though. He went to the hoop on a backdoor cut, took a Ferrari pass and scored, and with Dorsey swatting at him in desperation, it sent Ratinho to the line for the game-tying free throw.
Pacific would then have a chance for the last shot, but turned it over on an out-of-control drive by Small.
Minlend would be fouled in in the lane with 2.1 seconds left. He made the first of his two free throws, and though Pacific would get the rebound and call timeout after Minlend missed the second, the Tigers wouldn’t be able to get off a final shot.
Minlend scored 14 and Ratinho led all scorers with 15 points while playing excellent defense on Roberto Gallinat, who torched the Dons for 41 in last year’s game at the Alex G. Spanos Center but was held to nine points on Thursday. No scorer would reach double-figures for the Tigers, who trailed 30-24 at halftime but took a 46-41 lead with 6:55 left on a Gallinat three and a Zach Cameron jumper. USF would respond with a 7-2 run before the long scoring drought, which Ratinho snapped with his game-tying play.