USF Dons pull away late to beat Princeton at Chase Center

University of San Francisco guard Jamaree Bouyea drives to the basket in the second half of a game against Princeton on Nov. 9, 2019 at Chase Center in San Francisco. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
University of San Francisco guard Charles Minlend chares a laugh with a referee during a stoppage in play in the second half of a game at Chase Center on Nov. 9, 2019. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
University of San Francisco Dons freshman Josh Kunen approaches the free throw line during the second half of a game against Princeton at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 9, 2019. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
University of San Francisco guard Jamaree Bouyea comes down from a lay-up attempt in the second half of a game against Princeton at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 9, 2019. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
University of San Francisco guard Jordan Ratinho hits a lay-up against Princeton in the second half of a game on Nov. 9, 2019 at Chase Center in San Francisco. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
University of San Francisco guard Charles Minlend probes the Princeton defense during the second half of a game at Chase Center on Nov. 9, 2019. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
University of San Francisco guard Charles Minlend probes the Princeton defense during the second half of a game at Chase Center on Nov. 9, 2019. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
University of San Francisco guard Jordan Ratinho drives against the Princeton defense during the second half of a game at Chase Center on Nov. 9, 2019. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

CHASE CENTER — Jamaree Bouyea paused, puffed out his chest and stared into the stands behind the Chase Center’s basket, up at the three NBA championship banners.

After blocking Princeton forward Drew Friberg’s shot and getting out for a transition dunk, Bouyea had given San Francisco its largest lead of the night (14 points) in a 82-72 win over the Tigers at the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center.

Far removed from their cozy 3,000-seat War Memorial Gym, the Dons put on a show at the $1.4-billion waterfront palace. San Francisco played persistently irritating defense to make up for an inconsistent offense, and got steadying offensive performances from both Bouyea and Charles Minlend — a formula they’ll need to rely on as the new motion offense settles into a rhythm during head coach Todd Golden’s first season.

“They’re really coming of age,” Golden said. “We rely on both those guys to get us organized, and be the head of the attack, but I thought Khalil Shabazz was much better in the second half — his first game back on a bigger stage — and Tre [Anderson] did a nice job when he was in there, but Jamareee was playing so well, it was hard for me to keep him on the bench.”

Bouyea scored at all three levels, going 7-for-15 and 2-for-6 from 3-point range, scoring 19 points while adding seven rebounds and three assists. Minlend scored 16 in 30, Jordan Ratinho scored 15 on 6-of-12 shooting (he’s now four points away from 1,000 for his career) and Jimbo Lull scored 15 on 6-of-10 shooting, with a game-high 11 boards for the double-double.

It’s the second straight game in which San Francisco has had four or more players score in double figures, after the Dons relied primarily on Frankie Ferrari to initiate the offense last season. San Francisco has now scored 183 points in two games, despite shooting just 46.1% from the field, in large part thanks to the fact that they’ve been able to steal extra possessions.

San Francisco out-rebounded Princeton 44-33 on Saturday, pulling down 16 offensive rebounds, and forcing 10 first-half turnovers while only turning the ball over twice, themselves, before the break. Bouyea and Minlend combined to shoot 9-for-18 in the first half, scoring 22 points to keep the Dons afloat, while the rest of the team shot 9-for-21.

After trailing for most of the first 14 minutes, an up-and-under lay-up by Minlend gave San Francisco the lead, and after Bouyea hit a 3-pointer at the top of the arc to make it 35-32, Bouyea paused briefly to raise his arms in the air to exhort a cheer from the 6,892 in attendance with over a minute to go in the first half. Bouyea then hit a driving left-handed dunk with 30 seconds left to make it 39-35, and San Francisco never trailed again.

The Dons have thus far proven that their defense under Golden — the former defensive coordinator for three years under former head coach Kyle Smith — has a cumulative effect. After getting turned over frequently in the first half, the Tigers struggled to get clean looks coming out of the break.

“They made a lot of shots in the first half, and we turned them over 10 times, but they shot really well from three,” Golden said. “We had 10 or so more field goal attempts from them in the first half, so I felt pretty good that if we could stick with that, the law of percentages would play out and we’d get on a roll. That’s what happened in the first 10 minutes of the second half.”

After shooting 52% from the field before intermission, Princeton started the second half shooting 5-of-15. The Dons out-rebounded the Tigers 17-8 over the first 12 minutes out of the break, allowing a San Francisco team that started 7-of-21 from the field to build a 12-point lead even as Bouyea and Minlend started to cool off.

Then, Jaelin Llewellyn — who scored a game-high 24 — was able to get out in transition and Princeton then found a way to exploit San Francisco’s switching, cutting the lead to six. Minlend started forcing drives and missed four straight shots instead of driving and kicking. Lull hit a put-back and Dons freshman Josh Kunen — who Golden called “wise beyond his years,” and the Dons’ Draymond Green — hit a lay-up, sparking a 13-4 run.

“Our guys have to do a better job of keeping point guards in front of them, but Jaely Llewellyn’s a talented player,” Golden said. “We’ve got to do a better job there, and we had some unforced turnovers that took the wind out of our sails a few ties where we could have separated even more.”

A step-in 3-pointer with 7:59 to go by Jordan Ratinho — who had gone just 1-for-4 from distance up to that point but finished 3-of-7 from three and scored 15 — put San Francisco up by 13, bringing what had been a somewhat muted crowd to its feet for the first time since Bouyea’s late three in the first half.

After the Tigers crept to within eight again, Shabazz — who started 1-for-4 in the first half — nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing with three and a half minutes left to put the Dons back up by 15. Lull expanded that lead to 17, 30 seconds later, with another layup under the basket, two of his 10 points in the paint on the night.

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