With only six regular season wins coming into Thursday’s West Coast Conference Tournament opener — and only two of those coming in conference play — the ninth-seeded University of San Francisco women’s basketball team wasn’t likely to make much noise in Las Vegas.
Then, with 45 seconds left in the Tournament’s opener between the Dons and No. 8-seeded Portland, freshman Lucija Kostic pump-faked her defender with the shot clock winding down, and hit an 18-foot elbow jumper to put San Francisco — which had trailed by as many as nine — up by four.
Powered by a freshman class that’s had to learn on the fly, with a career-high 22 points from freshman point guard Marianna Klavina and a career-high 17 points and 12 rebounds from freshman guard Abby Rathbun, the Dons stunned the Pilots on Thursday, coming away with a 76-69 win, and advancing to face No. 5 seed Loyola Marymount at noon on Friday.
After Kostic’s shot, Portland went 0-for-4 from the field, missing three 3-pointers. Over the final two minutes of game time, the Pilots went just 1-of-7 from the floor, with three turnovers.
San Francisco held the Pilots to 25.9 percent shooting (7-for-27) from 3-point range. Portland entered the game shooting 32.9 percent on the year, having attempted a conference-high 739 treys in 2018-19.
The Dons started the game slow from the field, going 13-of-31, but were red hot in the fourth quarter, shooting 64.3 percent from the floor, and 51.6 percent for the second half. Rathbun, who recorded her first career double-double, hit five of six free throws in the final 30 seconds to help seal the win.
Klavina, who entered the game just three minutes in to replace injured senior point guard Shannon Powell, scored 13 points in the first half alone, including a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter to keep San Francisco within striking distance, and prevent the Pilots from opening up a double-digit lead. Klavina scored the Dons’ final four points before the half, and had two steals just before halftime to send San Francisco into the break up 34-32.
Klavina’s fast break layup one minute into the fourth quarter put the Dons on top for the first time since they led 27-25 with 5:30 to go in the second. San Francisco would never trail again, as Rathbun scored all 17 of her points and pulling down nine of her game-high 12 rebounds after the half.