USF handles Pepperdine ‘and then some’

WAR MEMORIAL GYM — Young as the group might be, the University of San Francisco men’s basketball team has developed a knack for staying focused and taking care of the task at hand.

Playing Pepperdine, a team that has been plagued by injuries and is winless on the road, the Dons — who start three sophomores and two freshman — ran out to a first-half lead and never relented, ultimately winning 77-56 at home.

After the game, head coach Kyle Smith made it clear his team’s formula for success: “We need our focus to be: defend, rebound, take care of the ball.”

The Dons held the visitors to 35 percent shooting, won the battle on the boards 44-40 despite being undersized and had five fewer turnovers.

Check, check, check.

USF pulled away midway through the first half when it shifted into a zone defense. Smith’s defenders made clean looks from the outside sparse, forced turnovers and limited offensive rebounding opportunities.

The result was a 12-2 run that extended the USF lead to double-digits and allowed eight players to get into the scoring column in the first half. The Dons went into the locker room at halftime with a 41-21 advantage.

In many ways, San Francisco’s win over Pepperdine mirrored its last game — a 21-point victory over Pacific. In both contests, USF held its opponent to fewer than 70 points — something the Dons have done in six-straight outings — it also saw its bench provide a bulk of the scoring with the USF reserves outscoring their counterparts 51-6 (it was 56-11 on Saturday).

“I think it’s good that we have guys that can sustain the energy,” said backup point guard Frankie Ferrari, who maximized his 14 minutes by scoring five points, grabbing three rebounds and throwing three assists. “The starters come out and … there’s really no drop off and that’s why we’re able to build leads and keep them.”

Ronnie Boyce III, the team’s lone senior and leading scorer, netted a team-high 21 points in his role as a scoring sixth-man.

But, what’s most important at this point of the season: The young Dons were able to notch a triumph in a game they were supposed to win.

“Our slogan this year has been ‘and then some.’ We’re always trying to do the extra things,” Smith explained. “I’m preaching every day, we’ve got seven games left, the conference tournament, hopefully and then some.”

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