Taavi Jurkatamm drives to the basket Thursday. (Courtesy Christina Leung/USF Athletics)

What you need to know from USF’s narrow win over Pacific

WAR MEMORIAL GYM Thanks to an electric first half from the backcourt and a just-good-enough defensive showing down the stretch, the University of San Francisco escaped with a 69-67 win over Pacific on Thursday.

On a night when the Dons pushed their record to 12-10 overall and 4-5 in West Coast Conference play, here’s what you need to know …

The backcourt caught fire in the first half. The pairing of Frankie Ferrari and Souley Boum was all but unstoppable in the opening 20 minutes.

Ferrari, a sophomore, scored 10 of the Dons’ first 14 points on the way to the hosts opening the evening with a 12-0 run. Boum, a freshman, was a perfect 4-for-4 from distance, scoring 12 points in the half.

“That was big,” head coach Kyle Smith said. “They’ve really been the catalysts for the offense.”

The guards combined to go 8-for-12 from the field and 6-for-8 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes.

“Frankie’s been playing really well,” Smith added. “He gives us good leadership out there and Souley, too. He hits some big shots.”

Ferrari went on to be the Dons’ high-point man with 18, while Boum was scoreless in the second half.

Triples fell early, but Jordan Ratinho had the shot of the game late. The Dons rained down eight of 14 3-point attempts before finally level off in the second half against the Tigers. The team was 3-for-11 after the break, with two of those makes belonging to Ratinho. With just over 3:30 on the clock and the Tigers having seized the momentum as the Dons’ offense stagnated and the lead shrank to five, Ratinho connected on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer as he crashed to the deck.

“We hadn’t scored much in their zone,” Smith said. “Their zone kind of stifled us a little bit. Jordan hit two toughies late in the shot clock and it was big.”

Ratinho, who was one of three Dons in double figures with 11 points, finished a game high +13.

There was a battle of the 7-footers. Between USF’s Jimbo Lull and Pacific’s Namdi Okonkwo, both squads had a 7-footer disrupting play in the paint.

Okonkwo only snagged four rebounds for the Tigers, but every time a Don careened into the lane, the visiting big man seemed to drop out of the sky with a rejection. On the night, Okonkwo had seven blocks.

Lull, who entered the evening averaging 5.8 minutes per game, played 14 against Pacific, helping to neutralize Okonkwo’s low-post size. Lull had seven points, the final two of which came on a pair of crucial free throws with 24.7 seconds to go

The Dons emerged from a rocky stretch to split the homestand. After losing the opening two games of the now-complete homestand — and three in a row overall — the Dons salvaged a split, thanks to the win over the Tigers and a victory over Pepperdine back on Saturday night.

“You’ve got to be pleased with that,” Smith said. “It’s one game at a time and it makes that flight up to Spokane a lot, a lot better.”

The road swing will be daunting as the Dons face Gonzaga in Spokane on Saturday and St. Mary’s in Moraga next Thursday. The Zags are second and the Gaels are first in the WCC standings.

kbuscheck@sfexaminer.comCollege SportsFrankie Ferrarijimbo lulljordan ratinhonamdi okonkwoPacificsouley boumUniversity of San FranciscoWest Coast Conference

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