WAR MEMORIAL GYM — The University of San Francisco delivered the most impressive win of the Kyle Smith Era on Thursday night, stunning No. 15 Saint Mary’s, 70-63.
On an evening when the Dons’ home gym was as loud as it’s been all year, Frankie Ferrari went off and the Gaels’ star center went missing, here’s what you need to know …
The Dons delivered an incredible performance just two weeks after sustaining a historically lopsided loss to their WCC neighbor. On Feb. 1, the Dons endured an embarrassing thrashing at the hands of the Gaels, falling 79-43 in Moraga. That marked Saint Mary’s largest margin of victory over the Dons since 1959.
“We didn’t talk about that at all,” Smith said. “But it’s great because it was definitely kind of a low point [in the season]. We just hadn’t done that. We usually don’t do that.”
On Thursday night, it was the Gaels who were left scratching their heads.
After trailing by as many as 11 points with under eight minutes to go in the first half and once again appearing headed for an ugly outing, the Dons chased down Saint Mary’s late in the opening period. USF closed the half trailing by three, 38-35, thanks to buzzer beater from Ferrari, which proved to be a sign of what was to come.
Ferrari put on a show against one of the powers of the conference. The redshirt junior guard owned the night at War Memorial, dropping a game-high 20 points while going 7-for-11 from the field.
“He was awesome,” Smith said.
Starting with his first-half buzzer beater, Ferrari seemingly hit every big shot the rest of the contest, also contributing seven assists and four rebounds.
“He was definitely nails for us –— his leadership, his poise,” Smith added. “He’s just growing by the day. He’s really put some things behind him and I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
The streaks are over. The Dons’ upset put to an end a run of seven consecutive losses to Saint Mary’s. Entering the game, the Gaels had been the winners in 24 of the last 25 meetings. The Dons’ win also snapped Saint Mary’s streak of 14 consecutive road wins, which had been the longest such stretch in the nation. USF also spoiled Saint Mary’s previously unblemished record (9-0) away from McKeon Pavilion. The Gaels had been one of just two undefeated road teams in the country.
Jock Landale joined the 1,500-700 club but had a rough night. On the way to pouring in 19 points and collecting four rebounds, Landale became the fifth Gael in program history to record at least 1,500 points and 700 rebounds.
A day after becoming the only player in California to be named to the top-30 list for the Citizen Naismith Trophy Men’s Basketball Player of the Year award, Landale took it to the Dons early and often. With just over nine minutes to go in the first half, it was Landale 13, Dons 11.
Then foul trouble hit and the Gaels’ premier player found himself on the fringes of the contest. The 6-foot-11 senior fouled out with 1:41 left in the game on what appeared to be a dubious call as he and Jimbo Lull wrestled for a rebound near the Gaels’ hoop. At the time of Landale’s exit, the Dons were commanding a 62-58 advantage.
“We have to play better when we’re without him,” Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett said. “He hasn’t had much foul trouble all year. They called three offensive fouls on him, one post-up, two illegal screens when he had the ball in his hands. You don’t get those very often but it is what it is. We have to be good enough to play through it.”