WCC tournament San Francisco 80 Gonzaga 67
Gonzaga University might still stage the selection-day party it had planned for next Sunday when the NCAA announces its Division I men’s basketball tournament pairings.
But if it does, there will be much more anxiety involved than coach Dan Monson had hoped.
The Bulldogs had a chance to play their way into one of the brackets Monday night in the finals of the West Coast Conference tournament at Toso Pavilion. But their NCAA dreams collided with a hard-rebounding, energetic San Francisco team that came up with a couple of surprise heroes and an 80-67 upset.
So the 5th-seeded Dons (19-10) will get the WCC’s automatic invitation to the NCAA, leaving the postseason fate of top-seeded GU (23-9) in limbo.
Monson has maintained all along that his team deserves to go to the NCAA after playing a tough non-conference schedule and capturing the regular-season WCC title. But a berth in the National Invitation Tournament might be the best the Bulldogs can hope for following Monday’s disaster.
GU was beaten by a hot USF team that has won seven in row. The Dons, after losing twice to the Bulldogs during the regular season, got 34 unexpected points from reserves Ra’oof Sadat and M.J. Nodilo and staked claim to nearly every important rebound in earning their 14th ticket to the NCAA’s big event - but first since 1982, when they were an at-large selection.
“Tonight was a great game,” said USF coach Phil Mathews. “It was a long 16 years, but this is something that these kids, the university and the city of San Francisco deserves.
“We’re going back to the NCAAs where we belong.”
Sadat, the master of an awkward left-handed push shot, threw in a career-high 18 points after not scoring a point against GU in the first two matchups. Nodilo, who had made only six of 23 shots against the Bulldogs in the regular season added 16.
“They had a couple of guys step up and have big games scoring for them,” a disappointed Monson said as the Dons were celebrating with their fans at center court. “Those two kids really made a difference.”
But more importantly, the Dons won the rebounding battle 41-30.
“It was a very physical game,” Monson admitted. “They just handled it better than we did. I feel for our kids because they played hard. But (the Dons) just played better than we did.”
GU got 18 points from Matt Santangelo and 16 from Richie Frahm, who hadn’t made much noise in the first two games. But senior forward and scoring leader Bakari Hendrix, who was named the WCC’s most valuable player last week,, was held to just 13 points.
Hendrix, apparently frustrated by USF’s clutch-and-grab defensive tactics, forced several ill-advised shots. He also turned the ball over four times.
San Francisco’s Hakeem Ward, who was the tournament’s most valuable player, finished with 12 points, while teammate Damian Cantrell added 10.
Ward was joined on the all-tournament team by Cantrell, Nodilo, Santangelo and Hendrix.
USF won the game with an 11-point run that broke a 42-42 tie five minutes into the second half. Sadat scored eight of his points during that decisive surge and the Bulldogs never got closer than 57-49 after that.
GU trailed 35-32 at intermission and had to feel fortunate to be that close. The Bulldogs were pitiful on the boards.
They were outrebounded 22-13 in the half and did not get an offensive rebound. Eleven of USF’s rebounds came on the offensive end and the Don finished the period with 11 second-chance points.
The Bulldogs did a decent job of defending Ward in the first half.
The Dons’ All-WCC center threw in the first basket of the game while falling down between three GU defender and added another on a tough baseline fadaway a few seconds late. But he scored only five points the rest of the period and finished with nine.
The guy the Bulldogs couldn’t silence was Nodilo, who made his first four shots - including three 3-pointers.
USF 80, Gonzaga 67
San Francisco (19-10) - Campbell 4-8 1-2 9, Cantrell 3-8 4-8 10, Ward 3-6 6-9 12, Wilcher 1-6 3-4 5, Thomas 2-11 0-0 5, Nodilo 5-8 2-2 16, Sadat 9-13 0-2 18, Cobbs 0-3 5-6 5. Totals 27-63 21-33 80.
Gonzaga (23-9) - Frahm 5-11 3-3 16, Dench 0-0 0-0 0, Hendrix 5-11 3-5 13, Santangelo 6-12 3-3 18, Leasure 0-1 0-0 0, Nilson 0-1 2-2 2, Hall 5-7 3-5 14, Calvary 1-3 0-0 2, Floyd 0-0 0-0 0, Griffin 1-1 0-3 2. Totals 23-47 14-21 67.
Halftime-San Francisco 35, Gonzaga 32. 3-Point goals-San Francisco 5-17 (Nodilo 4-7, Thomas 1-7, Cantrell 0-1, Sadat 0-1, Cobbs 0-1), Gonzaga 7-19 (Santangelo 3-4, Frahm 3-7, Hall 1-3, Nilson 0-1, Leasure 0-1, Hendrix 0-1, Calvary 0-2). Fouled out-None. Rebounds- San Francisco 41 (Cantrell 11), Gonzaga 30 (Hendrix 11). Assists-San Francisco 11 (Cobbs 3), Gonzaga 13 (Santangelo 6). Total fouls-San Francisco 21, Gonzaga 21. A-2,638.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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