Key matchup: Khalil Shabazz’s 38 points carry USF into semifinal date with Gonzaga
March 5, 2023 Updated Sun., March 5, 2023 at 7:31 p.m.
LAS VEGAS – There are few players, if any, in the West Coast Conference, with whom Gonzaga is as familiar as San Francisco guard Khalil Shabazz – and vice versa.
Shabazz has faced the Zags 10 times in his career. No. 11 comes Monday night in the WCC Tournament semifinals at Orleans Arena. He posted a career-high 38 points in the Dons’ 93-87 double-overtime win over Santa Clara in quarterfinal thriller that concluded at 12:25 a.m. Sunday morning. He played 49 of the 50 minutes.
Shabazz was limited to seven points in San Francisco’s victory over Pacific on Friday. He closed the regular season on a hot streak with 26, 30 and 21 points vs. Pacific, Portland and BYU, respectively.
He has had mixed results against GU since transferring to USF after playing his freshman year at Central Washington. He’s averaging 16.4 points but he’s shooting just 34.2% from the field, including 30% on 3-pointers.
The 6-foot graduate student is 0-10 against Gonzaga, which has won the last 26 series meetings. The Dons made the NCAA Tournament last season, but their only avenue for a return trip is by winning the WCC Tournament title.
Shabazz had 27 points on 10-of-25 shooting in last year’s WCC Tournament semifinal loss to the Zags. In two setbacks to GU earlier this season, Shabazz averaged 21 points and drained 8 of 18 3-pointers.
There’s no question the Seattle native is having his best season at USF. He averages 17.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and leads the WCC in steals with 72. Those are all career highs.
Shabazz was named first-team All-WCC earlier this week after earning second-team honors the previous two seasons. His backcourt sidekick, Tyrell Roberts, a transfer from Washington State, also made the first team while averaging 16.2 points.
“I wish I could have these two guys with me for the rest of my career,” San Francisco coach Chris Gerlufsen said following the win over Santa Clara. “They’re just about the right stuff. They’re as good as they come in college basketball.”
USF’s backcourt duo presents a defensive challenge for Gonzaga senior Rasir Bolton, who has scored 44 points in two wins over the Dons this season, and sophomore Nolan Hickman. Bolton likely will defend Shabazz with Hickman matching up on Roberts. Despite the age difference, Hickman and Shabazz know each other from their younger days in Seattle.
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