In the first round of the 2014 National Invitation Tournament, the San Francisco Dons fall 63-71 to LSU.
The Dons, who finished 21-11 in the regular season, and making their first NIT appearance since their 2004-2005 campaign, have seen their season come to an end after a poor shooting performance on Wednesday night. Head coach Rex Walter’s squad made their mark in the regular season playing excellent team basketball, with four players averaging double digit scoring. Unfortunately, this game was a completely different story. Both teams started slow in the first half. Despite both teams shooting over 40% from the field, both teams shot less than 20% from beyond the arc (USF went 2-13 from three), (LSU went 2-12 from three). But after a late first half rally, the Dons went into the locker room with just a three point deficit.
The second half is where experience came into play. The game was close until LSU exploded with a 16-2 run with just under eight minutes, forcing USF to call a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the Dons showed their resilience and battled their way back in, cutting the deficit to just ten with 3:37 remaining. But LSU began to rotate their biggest players to slow down Dons leading scorer Cole Dickerson, and limited him to an eight point second half. The Dons perimeter shooting couldn’t get going, as sophomore point guard Avry Holmes and sophomore small forward Mark Tollefsen combined for just ten points. LSU hit a three pointer with just under three minutes remaining to silence the crowd, and protected the lead to grind out the eight point win. After the final whistle, the Dons got a standing ovation from the crowd for their remarkable season. After the game, head coach Walters commented on his team.
“I loved how my guys competed tonight, and how they’ve competed in every single game, they’ve been a great group and I wish I was still coaching them next week,” Walters said.
Dons senior power forward Cole Dickerson, the team’s leading scorer, left it all out on the court in his final game with 24 points and 8 rebounds. He spoke after the game about his message to his teammates after the loss.
“I walked in and just told them that it hurts, but when you get through this, you’re going to be a better man and you’ll be stronger next year,” Dickerson said.
Coach Walters spoke on how LSU limited Dickerson’s production in the final ten minutes to close out the game.
“We tried to run some stuff that we haven’t run before to get him the ball, they tried to put bigger bodies on him but I don’t think that had any effect; Twenty two points in thirty three minutes, two big three pointers, and eight rebounds. We’ll take that every day and twice on Sundays, that’s pretty impressive,” Walters said.
Although their season has ended, there’s certainly a lot to look forward to next season, with everyone on the roster returning except Cole Dickerson, who will be graduating this summer. Sophomore point guard Avry Holmes discussed how he can become the top scoring option and leader on next year’s team.
“I have to just finish at the rim, get my pull-up game in the mid-range better, I have a lot to learn and I’m going to watch a lot of film, and I want to step up my defense,” Holmes said.
With an already skilled and highly determined point guard ready to lead next year’s squad with just about everyone returning, Coach Walters has a great season to build on, and there’s no doubt they will hit spring training ready to improve on their fabulous 2013-2014 season.