In a thrilling back and forth game at the Chiles Center on Saturday night, the Portland Pilots fell to the University of San Francisco Dons 68-63.
The loss dropped the Pilots to 7-20 overall and 0-12 in conference play. It was the 13th loss in a row for Portland.
“I was proud of the way our guys competed tonight,” Portland head coach Terry Porter said. “It’s something we can build on...what we should take out of this game is our ability to compete when we play the right way, prepare the right way and come with the right type of focus.”
It was a low-scoring first half, with both teams struggling to hit shots and get their offenses set. Both teams found themselves stifled by the opposing team’s defense.
The game was even with eight minutes left to go in the first. Despite getting a quick six turnovers not even halfway through the first half, Portland managed to take a 17-14 lead thanks to a three from sophomore Jacob Tryon with 7:30 left to play.
USF did not go away easily. The Dons, led by senior point guard Frankie Ferrari, kept the Pilots uneasy for the majority of the first half. He had nine points in the first half, all coming from outside the arc, and was a pest on defense, picking Portland’s pocket for two steals.
A big three from sophomore guard Marcus Shaver Jr. tied the game up going into the half 24-24. The Pilots had nine turnovers due to a combination of sloppy offense and solid defense from the Dons, but Portland was able to hold USF to only 38 percent from the field, keeping the game close.
USF came out of the break with a quick three from Ferrari and one dunk from senior big man Jimbo Lull. Portland quickly answered with a three of their own. The Pilots trailed 30-28 with 15:53 left to play.
The Pilots came out of the timeout strong. Redshirt freshman Hugh Hogland, who played some important minutes for the Pilots down the stretch, hit a shot in the post to tie the game up at 30. Shaver Jr. followed that up with another big three in the corner to give the Pilots the lead, which Portland then followed with a steal and a Franklin Porter layup to go up 35-30.
“Hugh’s gotten into a really good rhythm in the post,” Porter said. “He’s had some opportunities and had some advantages. He really did a good job against these guys the first time and we wanted to take a look at the matchup we thought was good.”
The second half was just as tight as the first. USF struggled to capitalize on open shots while the Pilots did everything they could to take advantage. The tough play inside of Lull, who stands seven feet tall and weighs 250 pounds, kept many possessions alive for the Dons. With 7:48 to play, the Pilots led 43-40.
But the Dons never went away, eventually snatching the lead back from Portland. A deep three from Frankie Ferrari gave USF a 53-49 lead with just under two minutes left.
With under a minute left, the Pilots came out of the timeout down two. JoJo Walker drove to the lane with only five seconds left on the shot clock and drew the foul draining the two free throws right after. Ferrari missed the three on the other end of the court. Overtime was next.
USF opened overtime with a three, but Walker quickly followed with a three of his own. Overtime was just as tense as the first two halves. Shaver took over in OT, making a few clutch shots down the stretch to keep UP in the game.
“Coaches just told me to be aggressive,” Shaver said. “They weren’t calling falls in the first half so I tried to do it in the second half and they were calling them so I kept doing it.”
USF would not be denied. Ferrari came through again for San Francisco, hitting a dagger three with 18 seconds left to give USF the lead at 68-63.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Shaver said. “We really thought this was the one we were going to get but obviously not. They just hit shots down the stretch and we didn’t."
Portland will travel to San Diego for their next game against the Toreros on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.
Kyle Garcia is the sports editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.