LAS VEGAS - Kruize Pinkins and Tim Derksen each scored 14 points while Devin Watson and Mark Tollefsen finished with 13 and 10 points respectively to pace USF to a 62-58 victory over the Pacific Tigers in the first round of the WCC Championships at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
With the win, USF (14-17) advances to face the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs in a quarterfinal matchup on Saturday night beginning at 6:00 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Meeting for the third time this season, Friday's game between the Dons and Tigers took on a familiar feel as the previous two contests. Thankfully for the Dons, the result was the same, as well.
USF won their fifth game in six outings and third straight over Pacific despite shooting just 40 percent from the field, including 26.9 percent from long distance, and getting outrebounded, 46-31.
"Defensively, we're pretty good," said USF head coach Rex Walters. "They (Pacific) hit some three's early and got a little bit of confidence. We made enough plays offensively."
The two teams were never separated by more than eight points, which was USF's lead with 5:33 remaining in the game at 53-45 after Pinkins and Chris Adams hit back-to-back three-pointers to give the Dons some breathing room.
USF's lead was still eight at 57-49 after Watson calmly sank a pair of free throws. However, USF's lead would shrink to four points at 59-55 following a layup by David Taylor, who scored 13 points for the Tigers.
Watson made 1-of-2 free throws with :40 seconds remaining, but Dulani Robinson gave the Tigers life when he drained a long three-pointer to cut the lead down to two with :23 seconds left.
Derksen was fouled immediately by T.J. Wallace on the inbounds play and made both free throws with :20 seconds left to account for the final 62-58 score.
Matt Christiansen blocked a layup attempt by Jacob Lampkin with nine seconds remaining to preserve the four point lead.
Matt Glover pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for the Dons, who were minus-15 in the rebound column. Pacific also pulled down 18 offensive rebounds which led to 14 second half points.
Pinkins 14 points came on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, including a three-pointer and three free throws.
"Coach told us we needed to play aggressive and we did," said Pinkins. "It's win or go home so you have got to put it all out on the line. You just go out and play that first game and then come out and play the second game."
The Dons were very efficient with the ball, making just six turnovers. Watson also finished with a game-high six assists.
Wallace scored a team high 14 points for the Tigers, who finished 12-19 on the season.
USF advances to the quarterfinals to face top-seed and seventh-ranked Gonzaga (29-2), which was dealt a 73-70 loss at home by BYU in its last regular season home game last Saturday in Spokane.
The Zags won both regular season meetings with USF, routing the Dons 88-57 in Spokane and by a final count of 81-70 on the Hilltop. In the return game in San Francisco, USF trailed by just five points at 73-68 with 1:42 left in the game only to see the Zags score the last eight points of the game.
"They're a good team," said Walters. "They got the coach of the year, defensive player of the year, player of the year and newcomer of the year. Bottom line is all about the team that plays better tomorrow night. It's more about how we play than who we play."
Said Derksen, "There is nothing to lose and the adrenaline is up. It's the conference tournament, my last year and the season is on the line. We're going to rest tonight and by game time tomorrow, I know I will be ready and my team will be ready."