March 6, 2013
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The University of San Francisco women's basketball team turned in one of its most dominating performances of the season in an 80-48 thrashing of Pepperdine at the Orleans Arena Wednesday.
USF, the eighth seed in the West Coast Conference Championships, won its first postseason game since March 1, 2007. The Dons picked up their 12th win of the season, the most since the 2007-08 campign.
"What a great win for our program. We've never won this first game before [in my USF career]," head coach Jennifer Azzi said after the decisive win. "I'm so proud of our team and our players just for playing together. To be out there with seven ... It was just an outstanding game for us, and I thought our team did very well executing the game plan."
The high-octane USF offense had five players in double-digits, for the first time this season, and the first time in head coach Jennifer Azzi's time at the helm of the Dons. Senior Mel Khlok finished with a game-high 19 points and was a perfect 13-for-13 from the free throw line. Fellow upperclassman Bailey Barbour finished with her second-consecutive double-double, a 14-point, 12-rebound effort.
Las Vegas native Zhane Dikes poured in 16 points and Taj Winston finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. Alicia Scafidi's double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds was her third in her sophomore campaign. Shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 95.5 percent from the line, USF posted season- and Azzi Era- best stats.
The Dons started with the first four points of the game before the Waves answered to tie the game. USF then went on a 13-0 run, with Khlok scoring nine of the Dons' points during the spurt. Leaping for a steal and fastbreak layup with 5:43 to play, Winston put the score at 29-9 in favor of USF. She went on to score 11 straight for the Dons in a two minute span as the lead blossomed to 38-14.
"I think [the defensive intensity] just came from practice, because our coaches really strive for us to work hard on defense," Dikes said after the victory. "It came easy for us in the game because we worked so hard on it during practice. I saw out there today that we were just very communicative and we just talked the whole time and we were just able to find the steal and stop their players, so it was great."
USF found itself ahead 42-20 at halftime, tying its largest lead at the break this year. The Dons continued to control the second half en route to the 80-48 win, the Dons' largest margin of victory over an NCAA Division I opponent on the season.
The stalwart Dons defense held Pepperdine to its eighth sub-50 point game of the year. The Waves only managed 28.2 percent shooting, including an 0-for-18 outing from 3-point range. USF won the battle of the boards 50-36, its second-largest rebounding margin of the season.
"I can only say one word, and that's believe," senior leader Khlok said when reflecting on her first collegiate postseason win. "Coach has always believed in us since day one. Even last year, and the year she took me back she never stopped believing in us. And as a leader, I kept believing in my teammates."
The significance of the tournament victory isn't lost on the soon-to-be graduate.
"Being part of a team to get over a hurdle like that means everything at USF. I feel like it's just a turning point for Coach Azzi, and for the team. Being a part of it is just amazing. People that followed us since my freshman year know how much being a part of a program that's turning around right now is everything that I wanted."
USF's journey through the WCC Championships continues tomorrow against Loyola Marymount. The Dons, who closed the regular season with a heartbreaking three-point loss to the Lions, get a chance at payback after losing the lead with 53 seconds to play in the game. The game can be seen on BYUtv Thursday at noon.