The highlights of college basketball are certainly the upsets because it is everyone’s game. Within just three days of the new season, there was the biggest upset so far on Black Friday. That belonged to the San Francisco Dons, who defeated No. 4 Virginia in a thrilling 61-60 victory in the HomeLight Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. This was USF’s third game in three days.
San Francisco Dons Upset No. 4 Virginia, 61-60
Senior guard Jamaree Bouyea led the Dons to a shocking victory with a game-high 19 points. San Francisco had a late 8-0 run in the final minutes of the second half to beat the Cavaliers.
The win marked USF’s first victory against a top-5 team since 1981, when the Dons defeated No. 2 Wichita State 84-74. In a defensive battle between the two programs, Virginia went into halftime with a 24-21 lead. The Cavaliers even scored the first four points of the second half, but the Dons responded with an 11-0 run. USF inched away from Virginia by scoring 40 points in the second half, primarily from their success behind the arc. The Dons made 13 three-pointers off 28 attempts and held Virginia to only three of 12 from behind the arc.
The low scoring halves demonstrated that this was a defensive game between the two teams. There were 11 lead changes and five ties throughout the game. With 3:42 remaining in the game, Marquette transfer Sam Hauser knocked down a jumper to give the Cavaliers a 54-53 lead, which would be their final one. Hauser finished with 10 points.
USF regained the lead with a strip by Bouyea that led to a three-pointer from junior guard Khalil Shabazz, who finished with 14 points to give the Dons a 58-54 lead. On their next possession, senior forward Taavi Jurkatamm hit a clutch three-pointer to extend the lead to 61-54.
Virginia chipped back with layups from freshman guard Reece Beekman and sophomore forward Justin McKoy to bring the game within one point. After a missed 1-and-1 by sophomore forward Josh Kunen, Virginia had a chance to win the game with 10 seconds left. However, Hauser’s three-point attempt fell off the rim, allowing the Dons to secure a 61-60 win.
The Impact of USF’s Shocking Victory
USF was a basketball powerhouse in the 1950s when the legendary Bill Russell led the Dons to national titles in 1955 and 1956. The Dons have not been ranked since finishing 25-6 during the 1981-82 season, the same year they stunned No. 2 Wichita State. The program shut down for three years in the 1980s for off-court issues. USF has not made NCAA Tournament since 1998.
However, that could change this season. The victory over No. 4 Virginia is a huge resume builder for USF coach Todd Golden. The 35-year-old has led a balanced USF team the last few seasons to defeat several solid opponents, but none bigger than the reigning national champions. The Dons’ victory is not only a success for the program but the West Coast Conference as well. The Atlantic Coast Conference is home to several big programs, including the Cavaliers. The WCC is home to No. 1 Gonzaga and BYU, but the conference is still underrated overall.
Pepperdine’s ability to force Pac-12 champion favorite UCLA to three overtimes shows how strong WCC competition is not only as a mid-major conference but in college basketball period. The strong USF and Pepperdine performances indicate that the WCC will have some strong competition this season. As for the Dons, the upset puts their program on the map and one step closer to ending a 23-year NCAA tournament drought.
Despite Virginia bouncing back from a major upset by No. 16 UMBC in 2018, they continue to show their scoring woes. The Cavaliers opened the tournament with a strong 89-54 win over Towson on Wednesday but reverted to last season’s offense against the Dons. Virginia never scored above 80 points last season, so this upset indicates that the Cavaliers still have plenty of work to do, especially in the scoring and finishing areas. Virginia’s loss against USF will definitely push them down the Associated Press Top 25, if not out of it. As for USF, the victory gives the Dons more confidence in the season, especially when battling against BYU, Gonzaga, and Pepperdine.
Virginia will face Saint Francis (Pennsylvania) in its home opener on Tuesday, Dec. 1st. USF will continue to play in the “Bubbleville” tournament on Sunday, Nov. 29th against Rhode Island, their fourth game in five days.
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