Lady Toreros upset by the USF Dons
Women’s basketball upset in the WCC semi-finals
ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
The University of San Diego women’s basketball team suffered a devastating loss to the University of San Francisco Dons in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament on Monday, March 9. The second-seeded Toreros squandered a 13-point halftime lead, and scored only 15 points in the second half of the 65-57 loss. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Toreros and moved their record to 24-6 for the season.
The game was truly a tale of two halves, as the Toreros got off to a scorching start but struggled down the stretch. At one point in the first half, the score was all knotted up at 17 points apiece, when the Toreros unleashed a 15-2 run over the next six minutes to build a substantial lead on the sixth-seeded Dons. USD connected on 63 percent of their shots in the first half, which allowed them to extend their lead to as many as 15 points.
The second half was an entirely different story, as USF took their game to another level while the Toreros failed to duplicate the success they had early on. The Dons were sparked by junior guard Zhane Dikes and her senior backcourt mate Taj Winston. The duo combined for 34 points, with Winston scoring 18 and Dikes contributing 16, while also dishing out three assists and making all eight of her free throw attempts.
Dikes spoke to theW.tv after the upset victory, and alluded to her team’s slow start as a bit of motivation for the second half.
“USD is a great team, and we came in with a bit of a struggle in the first half,” Dikes said. “That was a huge comeback.”
When asked specifically about what changed in the second half of the game, Dikes revealed that the team simply went back to playing the way they know how.
“We came in to halftime like we really need to pick up our game,” Dikes said. “We knew that wasn’t USF basketball. We’ve been in a lot of close games this season, I’m really proud of my team for keeping their composure.”
Of course, the elation of victory is always juxtaposed with the agony of defeat. The loss will certainly be a tough one to swallow for the Toreros, especially given the way they performed in the game’s first half. Head Coach Cindy Fisher gave a somber post-game interview after the final buzzer sounded at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
“There was a lot of disappointment in the locker room,” Fisher said. “Extremely, extremely disappointed. Lots of tears.”
In addition to making only five of their 30 shot attempts in the second half, turnovers were also the undoing of the Toreros. The team turned the ball over 12 times in the game as opposed to only six for the Dons. Senior forward Katelyn McDaniel was the best player on the floor for the Toreros, putting up a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
She was joined in the box score by senior forward Sophia Ederaine’s 13 rebounds, eight points and five blocks. Twin sisters Maya and Malina Hood also chipped in 10 points each.
As of Monday night, ESPN.com women’s bracketologist Charlie Creme has the Toreros in his “First Four Out” group, which is a prediction suggesting the team will just barely miss out on an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. Coach Fisher addressed her team’s NCAA Tournament chances after the defeat in Vegas.
“I think we needed to make it to the championship game (to advance to the NCAA Tournament),” Fisher said. “Everyone wants to go to the Big Dance. This team put together a great season. They deserve to still be playing.”
For the USD women’s basketball team, it seems like a matter of where they will be playing next rather than if they will be playing next. If the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee chooses not to give the Toreros a bid, they will likely be selected to compete in the National Invitation Tournament for the fourth straight season.
The field for the Women’s NCAA Tournament will be revealed on Monday, March 16 at 4:00 p.m. The live selection show can be seen on ESPN. At this point the players, coaches and fans can do nothing but wait until Selection Monday and hope the Toreros get their name called.