Portland, OR – The Portland Pilots, who fell short Thursday night against the No. 1-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs, faced another West Coast Conference opponent in the Dons of San Francisco. The question coming into the game was would the Pilots sustain the type of effort they displayed a few nights earlier? They certainly did, as they held off multiple late rallies by San Francisco to win 76-65 in front of 1,745 fans at the Chiles Center.
It was a defensive battle in the first half in which both teams struggled to shoot the ball well from the field. In addition, the squads combined to have 17 turnovers in the half. It was the big men that found offensive consistency. Portland’s Tahirou Diabate crashed the boards and had a couple of nice put backs to give the Pilots an early lead at 30-24. He finished the game with seven points and five rebounds including four offensive boards. He was limited in action due to foul trouble, playing just 16 minutes.
The Dons’ 7 foot, 252 pound center, Jimbo Lull was set up for several powerful two-handed dunks and he stepped out to hit a few threes. His play kept the Dons within reach throughout the contest considering the team shot 4-of-18 beyond the arc in the first half. Lull went 9-for-11 from the field finishing with a game high 20 points and pulling down six boards in only 23 minutes as he too was in foul trouble.
San Francisco tried to pull off the second half comeback behind leading scorers Jamaree Bouyea and Charles Minlend who each respectively average 14 points per game. Bouyea had an off night scoring as the Pilots made it a point of emphasis to keep the point guard from having his way. He only scored seven points (3-of-8 FG), added seven assists, and turned the ball over five times which is uncharacteristic of him. The Pilots game plan was to keep the playmaker in check. Minlend, the redshirt junior, began hitting shots late in the contest including a strong drive to the hoop to complete a lay-in. This effort gave the Dons a one-point lead with 5:04 remaining in the game. He had 15 points and four rebounds in the losing effort.
USF’s lead quickly evaporated down the stretch when Malcolm Porter and JoJo Walker hit back to back threes to extend give Portland a five-point lead. Porter had a steady flow of contributions on both ends of the floor scoring 13 points (4-of-10 FG) and adding three steals. Walker was essential in stopping any late run San Francisco attempted to throw at Portland. He hit big time threes and carved his way through the full court defense to finish at the rim. Walker came off the bench to lead the team in points, rebounds and assists. He finished the game with 19 points, six assists, and five rebounds.
Portland (9-8) will travel to face Brigham Young (12-4) for their first road contest in conference play next Saturday. San Francisco (11-6) will host the Santa Clara (14-2) on January 9th.
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