Dons road-weary going into WCC 

At 4-11, the USF men’s basketball team can’t be ecstatic with its nonconference record.

But considering the circumstances, the Dons should be happy they made it to West Coast Conference play in one piece.

A brutal schedule that included just four home games and featured stops at Ohio State, Louisville, Wyoming and Hawaii put the Dons up against a considerable wall and an additional spate of injures only added to USF’s woes.

So, it comes to the surprise of no one that the Dons are eager to start West Coast Conference play, which begins on Saturday as the Dons host San Diego at War Memorial Gymnasium at 7 p.m.

"We’re looking forward to having a more equitable schedule for sure," said coach Jessie Evans, whose Dons have dropped seven straight, but were picked to finish third in the WCC. "We are disappointed in our record, but we showed we could compete with some great teams. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to pull out the big wins."

Three of the Dons’ past four losses were close calls against tough Hawaii, Wyoming and Louisville teams. Evans believes that even though those contests ended up in defeats, USF came away from them with increased confidence.

"I think we probably played our best basketball of the season our past four games," Evans said. "We still need to work on our rebounding and team defense, but we’re making strides at the right time."

The Dons will certainly have a tough task with the Toreros, who enter Saturday’s game 9-5, including a win over Pac-10 Conference contender Cal. The weight of the contest is not lost on the Dons’ players, who are well aware of the importance of grabbing home wins in the competitive WCC.

"One of our goals is to stay undefeated at home in conference play," said senior forward Alan Wiggins, the team’s leading rebounder (7.1 a game) and third-leading scorer (14.1 ppg). "Every game is going to be tough in this conference, so we have to make sure we defend our home court."

If the Dons are going to start off conference play on a high note, they will need leadership and major contributions from Wiggins and guards Manny Quezada (12.1 ppg), Antonio Kellogg (14.5 ppg) and leading scorer Armondo Surratt (14.9 ppg). Quezeda (Rutgers) and Kellogg (Connecticut) are in their first seasons with the Dons after transferring.

"As a senior, I’ve got to keep my voice in the younger guys ears and remind them to keep their heads up," said Surratt, who played high school ball at Oakland Tech before getting a scholarship from Miami (Fla.), where he played two years before transferring to USF."We still have confidence as a team and we still believe we can win this conference."


USF (4-11, 0-0) vs. San Diego (9-5, 0-0)

WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: War Memorial Gymnasium

TV: None


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Will Reisman

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