USF set to finish strong for WCC tourney seed 

Alan Wiggins Jr. never doubted the fact that big games awaited the USF men’s basketball team, even as the losses began to mount. The Dons’ senior forward saw his team start the season 4-11, including seven straight defeats entering West Coast Conference play. But now, USF (12-16, 7-5 WCC) has reeled off wins in five of its last seven games and enters its final homestand of the regular season in the driver’s seat for the No. 3 seed in next week’s WCC tournament.

"We always had the confidence that we could play with any team," Wiggins said. "And for me, as a senior, I know time is running out. So I’m trying to leave everything I have out on the court."

On Saturday at 12:30 p.m., the Dons play a crucial contest against perennial power Gonzaga (19-10, 9-3), a game that will televised on KGO (Ch. 7). The Zags beat the Dons 72-56 in Spokane earlier in the year, but the recent series has been characterized by close games — including USF’s 73-70 home win two years ago.

The Zags come to The City shorthanded, as star forward Josh Heytfelt has been suspended indefinitely following his arrest for felony possession of psychedelic mushrooms. However, the game will still feature a matchup between the top two scorers in the WCC, with Gonzaga senior guard Derek Raivio (16.9 points per game in conference play) going head-to-head with USF sophomore guard Antonio Kellogg (16.7).

"They’re one of the premier teams in the conference, the West Coast, and really, the nation," Dons coach Jessie Evans said. "Those are always games you look forward to. But the guys also know there’s very little room to make mistakes or they can give you a big smack upside the head."

USF finishes its regular season Monday at 7 p.m. against Portland (8-20, 4-8) on Senior Night. The Dons have already sewn up a bye in the first round of the WCC tournament, but can clinch the No. 3 seed with wins in both games or a split and a loss by fourth-place St. Mary’s against either Loyola Marymount or Pepperdine.

Making USF’s recent run even more impressive is the fact that it has been winning at less than full strength. Senior guard Armondo Surratt has not played since hurting his left knee in a Feb. 5 loss to Santa Clara and is questionable for the Gonzaga game. In his absence, redshirt sophomore Manny Quezada has stepped up, averaging 20.5 points per game to raise his season average to 12.8.

"It was just a matter of being a little more aggressive," said Quezada, in his first season with the Dons after transferring from Rutgers. "I knew I had to step up so we could get some W’s."

The 6-foot-9 Wiggins has been a rock inside all year for the Dons, averaging 14.7 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game. He scored his 1,000th career point on a dunk late in the Feb. 5 Santa Clara game.

"I’m really pleased and honored to have gotten a chance to coach a guy like Alan," Evans said. "He’s a great player who’s never had a problem getting himself mentally and physically prepared to play."

Five Dons on WCC’s all-academic team

USF placed three women’s basketball players and two men’s basketball players on the West Coast Conference’s all-academic team Thursday.

Junior guard Dominique Carter, sophomore center Lisa Olden and sophomore guard Shay Rollins — all starters for the women’s team — tied Gonzaga for the most selections on the women’s side. Carter, the Dons’ leading scorer, was picked for a second straight season. Rollins is USF’s No. 2 scorer, while Olden is the team’s fourth-leading scorer.

Junior forward Vince Polakovic was a repeat selection for the men. He was joined by fellow junior forward Danny Cavic in representing USF. Cavic is a part-timer starter, while Polakovic is a reserve.

— Staff report

Gonzaga (19-10, 9-3) at USF (12-16, 7-5)

When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

Where: War Memorial Gym

TV: KGO (Ch. 7)

Radio: KQKE (960 AM)

Portland (8-20, 4-8) at USF (12-16, 7-5)

When: Monday at 7 p.m.

Where: War Memorial Gym

TV: Comcast Sports Net

Radio: KQKE (960 AM)

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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