Despite the lopsided 68-50 final score, the San Francisco Dons actually played relatively even with the University fo San Diego Toreros in the second half of last night’s game at War Memorial Gym. But a persistent problem they’ve had this season is rebounding and that plagued them against a bigger and extremely disciplined squad from down south.
As the Dons tried to work their way back into the game in the second half, one thing that stood out was that they just could not seem to stop San Diego from getting their own missed shots back – the Toreros finished with a dominant 46.7% to 19% offensive rebounding advantage. Most of that was just San Diego players just being a step faster to reacting to the ball as it came off the rim.
But the more significant difference in this game was shooting efficiency or lack thereof in the case of the home team: the Dons just couldn’t find many uncontested shots against an aggressive defense from the Toreros and it shows in the 20% field goal percentage differential. As much as that was due to the Dons simply missing shots that they could/should have converted as second-year head coach Jennifer Azzi alludes to in the video above, a large reason for that was the defensive pressure that San Diego applied.
There is probably one other team I recall seeing with the consistent, uniform level of defensive discipline that the Toreros showed against the Dons in recent memory and it was the little things that stood out. They were lower, quicker to spots, and forced Dons players to react to them before they could make a decision of what to do with the ball. After closing out, Toreros defenders would give Dons ball handlers a little jersey tap almost just to let them know they were there. If a player picked up their dribble, you could hear them yelling dead. Any player off the ball – in the post or on the perimeter – was in textbook denial position, forcing the player with the ball to make a rushed and forced decision. Any time the Dons seemed to find an opening for a shot, it was contested.
You could see the defensive intensity from the Toreros and even when the Dons made a charge to get within 14 or 16 points in the second half – a not entirely insurmountable deficit – that discipline on both ends of the floor made the difference. Their offense was as methodical as their defense was tough and even though they had a number of mental lapses that resulted in turnovers – and ultimately kept this game within reach for the Dons – they rarely seemed to get rattled play to play. Just like on the defensive end, it was about the details: every pick seemed to jar a USF defender off their spot and create a switch. Every cut was perfectly timed to hit the gaps. Every player on the court seemed to have a firm grasp of when and where they would have the best chance to score.
It wasn’t even that the Toreros were a dominant athletic team, albeit taller at most positions – they just took control of this game and outexecuted, outshot, and generally outworked the Dons.
The San Francisco Dons have visibly improved in Jennifer Azzi’s second year as head coach, but San Diego was just a couple of steps ahead on this night.