The USF Dons never trailed Saturday night, but had to hang on for dear life to beat the Loyola Marymount Lions 65-61 at Gersten Pavilion in Los Angeles.
Avry Holmes hit a jump shot with 33 seconds left to keep the Dons (20-10, 13-5 West Coast Conference) on top 62-58 and C.J. Blackwell missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer for the Lions (12-18, 4-14) with four seconds to go after USF turned the ball over.
The Dons reached 20 wins in a season for just the second time since the program resumed in 1985 after going dark for three seasons. USF was 20-14 in 2011-12. Prior to that, the Dons hadn’t had a 20-win season since going 25-6 and losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 1981-82. They will be the No. 3 seed at next week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas after finishing in a second-place tie with BYU. The Cougars earn the No. 2 seed because of a season sweep of the Dons. They will open the tournament in the quarterfinals on Friday against No. 6-seeded San Diego.
USF led the entire way, but weren’t able to land the knockout punch until the very end as the Lions never trailed by more than nine points.
Holmes scored 25 points for the Dons, Cole Dickerson added 14, Kruize Pinkins tossed in 12 points to go with 11 rebounds and Tim Derksen finished with 10 points. Matt Glover notched 11 rebounds and five assists.
USF was 24-for-49 (49 percent) overall, 6-for-14 (42.9 percent) from 3-point range and 11-for-22 (50 percent) from the free-throw line. Loyola Marymount was 24-for-56 (42.9 percent), 6-for-20 (30 percent) and 7-for-12 (58.3 percent).
The Dons had a big rebounding advantage, 42-27, while the Lions committed only seven turnovers, compared to 14 for USF.