GAME NOTES: A couple of teams from opposite sides of the country find themselves matched up in Honolulu, Hawaii on Christmas Day, as the San Francisco Dons battle the East Tennessee State Buccaneers during the championship round of the Diamond Head Classic.
The Dons started the season well enough with a five-game win streak following an opening loss to Stanford (74-62), but since then the team has dropped five in a row. USF began this tournament with an awkward 80-58 setback against 18th-ranked San Diego State on Saturday, and followed that up with an 85-78 loss to Ole Miss a day later.
As for the Buccaneers, they have a total of two wins in 11 tries so far this season, and only one of those came against a Division I opponent (Charleston Southern, 59-57). The team last tasted victory on Nov. 29 when it routed Milligan, 94-46, and since then it has been nothing but disappointment.
The squad began this event with a 73-53 setback versus fourth-ranked Arizona on Saturday, and followed that with another lopsided defeat on Sunday against host Hawaii, 84-61, which means the Bucs have now dropped six in a row.
In terms of a series record between these two schools, this game is the first ever meeting.
Shooting an impressive 60.7 percent from the floor in the first half against Ole Miss on Sunday, the Dons actually held a lead at the break, before falling behind and into the loss column 20 minutes later. Cody Doolin delivered 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as he filled up his stat line, followed by De'End Parker and Cole Dickerson with 17 and 14 points, respectively, as the duo also combined for 11 rebounds. Parker continues to lead the program in scoring through 11 games with his 15.1 ppg, stemming from an impressive 53.1 percent shooting effort behind the 3-point line, and not so much his mere 59.6 percent accuracy at the charity stripe. Dickerson, who is also shooting less than 60 percent at the line, is averaging a double-double with 13.7 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, while Doolin accounts for another 12.4 ppg and is also one of the nation's leaders in assists (73).
East Tennessee State fell behind the Rainbow Warriors immediately on Sunday and never recovered, trailing at one point by 31 points late in the second half. The Buccaneers made a total of eight field goals in the first half and shot 34.3 percent from the floor for the game, hitting on just 6-of-23 attempts out on the perimeter. Jarvis Jones and Rashawn Rembert both tallied 14 points and Lester Wilson had 11, while Hunter Harris managed eight points and eight rebounds as he dealt with foul trouble. Wilson, who is shooting almost as well from behind the 3-point line (.385) as he is from the floor overall (.399), has knocked down 35 of his 65 field goals over 11 games from long range, leading to his team-best 16.5 ppg. Jones checks in with another 14.8 ppg, although he has appeared in just four games and is shooting a dismal 32.9 percent from the field and 3-of-26 (.115) on the outside. As a team, ETSU is connecting on only 29.5 percent from beyond the arc and 36.6 percent from the field overall, leading to a paltry scoring average of 57.7 ppg.
The fact that the Dons showed so much fight during their loss to Ole Miss is reason enough to believe that they have enough left in the tank in order to take care of the Bucs on Tuesday.
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