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Howard detonates for 37 as Dons slide past Pepperdine

Senior night brought a lot of emotions for the Dons on Saturday evening. One senior in particular, Rachel Howard, played on another level for San Fransisco. She hit a career-high 37 to bring home the close victory.

Stephanie Trapp - San Fransisco Athletics

San Francisco, CA -- The University of San Francisco (16-12, 10-7 WCC) hosted the Pepperdine Waves (7-21, 5-12 WCC) Saturday at 2:00 pm in the last game of the regular season. The Dons were looking to close out their last season game on a high note, and they had something to play for as it was senior day at the hilltop.

San Francisco’s four seniors Rachel Howard, Claudia Price, Hashima Carothers and Raushan Gultekin were honored before the game. The Dons were all smiles, while underdogs and Lady Waves looked a little nervous about their matchup especially after coming off a tough loss to Saint Mary’s on Thursday, 84-57.

The Waves got on the board first and looked hot out of the gate, but that wouldn’t last for long. Howard quickly got in her usual groove and showed Pepperdine that being a seasoned senior has it perks. The Waves looked tired, frantic, and a little sloppy. The scoreboard didn’t lie as San Francisco went on a 4-0 run. Pepperdine need a pep talk and Coach Ryan Weisenberg knew it calling a timeout.

He told his girls, “We have to talk, your passes are too slow and too lazy. Let's get some energy out there. Talk it up.”

The pep talked helped as the Waves’ Barbara Sitanggan dropped a pretty little jumper, got the foul and the points. But the energy didn’t last for long as the West Coast Conference Player of the Week, Howard quickly became the story of the first quarter with four threes. If that wasn’t enough, in the final second of the first, Howard showed off her moves with a nearly impossible one handed trick shot pushing San Francisco to 24, as she scored 14 herself. Meanwhile the Waves only had 14.

The second didn’t look much different. The final 30 seconds told the story of the whole first half. This game was being driven by two players: Pepperdine's one senior, Allie Green, with 11 points, and San Francisco's powerhouse senior, Rachel Howard with 22 points. Finishing out the first two periods of the game, the Dons had the lead, 40-30.

Coming out of the half, the Waves looked like a different team, playing with intensity. They turned their energy into purpose, keeping their defensive edge up, and by cleaning up their shot selection to make easier baskets. In the final three minutes of the third quarter, Keyari Sleezer pulled up a nice little jumper to tie the game up for the first time.

Then moments later, the Waves were ahead by one by way of Yas Robinson-Bacote’s free throw. Her shot gave Pepperdine a flicker of hope. Their defense was starting to pay off as they outscored San Francisco by eight in the third quarter. They were able to hold the Dons to shooting only 23 percent, rounding out the third with a mere lead of 54-52.

However, once again the Wave’s energy and hope died down. San Francisco had something to prove on senior day, and Michaela Rakova wouldn’t let her fourth quarter comeback reputation go unnoticed as she drilled a long shot three. This started a movement for the Dons as Howard and Seilund would mimic.

Robinson-Bacote was trying to holding things together for Pepperdine, as she brought the Waves within five in the final 90 seconds. She ended the game with 29 points. But Pepperdine just couldn’t outlast the Dons as they clinched the home court win an 84-78 victory.

After the win the seniors respectively thanked their coaches and fans. Rachel Howard – who had a career high 37 points -- said, “It's one thing to have a confident player, it's another thing to have a confident team, and that is what made all the difference for us.”

Kalyn Simon had 14 points and Anna Seilund had 17. Both teams travel to Las Vegas, NV next week to play in the WCC Tournament.