Then eight minutes into the second half, it all turned around for the Pineiro and the Toreros.
The senior forward had 22 points and 13 rebounds, including 14 points in a 27-7 run that helped the Toreros stun the Dons 67-63 Saturday night, dropping San Francisco into a second-place tie with BYU behind No. 4 Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference.
"It was big," Pineiro said. "They're a really good team. We protected home court and that was really good."
Pineiro said the game turned on the Toreros' defense and rebounding.
"Just keep rebounding," Pineiro said. "Rebounding leads to transition which leads to easy buckets and gets the offense going. It starts there."
The Toreros trailed by 14 points early in the second half. They were down 40-30 when they started their big run, beginning with a 12-0 salvo that began with a tipin by Massalski and included Pineiro's hook shot. Pineiro's layup tied the score at 40 and Massalski made two free throws to give USD its first lead since making the game's first basket, 42-40.
USF had the lead just once more, when Nate Renfro converted a 3-point play with 8:23 to go. But Pineiro took control of the game, hitting a jumper, a 3-pointer, two free throws and then converting a 3-point play for a 57-47 lead with 4:39 to go.
" 'I.P.', we've got to get him to be more of a first-half guy," coach Sam Scholl said. "He's a heck of a second-half guy."
Pineiro grabbed a key offensive rebound with about 50 seconds to go and the Toreros leading 60-56. USD made seven of 10 free throws in the final 46.8 seconds, three by Wright and one by Pineiro.
"We were aggressive offensively," Scholl said. "They got us on our heels offensively in the first half. I just told the guys, 'Be who you are, be aggressive and trust your reps' and they did. ... It shows our character, No. 1; our mental toughness, our physical toughness, and we're playing for each other. It paid off."
Charles Minlend scored 16 points and Renfro had 15 for the Dons (17-4, 5-2).
While the Toreros turned it on, the Dons didn't score for four minutes in the second half.
"We didn't make any shots," coach Kyle Smith said. "It was pretty basic. We missed some free throws and they guarded around the rim. They did a good job.
"Then there was a tight whistle," he added. "We don't usually put people on the free throw line 27 times. It makes it harder to guard. But we got to the line too and didn't make enough."
USD made 20 of 27 free throws while USF made 13 of 21.
The Dons shot only 34.4 percent while the Toreros hit 47.8 percent of their shots.
"You're not going to win shooting 34 percent on the road against a good team," Smith said.
USF took advantage of poor USD shooting in the first half. The Toreros missed their first nine 3-point shots until Pineiro hit one with 29 seconds left to set the halftime score.
The Dons shot only 34.4 percent in the first half but they were 6 of 14 from behind the arc, including three by Minlend. They had a double-digit lead 12 minutes into the game and the closest the Toreros could get was six points.
San Francisco: The Dons had won three straight games since losing 96-83 at home to then-No. 5 Gonzaga on Jan. 12.
San Diego: The Toreros improved to 11-1 at home.
San Francisco is at Saint Mary's next Saturday.
San Diego is at No. 4 Gonzaga next Saturday night.
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