Pepperdine Preview

Cal State Fullerton (1-0) takes on Pepperdine at historic Titan Gym Wednesday night, the Titans first game against a Div. I opponent. (Photos by Bryan Crowe)

From the Releases

 Pepperdine Scouting Report

Strengths: Point guard; Front court defense; Athleticism; Scoring inside the paint
Weaknesses: Three-point shooting; Experience

Pepperdine is coming off an intense season-opening loss against No. 2 Connecticut last week which was played at Firestone Fieldhouse. The Huskies made the stop on their way to the Maui Classic which is being played this week.

Pepperdine opened its 2005-06 season against No. 2 Connecticut and fell 75-56 to Huskies before a standing-room only crowd of 3,210 at Firestone Fieldhouse. The young Waves held their own against the talented Huskies team as they trailed by just five points after cutting the deficit to 48-43 with 11:50 remaining. However, Connecticut outscored Pepperdine 27-13 the remainder of the game to pull away for a 19-point victory.

Freshman point guard Michael Gerrity led the Waves with a game-high 19 points while totaling three rebounds, four assists and one steal. Junior guard Gregg Barlow added 10 points and a team-high tying eight rebounds in his Pepperdine debut. 6-9 freshman forward Chris Oakes came off the bench to contribute eight points and five rebounds in 15 minutes.

The Waves struggled shooting the ball as they shot just 31.5 percent (23 of 73) from the field and had their shots blocked 11 times. Despite being out-rebounded 49-40, Pepperdine was able to stay in the game by forcing 19 turnovers and registering 13 steals.

Analysis

From the ESPN-U telecast and if one game gives any indication of their talent, Pepperdine is a team who will be a good test for the Titans. Despite losing five starters from last year, including NBA second round draft pick Alex Aker, the Waves appear to have re-loaded. Leading the way is former Mater Dei star Michael Gerrity who will likely be the WCC freshman of the year. He is a well-rounded, explosive point guard who not only distributes the ball quite well but can score from anywhere on the floor.

This will be a great match up for Titans point-man Bobby Brown and will give the coaches and fans a good idea on how far LB has come from a defensive standpoint. As we try to teach our 9-year old defenders in youth soccer, containment is the key to stopping Gerrity. LB needs to get back on defense and keep him from penetrating and finding the open lanes. On the other side of the ball, Gerrity is going to try to give LB fits with his aggressive defense but LB should have the skills to overtake the smaller and less experienced point guard.

Another area of concern is on the front court. The Waves are taller and very athletic and are led by 6-11 sophomore Jarrad Henry and 6-9 freshman Chris Oakes. They also have 6-9 senior Derick Grubb, 6-9 junior Cody Horning and 6-8 freshman Willie Galick. The Waves are deep and played very aggressive defense against UConn and matched up well against the No. 2 team in the nation. Offensively, only Grubb looked like a good scoring option but that could have been the fact that UConn had some good talent of their own.

Cal State Fullerton will likely try to pound the ball into Jamaal early but may need to make adjustments if Jamaal is ineffective. If Jamaal does have a good game this is a great sign of things to come. With Pepperdine being so aggressive, I favor Gary Nunez over Justin Burns as he will clean up a lot of missed shots for easy put-backs. Manny Montano will need to step up and really get physical if he is going to play significant minutes.

At the wings, the Titans should have a big advantage. Pepperdine's Gregg Barlow likes to take a lot of shots but our defenders -- Frank Robinson, Jerard Moret or Vershan Cotrell -- should be able to stop him. Pepperdine will likely put defensive specialist Tashaan Forehan-Kelly on Robinson but Cal State Fullerton's wings should still have the advantage.

Pepperdine was picked to finish last in the WCC by both the coaches and the media. Head coach Paul Westphal probably did all he could to hold back the laughter and keep his poker face intact. This is not a last-place squad. By season's end, Pepperdine is a middle-of-the-pack team at the very least who will likely have a few upsets along the way.