Waves Right the Ship

Not that the outcome was ever in doubt, but the Waves did not consider Friday night's game against NAIA Point Loma a night off. After three straight losses, Head Coach Paul Westphal did not allow the team to waste the oppportunity to get back on track, and the Waves blew the Crusaders out of Firestone Fieldhouse, 98-55.

Pepperdine's three-game losing streak may have been to good teams, but they were beaten soundly and played very poorly in extended stretches of those games. The team play and composure that led to a 4-2 start and upsets over USC and UCLA abandoned the Waves in losses to UCSB, Oregon, and Georgia. Sandwiched around Finals Week, these games saw the Waves lose sight of their strengths and drop into some bad habits.

Most disturbingly, the Waves' season-long rebounding problems reached new depths as they were outrebounded by a staggering 15.3 per game in that stretch.

Enter Point Loma, not only an NAIA team but a very bad one, entering the game 1-11.

It did not take the Waves long to put the game away, but more significant is how they did it. It would have been easy to use their vastly superior athleticism to run circles around the Crusaders, but it was evident from before the opening tip that the Waves had other priorities.

Starting Micah McKinney and Boomer Brazzle over Devin Montgomery and Terrance Johnson gave the team a much more calm, collected feel. In fact, though no explanation was offered, Montgomery did not play at all. The junior point guard brings a lot of athleticism and pushes the tempo, and the coaching staff very likely wanted to make the point that there is more to the game than athleticism.

McKinney responded with eight assists and only took three shots, providing the stability at which he excels. Brazzle contributed with 13 points and a career-best nine rebounds.

Johnson was undaunted by not starting, putting up a career-high 24 points on 11-16 shooting, most of them on alley-oop dunks and quick-release jumpers.

Jimmy Miggins cruised to ten points and five rebounds in a season-low 23 minutes. Craig Lewis scored 11 of the Waves' first 15 points but was not needed in the second half and finished with 13. Robert Turner played the best game of his young career, with career bests in points (ten) and rebounds (eight).

The most encouraging the performance of the night belonged to Will Kimble. The sophomore center dominated the game with 19 points and seven rebounds. After starter Cedric Suitt picked up two fouls in three minutes to open the game, he sat down and never returned. Kimble, meanwhile shot 5-9 from the field and perhaps more importantly, got to the line 12 times, making nine.

And in the most important development of the night ... the Waves ruled the boards, 52-30.

Break out the champagne.

Errrr ... the Martinelli's.

It was very refreshing to see aggressive post play from the Waves, who have settled for jump shots and failed to box out all season long. The emergence of a low post threat in Kimble -- and the anticipated return of power forward Glen McGowan in time for the Conference opener January 11 -- would change the course of the season.

It's difficult to imagine consecutive games against teams any further apart in the talent spectrum than Point Loma and Arizona, but the Waves will have to go from the ridiculous to the sublime anyway, traveling to Tempe next weekend. This win does not prove they can beat the Wildcats on their homecourt, but the Waves took a step in the right direction Friday night -- not by winning by 43 points, but by re-establishing the things that led to major upsets of Pac-10 teams earlier this year.