Waves off to a good WCC start

The Pepperdine Waves finally saw their tough non-conference schedule come to an end as they started West Coast Conference play against the St. Mary's Gaels in Moraga on Friday night. After pulling through with a 7-6 record with the 4th toughest schedule to this point in the nation, the Waves had to be pleased to finally find themselves playing against what should be a much easier opponent.<p> <p> The only question was whether or not St. Mary's would comply.

The first half started well with the Waves winning the tip and subsequently scoring on their first field goal attempt, a three point shot by Devin Montgomery. And after another bucket, this time by Boomer Brazzle, they had a five point lead. But after that the Waves never seemed to have much flow and were unable to build a substantial lead in the first half against a team that went 0-14 in the WCC last year. What was even scarier was that the Gaels were able to stay close despite only shooting 24% from the field. Pepperdine led 30-23.

The Gaels, coached by former Pepperdine assistant Randy Bennett, are the best defensive team in the league in terms of points allowed. In fact, they held a Utah team that scored 81 points against the Waves, to just 41 points only a few days ago. Pepperdine, on the other hand, had the highest scoring average in the WCC. So it was important for the Waves to force an up-tempo game, get an early lead and make the Gaels try to catch up.

The Waves couldn't seem to shake St. Mary's in the first half, however. Despite only making 8 of 33 shots in the half, the Gaels were able to keep the Pepperdine in their sights, mostly because of the play of Chase Poole and a significant rebounding advantage, especially on the offensive end. Poole had 10 points and 6 rebounds at the mid-point mark and it appeared the Waves may have reverted back to their old ways after having some decent rebounding success against BYU and West Virginia. At the half, the Gaels had outrebounded Pepperdine 24-19 and had 12 offensive rebounds versus 3 for the Waves. Luckily, it was taking St. Mary's four shots to make one. Pepperdine, on the other hand, shot 42% from the field.

The second half started out with much of the same. Only this time the Waves were contributing to the poor shooting. And at one point the Gaels went on a 10-4 run to the pull the score to 40-36 with 11:26 left. The Waves were looking vulnerable and it looked like the momentum was about to carry St. Mary's to the lead. Soon thereafter, however, Gary Colbert hit a much needed basket for the Waves. After a couple of Gaels free throws Pepperdine made a great backdoor play and despite missing the lay-up, Will Kimble was there to tip in the rebound.

And it was at this point that things started to fall apart for the Gaels. Their aggressive defense was starting to pile up fouls. With 6:16 left, Poole fouled out of the game with the Waves leading 51-43. As the only player who was really able to do much of anything against Pepperdine, he left the game with 12 points and 8 rebounds. He would be the only Gael to score in double figures.

In the meantime, the Waves were hitting their free throws and they were starting to pound the boards. Ethnie Stubbs and Samuel Saint-Jean also fouled out for St. Mary's and the Waves were starting to pull away by going on a 14-4 run to end the game. Final score 67-51.

Five players scored in double figures for the Waves with Jimmy Miggins leading the way at 11 points and 13 rebounds. Terrence Johnson, most certainly a candidate for Freshman of the Year, also scored 11 points, while Montgomery, Boomer Brazzle and Craig Lewis each scored 10.

Free throw shooting was impressive for the Waves as they made 22 of 27 shots for an 82% clip. They also turned around their rebounding effort and both teams ended up with 40, although the Gaels had a 19-8 advantage on the offensive end.

There were a couple of surprising statistics in this game. The most surprising had to be the single assist they had in the game. Yes, that's right, Pepperdine had only ONE assist for the entire game. I'm not really sure how that is even possible. It would seem that the team would be able to create more assists, if only by accident! I don't think this can be construed as a positive.

The other surprising stat was the fact that Pepperdine shot only eight three-pointers. That is nine fewer than any other game this year. For the game they shot 37.5% from behind the arc.

Notes:

* During halftime, Al Epstein interviewed Michael Gilleran, Commissioner of the WCC. On recruiting by WCC schools, Gilleran said, "With the exception of women's soccer, we aren't recruiting the best of the best." He believes the coaches in the WCC are getting more out of their players and that they look for "kids that are going to bust their butt. No McDonald's All-American can come here and expect to cruise." As for expansion in the WCC, Gilleran didn't believe there was any current need to expand, but also said, "Never say never." And on the WCC Basketball Tournament he said that the WCC was very happy with their success at the Jenny Craig Pavilion last year, but believes that it isn't fair for a school to hold the tournament more than two years in row. He believes the tournament saw too much time at Santa Clara and a neutral site is being considered. The only downside to that would be the price of neutrality when all the teams might have to travel.

* Former President of Pepperdine, David Davenport, was at the game. He was sporting a full beard.