Waves Survive USF comeback

I'm just glad I knew the final score before I saw the second half of this game. Yeah, I know it's cheating, but it gives me peace of mind and allows me to avoid breaking things. Those are the benefits of tape-delayed broadcasts. The Waves of Pepperdine played the Dons of San Francisco tonight at War Memorial Gymnasium in what seemed to be a controlled affair by the men from Malibu. Unfortunately, the Dons had other ideas in the last 10 minutes of the contest.

With the Waves riding a three-game win streak and looking to go 2-0 in WCC play, they played a 7:00 pm game, but KCAL Channel 9 decided to televise it on a tape-delayed basis at 9:00 pm. Despite a tremendous comeback attempt in the second half by the Dons, the Waves were able to hold on for a 74-68 victory in front of a healthy USF crowd of 3,647.

Like the game against the St. Mary's Gaels the night before, this game started with a field goal by Devin Montgomery and the Waves never relinquished the lead. Thanks to some solid play by Boomer Brazzle and a 10-2 run, the team was able to build a 35-26 first half lead. The Waves were pretty much in control of the game as their defense was stifling the Dons and helped them commit 12 turnovers in the first half.

The Waves came out and continued to pound away at the Dons in the second half, showing no signs that they were going to allow them to close the gap. When USF did hint at a return Terrence Johnson quickly quieted the crowd with a monstrous ally-oop dunk that demonstrated his leaping ability. But despite the fact that USF fans were deflated by the play, the Dons didn't seem too bothered.

Led almost exclusively by the defense of Hondre Brewer and the offense of Darrel Tucker, USF made their charge as the Waves held a 15 point lead with less than 10 minutes to play. It seemed that everywhere Brazzle went, Brewer was there to block his shot. And somehow that blocked ball always seemed to end up in the other basket. Brewer would end up with five blocks on the night. It's no wonder this guy is the all-time WCC leader in blocks.

Eventually, with 3:22 left in the game, Shamell Stallworth drove the baseline and made a nice lay up to knock the Waves lead to 69-66. It was at this point I thanked the heavens above that I knew the final score. Seeing a 15 point lead shaved to three in an eight minute span most certainly would have resulted in some thrown sofa cushions or at least a profanity-laced tirade. Instead I could sit back and watch calmly, knowing the Dons would not be successful in this effort. Believe me, it's better for everyone this way.

In any case, for some reason the scoring suddenly came to a screeching halt. For the next two minutes nobody could get the ball in the hoop until finally at the 1:17 mark LaRyan Russell hit a pair of free throws after being fouled after stealing a pass intended for Miggins. After Brewer pounded another blocked shot over the Pepperdine bench, Craig Lewis traveled on a drive to the basket and the Dons had a chance to take the lead with 48.3 seconds left.

However, with 26 seconds left Brewer's shot was too strong and Glen McGowan emerged with the rebound. He was fouled with 22 seconds left and sank one of two free throws. Russell then drove to the bucket and made a decent lay up that just missed with 12.6 seconds left. Brazzle, after getting the rebound, was immediately fouled.

Boomer proceeded to make both free throws and on their next possession the Dons' Stalworth failed on one last desperation three to leave them without any further hope.

In the end, it was Brazzle who led the Waves in scoring with 16 points and 7 rebounds. Johnson scored another solid 15 and McGowan and Miggins both had 10. Unlike the game against St. Mary's, the team was making shots off passes as they had 19 assists on the night. They had one assist against the Gaels.

The next game is a big one as the Waves meet the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Malibu on January 18 at 7:30. It should be wild as the game is nearly sold out already. If the Waves can meet this challenge, it will make for a much more interesting conference race.