Pepperdine shot 46% from the field and 40% from the three-point line. St. Mary's was even more accurate, 48% overall and 53% beyond the arc.
The difference, ironically, was that the Waves had four reliable scorers to the Gaels' two. Accustomed to being outmanned, Pepperdine's "big four" of Johnson, Acker, Miggins, and Brazzle combined for 64 of the 72 points. The Gaels, who play outstanding defense, were unable to keep all four Waves guarded in key situations down the stretch.
The Gaels' Daniel Kickert scored a game-high 24 points, and Frederic Adjiwanou registered 20 points and seven rebounds on a strong 7-8 shooting performance.
On the strength of three straight wins and the emotion of Senior Night, Pepperdine hoped to ride their momentum to a victory over San Francisco Saturday night.
But a combination of fatigue and the old story of being thin inside wore the Waves down, and they were unable to stop a red-hot Dons team from clinching third place, 90-82.
John Cox led all scorers with 24 points, and he got plenty of help from Darrell Tucker (19 points, seven rebounds) and Jovan Harris (17 points off the bench). The Dons shot 54% from the field and a back-breaking 20-21 (95%) from the charity stripe.
Pepperdine again shot very well, 51% overall and 8-20 on threes. But they simply didn't have the horses to keep up with the Dons' uncanny shotmaking ability.
On several occasions down the stretch, the Waves would play excellent defense for an entire possession, only to watch a Don make a tough shot as the shot clock wound down.
The most frustrating and telling trend for Pepperdine was the Dons' knack for getting offensive rebounds when they did miss. USF got 20 second-chance points.
Terrance Johnson served notice that he will be the go-to guy of the future for the Waves. The sophomore guard scored 24 more points to match his career high and finish an outstanding weekend in which he played all 80 minutes and showed no signs of slowing.
In their final home game, all four Wave seniors got a start, and all four contributed. Miggins logged 13 points and seven rebounds; Brazzle notched eight points and eight rebounds; Mike Westphal shook off a slow start to get 12 points, and Dustin Johnson made both his field goal attempts in the otherwise sluggish opening minutes.
The mixed results typify a star-crossed season. The Waves finish the regular season at 15-12 overall, 7-7 in WCC play. All things considered, they have done well to assure themselves a winning record when playing so short-handed all year.
The fourth-place finish earns Pepperdine a first-round bye in the WCC tournament last weekend. Pep awaits the winner of the first-round clash between Santa Clara and St. Mary's. With a win, the Waves would get one more chance at regular-season champ Gonzaga in the semifinals.