Freshman Levy Middlebrooks and five underclass starters led the way as Pepperdine beat Loyola Marymount, 77-62, Thursday night.
Middlebrooks, a 6-7 225-pounder, had his top game as a collegian before 2,250 fans at Gersten Pavilion, getting 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting plus a game-high 12 rebounds.
Middlebrooks was so dominant early in the game--hitting his first five shots and grabbing eight rebounds--that Loyola Coach Ed Goorjian said, “I didn’t expect that from him, to be honest with you.”
Pepperdine Coach Jim Harrick agreed, saying: “He probably controlled the game the whole time. I’d have to say he’s exceeded expectations.”
Pepperdine’s overall play made it easy for the Waves (12-6) to win the West Coast Athletic Conference opener. Junior guard Dwayne Polee also had 20 points, and sophomore forward Eric White added 18.
The Waves built a 33-26 halftime lead and pulled away steadily in the second half, reaching a 51-34 lead before Loyola made a late run to pull within 11.
Loyola guard Keith Smith, the nation’s sixth-leading scorer coming into the game, finished with 23 points but was consistently stifled by Polee and Jon Korfas. He didn’t score for the first 13:45 of the second half and got 15 points in the last 6:15 when the game was pretty well decided.
Loyola freshman guard Steve Haney added 16 points.
Harrick said, “I thought we controlled Smith and Haney. Smith is a special talent. But when you live by the outside shot you’ve gotta have great shooting to win.”
Loyola didn’t, hitting only 41% from the field. Pepperdine, the best shooting team in the WCAC, hit 58%.
“We got our rear ends kicked,” Goorjian said. “Their front lines were just too tough--they were quicker and bigger. They’re gonna get nothing but better. We just don’t match up right now.”
Harrick said, “We’re playing as well as we have all year. That’s the strength of our team--five guys in double figures and they share the ball. That’s real good basketball.”
Loyola (8-8) has a week to regroup while Pepperdine plays at the University of San Diego’s bandbox Saturday.