Pepperdine Goes After Sweep of New Mexico in NIT Tonight

Times Staff Writer

Pepperdine’s basketball team hopes that its tour of the National Invitation Tournament doesn’t end where it began, in New Mexico.

The Waves started NIT play last week with an 84-69 first-round victory over New Mexico State in Las Cruces.

Tonight at 6:30, PST, Pepperdine (20-12) will play the University of New Mexico (21-10) in a second-round game here at University Arena, nicknamed the Pit. The Lobos are coming off a 91-76, first-round victory at home over Santa Clara.

The winner will advance to the quarterfinals, which will be played Wednesday through Friday at campus sites. The semifinals will be March 27 and the final, March 29, at Madison Square Garden in New York.


Last year, the Lobos ended Pepperdine’s NIT bid in the first round with an 86-75 victory here. New Mexico forward Charlie Thomas, now a senior, finished with 20 points in that game and helped spark a comeback with 14 second-half points, including two slam dunks.

The 6-foot 7-inch Thomas leads his team this season with averages of 17 points and eight rebounds a game. Sophomore guard Rob Robbins is averaging 16 points, and 7-2 center Luc Longley of Australia is averaging 12.6 points and 6.4 rebounds.

This is New Mexico’s sixth consecutive NIT appearance, and its fans have been upset because the Lobos, despite good records, have been rejected in the 1980s by the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s tournament committee.

Said Pepperdine Coach Tom Asbury: “We played our best game of the season last Thursday night at New Mexico State.

“We showed tremendous patience and poise on the offensive end, and that resulted in high-percentage shots. Our team defense was excellent, and we were extremely active on the boards.”

Against the Aggies, Dexter Howard and Craig Davis led the Waves in scoring, each with 16 points, and Casey Crawford added 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds.

Asbury said that the Lobos have “tremendous size, and they have shot the ball extremely well all season. We will need an outstanding defensive effort in order to win.”