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Pepperdine’s Disaster a Team Effort : Tom Asbury calls 67-46 loss to Santa Barbara his biggest disappointment in 20 years of coaching.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Pepperdine men’s basketball team may have plenty of depth, but all it brought the squad was deep trouble last week. UC Santa Barbara routed the Waves, 67-46, in the season opener.

Coaches often say it was a team victory when their players win; Pepperdine’s loss to the Gauchos was truly a team loss. Coach Tom Asbury said: “We did nothing right.”

The Waves committed 27 turnovers, including 17 in the first half, shot 38.5% from the floor (15 for 39) and were outrebounded, 42-37.

Pepperdine’s starting lineup of guards Craig Davis and Shann Ferch, center Damon Braly and forwards Geoff Lear and Tom Lewis combined for just 22 points. Senior forward Dexter Howard led the team with 15 points, and Davis added nine, all in the first half.

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Lewis, the team’s leading scorer for the last two seasons, committed five turnovers and made only one of seven shots from the field. He finished with four points.

Sophomore guard Doug Christie had a game-high six turnovers and scored five points.

The Waves’ 46 points was the lowest team total since a 42-38 victory over Santa Clara in 1976.

Asbury said that he couldn’t “remember in 20-some years of coaching when I’ve been more disappointed. It was a disaster.”

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If it was a disaster, Asbury has not yet called in the National Guard or the Red Cross. “We’re not going to panic,” he said. “We’re not going to make any dramatic changes.

“Hopefully, we’ll make some changes in our execution and performance. We have to take care of the ball better and block out and rebound better. We did a horrible job on the boards.”

He said that the Waves played good defense against the Gauchos, holding them to 42% shooting from the field. “But (the defense) would have been much better if we had blocked out and rebounded and not given them 15 offensive rebounds.”

Asbury does not plan on asking his players to turn out for any 5 a.m. practices as a way of correcting problems. “That’s a panic tactic, and we’re not about to panic. We just lost to somebody good early.”

He said that the only change he may make for this weekend’s Ameritas tournament at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln would be to have 6-foot 8-inch redshirt junior Rex Manu replace 6-9 sophomore Braly in the starting lineup. Neither Braly nor Manu did much against Santa Barbara, but Manu seemed to play with more emotion.

Asbury would like to be able to start 6-10 sophomore Mark Georgeson at center, but the transfer from the University of Arizona will not become eligible until Pepperdine plays Dec. 16 at Kansas.

He said he didn’t know if Georgeson will improve the team, “but I know he’ll compete and he’ll put a body on someone.”

Santa Barbara forwards Gary Gray and Eric McArthur played strong inside games last week. Gray scored a career-high 24 points, and McArthur added 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

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The Waves will need strong play inside and everywhere else against the Jayhawks. Kansas won the preseason National Invitation Tournament, defeating Alabama Birmingham, second-ranked Louisiana State, top-ranked Nevada Las Vegas and St. John’s in the championship game.

They will also need a complete turnaround from everyone if they hope to do well at the Nebraska tournament. Pepperdine opens Friday night against Air Force (1-1). Harvard and Nebraska also are in the tournament, which ends with Saturday night’s championship game.

“Obviously, this is an important week of preparation for the team,” Asbury said. “We need to determine what went wrong at UC Santa Barbara and make the necessary adjustments. I think it is important that we learn from the loss, but we must also put it behind us and focus on Friday’s game against Air Force.”

He said the Falcons are “a typical Air Force team. They play it very close to the vest. They walk (the ball) up, milk the clock and are a stingy defensive team.”

But Air Force has been less deliberate than usual with high-scoring senior guard Raymond Dudley in the lineup. Dudley, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., is averaging 17.5 points a game. Other Falcon standouts are 6-8 junior center Aaron Benson of Springfield, Mo., who is averaging 12.5 points and 11 rebounds, and 6-4 junior forward Chris Lowry of San Angelo, Tex., who is averaging 11 points.

Pepperdine will play its home opener against Tennessee-Chattanooga at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu. The Waves will then take a break for final examinations and will not play again until they challenge Kansas.

Asbury said that the Waves were “outhustled and outplayed in every area (by Santa Barbara),” but he added:

“I still believe that we have the depth, experience and talent to have an outstanding ballclub, but we need to do some serious soul-searching and find out who really wants to go out and play hard.

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“It’s too early to panic, but, by the same token, we need to get better.”


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