Pepperdine usually needs all the troops it can muster against aggressive Santa Clara.
But Saturday night at Toso Pavilion, the Waves were without three regulars for part of the game and starting forward Tom Lewis for all of it.
They paid a price because Jeffty Connelly, who led Santa Clara with 18 points, made two free throws with five seconds remaining to give the Broncos a 72-70 victory before an estimated 3,500.
Lewis was suspended indefinitely for missing curfew Thursday night after Pepperdine's game at the University of San Diego. Starters Craig Davis, Geoff Lear and top reserve Doug Christie were benched for about the first five minutes of the game, apparently for lesser offenses in the same curfew incident.
Five minutes was time enough for Santa Clara (4-11, 1-2) to jump to a 14-0 lead.
After its disastrous start, Pepperdine, which trailed at halftime, 34-26, got back in the game in the second half, largely through the efforts of Davis and Dexter Howard.
Davis, who led the Waves with nine points in the first half, finished with 22. Howard scored a game-high 23 points, including a breakaway layup that gave Pepperdine (7-8, 1-1) its only lead of the night, 66-65, with 2:46 remaining.
A layup by Lear, who finished with 10 points but only four rebounds, tied it, 70-70. But then Connelly made his free throws, and Melvin Chinn, who had a career-high 15 points, stole the ball from Davis with one second left.
Santa Clara's 7-footer, Ron Reis, had 19 points and nine rebounds.
Pepperdine Coach Tom Asbury said that he would not expand on the reasons why he suspended Lewis and disciplined the others.