Shots Go Astray, So Siena Tops Pepperdine for Title
Just as it had been against Rhode Island on Tuesday, Pepperdine’s basketball team was on fire early against Siena, taking a 50-42 lead by halftime Wednesday in the championship game of the Sparkletts Invitational at Malibu.
But this time the Waves weren’t able to hold on. They scored only one point in the final 3:41 and lost, 85-76, before 1,632, bringing to an end their 10-game winning streak at Firestone Fieldhouse.
With the Saints trailing, 75-74, one of their assistant coaches reminded the players of something Siena Coach Paul Hewitt has stressed all season.
“Something we talk about at every practice is we want to be even in the last four minutes, then see who’s left standing,” said Hewitt, whose team is off to a 9-1 start. “With about four minutes left, one of our coaches stood up and yelled to the team, ‘Four minutes.’ ”
Five players scored the final 11 points for Siena. Tournament MVP Marcus Faison led the Saints with 17 points and had a game-high four steals. All-tournament selection Marc McDowell, making his first two starts of the season for Pepperdine in the tournament, led all scorers with 18 points.
But not even McDowell could generate any offense for the Waves (8-6) in the final minutes.
“We got caught in a half-court game down the stretch and couldn’t make shots,” Pepperdine Coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Six-footers, four-footers, two-footers.”
“We got any shot we wanted,” said Pepperdine forward Kelvin Gibbs, who scored eight points and also was selected to the all-tournament team. “We just couldn’t knock them down.”
The Waves were able to play the running style Romar wanted in the first half, scoring 18 points on lay-ups. They shot 50% in the half, but only 30.8% in the second 20 minutes.
Free throws in the second half were also a problem for the Waves. They shot 17 in each half, but made only nine in the second after making 13 in the first.
Pepperdine plays Saturday at San Jose State in its final game before West Coast Conference play.
Although the Waves did upset Rhode Island Tuesday, Gibbs said Wednesday’s loss takes away all momentum gained from that victory.
“We shouldn’t lose at home,” he said. “I feel like we’re right back where we started.”
The Rams kept Eastern Michigan winless in the consolation game, winning, 79-68.
Rhode Island (7-6) was led by Lamar Odom’s 19 points and nine rebounds and forward Antonio Reynolds-Dean’s 20 points.
“It was nice to come out and dominate a team,” said Ram Coach Jim Harrick, whose team led by 13 at halftime. “We did let them back in a little late, but we controlled the game.”
Craig Erquhart scored a tournament-high 28 for the Eagles (0-10).
While the inaugural Sparkletts Invitational featured Harrick’s return to Southern California and a Siena team best known for suffering a measles outbreak near the end of the 1988-89 season before upsetting Stanford in the NCAA tournament, next year’s event will feature a team best known for upsetting UCLA in the 1996 NCAA tournament.
Princeton, which defeated UCLA in the opening round that year, will be joined by Colorado State and Loyola of Chicago, coached by former UCLA player and assistant Larry Farmer.