Waves Put St. Mary’s Under Glass
By pulling an inside job Friday night, Pepperdine pulled a little closer to the leaders in the West Coast Conference.
The Waves aggressively hit the offensive boards and burned St. Mary’s for 18 baskets on layups or dunks en route to a 91-65 victory before 2,517 at Firestone Fieldhouse.
“It was our best all-around effort of the year,” Pepperdine Coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We did a great job of being patient and hitting the open man.”
It was the second-largest winning margin of the season for the Waves (12-7, 4-3 in the WCC), who moved to within a game of first place. Santa Clara, Gonzaga and Portland are tied for the lead at 5-2.
After several close games, including an overtime loss at home to Loyola Marymount last week, Romar was encouraged to see Pepperdine firing on all cylinders.
“This is a mountain we’ve been climbing,” he said. “We’ve shown signs of making strides, but then we slide back down. We’ve got to continue to play at the level we did tonight.”
Guard Gerald Brown scored 25 points for Pepperdine, 16 coming on eight layups. The 6-foot-4 senior made 11 of 14 shots and had a game-high nine rebounds.
“I was cutting to the basket and [my teammates] were just spoon-feeding me,” said Brown, who has struggled with his jump shot in recent games. “I just wanted to come out and put in all the easy ones.”
St. Mary’s (8-11, 3-4) never challenged after Pepperdine took a 53-34 lead two minutes into the second half on--what else--a layup by Tommie Prince.
Prince, a 6-5 forward, shut down St. Mary’s guard David Sivulich, who entered the game leading the WCC in scoring with a 20.1 average. The 5-10 Sivulich finished with nine points, making only two of nine shots.
“I tried to make sure he didn’t get off any easy shots,” Prince said. “I just kept fighting through all the double- and triple-screens. I knew in order to win, I had to contain him.”
Sivulich finished with one three-point basket, one fewer than Pepperdine’s Al Minahan, a walk-on guard.
Pepperdine held St. Mary’s, the most productive three-point shooting team in the WCC, to three baskets in 11 shots from behind the arc. On the other end, the Waves helped themselves with 14 offensive rebounds.
“They kicked our butt on the offensive glass,” St. Mary’s Coach Dave Bollwinkel said. “It got them the lead early and after that they were able to play free and easy.”
A putback basket by forward Kelvin Gibbs gave the Waves a 23-12 lead midway through the first half.
St. Mary’s pulled to within four before Pepperdine closed the half with a 12-4 run to take a 44-32 lead.
Jelani Gardner had 18 points and eight assists for the Waves, who got a lift from Gibbs and Marc McDowell. Gibbs made six of seven shots and finished with 12 points. McDowell, a reserve forward, made four of five shots and scored 11.
The Waves made 37 of 61 shots (60.7%).
Pepperdine will take a two-game winning streak against last-place San Diego at 7:30 tonight in Malibu.