Pepperdine made it interesting with a second-half comeback, but missed chances in the final minute allowed San Diego to escape with a 56-54 upset in the first round of the West Coast Conference men's basketball tournament Saturday night at Toso Pavilion.
After rallying from a nine-point deficit to take the lead, the Waves gave up a three-point play to San Diego's Ryan Williams to fall behind by two points with 1:16 to play and failed to convert on their last two possessions.
Pepperdine's season ended when Kelvin Gibbs missed a 10-foot jump shot in the key with three seconds left and the rebound rolled out of bounds.
"We had a pretty good shot," Pepperdine Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "It just didn't fall."
It was disappointing loss for the second-seeded Waves (17-10), who entered the tournament after winning their final four regular-season games, including a victory at Gonzaga, the WCC champion.
But seventh-seeded San Diego (14-13) was confident it could compete with the Waves after beating them, 78-70, three weeks ago at San Diego.
"The pressure was on them," Torero forward Brian Miles said.
Playing tough defense, San Diego limited Pepperdine to 20-of-52 shooting (38.5%) and forced 16 turnovers.
"What we saw was a great battle between two of the hottest teams in the league," said San Diego Coach Brad Holland, whose team has won five of its past seven games. "We grinded it out on defense. We knew Pepperdine was going to make a run in the second half."
San Diego took its biggest lead, 39-30, early in the second half before Pepperdine rallied behind Gerald Brown. The senior guard hit consecutive three-point baskets to ignite a 12-2 run that put the Waves ahead, 45-43, with 9:12 to play--their first lead since the opening minutes.
Brown, who scored 21 points, gave Pepperdine its final lead, 54-53, on a three-point basket with 1:52 to play.
On the game-winning play, the Waves trapped Miles near the baseline with a double-team, but he found Williams cutting to the basket. Williams made a layup and was fouled by Bryan Hill before making the free throw, finishing with a game-high 23 points.
Pepperdine missed a chance to regain the lead when, with the shot clock winding down, Brown missed a three-point shot with 41 seconds left.
The Waves got the ball back with 14 seconds left after Brown rebounded a Williams miss. Brown dribbled into the front court, drove inside and passed back out to Tommie Prince, who passed to Jelani Gardner. Gardner had a look at the basket but passed to Gibbs for the final shot.
Hill helped keep the Waves close with 14 points and 16 rebounds.