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It’s All Over for Gardner, Pepperdine

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the second time in 11 days, Jelani Gardner had ball in his hands with Pepperdine down in the closing seconds.

His missed shot on Feb. 28 against Santa Clara meant elimination from the West Coast Conference tournament. His missed shot Wednesday night against Colorado meant the end of the Waves’ season--and his collegiate career.

With Pepperdine down by two and eight seconds on the clock, Gardner dribbled and took a running, off-balance 12-footer that rolled off the back of the rim and the ball fell into the hands of the Buffaloes’ Jaquay Walls . Walls was fouled and made two free throws to give Colorado a 65-61 victory before 4,457 at Coors Events Center in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

“I failed,” Gardner said. “I guess that’s part of the game, you’re going to fail. But I’d take that shot again.”

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The missed shot was the last of a two-for-12 effort by Gardner, whose collegiate career began in 1994 at California and continued at Pepperdine, where he transferred after his after his sophomore season.

“I’ve known Jelani since the 10th grade,” Pepperdine Coach Lorenzo Romar said. “He’s been through a lot and become a better player. You want to see him hit one, just that one.”

Gardner had only six points, but that was better than the output of Kenny Price, the three-point scoring threat for Colorado (18-14) who had four points.

Price was guarded closely by Tommie Prince, making open shots for the Big 12 leader in three-point baskets almost impossible. Price made only two of eight shots--missing all five of his three-point shots.

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Price made nine three-point baskets and scored 31 points in Colorado’s previous game, a loss to Texas in the Big 12 tournament.

Instead, most of the scoring was done inthe paint Wednesday.

Colorado forward Jamahl Mosley had a career-high 23 points to lead all scorers. Pepperdine got double-digit scoringfrom center Nick Sheppard (12), and forwards Prince (11), Kelvin Gibbs and Marc McDowell (10 apiece).

Sheppard also had a team-high five turnovers, none bigger than when he fumbled a pass out of bounds with Pepperdine down, 62-61, with 16.4 seconds left and an opening to the basket.

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“I thought we had a layup on that one,” Romar said. “If we got it inside with one-on-one defense, I thought we had a good chance to score. We got the ball there, we just couldn’t hold on.”

Instead, Colorado got the ball and Mosley, after being fouled, made the last of his seven free throws, leading to Gardner’s final missed shot.

Pepperdine (19-13) forced 17 turnovers but committed 22 fouls to Colorado’s 13. The Buffaloes were 19 for 24 on free throws. Pepperdine was six for 11.

Said Romar, whose team’s 19 victories were the most in his three seasons at Pepperdine: “We accomplished a lot this year. We had a monster schedule, and a lot of those teams in the [NCAA] tournament, we played.

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“But on the other side, we didn’t quite get over the hump. We were this close to having a phenomenal year.”

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* Box score, Page 13


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