Pepperdine overcame a rash of injuries to win its fourth West Coast Conference women's basketball title in five seasons, a feat Coach Mark Trakh attributes to having capable players filling every roster spot.
"We don't have anyone who can go out and dominate a game," he said. "But when we substitute, we have no one who can hurt us."
Trakh, in his 10th season, will bring a depleted but balanced team into the conference tournament, starting today at San Diego, as the Waves try to defend their title and earn an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Top-seeded Pepperdine (20-7) has byes through the first two rounds and will not play until a 2:15 p.m. semifinal Saturday. The championship game is Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
In today's first-round games, sixth-seeded Loyola Marymount (13-14) plays seventh-seeded Portland (11-16) at noon and fifth-seeded San Diego (11-16) meets eighth-seeded St. Mary's (11-16) at 2:15 p.m. Loyola will be without leading scorer Claudine Auld, suspended last week for breaking unspecified team rules.
Pepperdine is down to nine players after Alicia Komaki, a backup guard, suffered a torn knee ligament Friday against St. Mary's. Knee injuries also sidelined center Shannon Mayberry and point guard Shandrika Lee, the Waves' best player, for the season. A broken toe kept guard Damaris Hinojosa out of three conference games.
The injuries forced Trakh to constantly shuffle his lineup. Players who stepped into bigger roles included senior guard Tamara McDonald, who filled in for Lee, and sophomore guard Shanell Law. McDonald was chosen WCC player of the year and Law was selected all-conference.
Pepperdine was 12-2 in conference play, going 2-0 against every team except San Francisco, which completed a sweep of the Waves with a 69-61 victory Saturday. The fourth-seeded Dons (12-16) could meet Pepperdine in a semifinal.
The WCC men's tournament begins Friday, also at San Diego.
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No. 6 Loyola Marymount vs. No. 7 Portland, noon; No. 5 San Diego vs. No. 8 St. Mary's, 30 minutes following.
LMU-Portland winner vs. No. 3 Santa Clara, noon; San Diego-St. Mary's winner vs. No. 4 San Francisco, 30 minutes following.
Semifinal play-in winner vs. No. 2 Gonzaga, noon; Semifinal play-in winner vs. No. 1 Pepperdine, 30 minutes following.
Championship, 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net 2. Winner advances to NCAA tournament.
Note: WCC men's tournament begins Friday. The championship game is Monday at 9 p.m.