With the outcome in doubt, Pepperdine turned up the heat Sunday.
Santa Clara promptly wilted like a daisy under the desert sun.
The Waves turned a six-point deficit into a resounding 69-57 victory by outscoring the Broncos, 25-7, in the last eight minutes to win the West Coast Conference women's basketball tournament for the second year in a row and earn an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Under siege from Pepperdine's defensive pressure, Santa Clara scored only two field goals during the decisive stretch, its last basket a meaningless layup in the waning seconds of the final before 1,641 at Jenny Craig Pavilion.
"That was the game plan -- 40 minutes of pressure," Wave Coach Mark Trakh said. "We might have been down, but the game's a marathon, it's not a sprint."
Reserve forward Kelli Spencer helped rescue top-seeded Pepperdine (22-7) after it fell behind, 50-44, with 8:02 to play. The 6-foot-2 sophomore made a jump shot from the baseline and followed it with a three-point play, igniting an 11-0 run.
Damaris Hinojosa capped the run by stealing the ball and going the length of the court for a layup and a 55-50 Wave lead with 4:05 left.
Spencer, who began the game averaging 3.8 points, scored all but one of her career-best 14 points in the second half and was named to the all-tournament team.
"Once I hit my first shot of the second half, it felt good," said Spencer, who made five of seven shots. "Next time down, I hit the second one. After that, it just kind of snowballed. Sometimes you're hot, and luckily it was me today."
Spencer's contributions fit into Pepperdine's game plan, which was to play all nine players and try to wear down third-seeded Santa Clara (20-10), which was playing its third game in as many days. The Waves played two games in the tournament after having byes in the first two rounds.
Forward Keani Christianson, an all-tournament pick, had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Waves.
Bronco forward Kendra Rhea, who had 14 points and nine rebounds, was named tournament most valuable player.