MALIBU — UC Irvine men's basketball Coach Russell Turner said he kept looking for someone to step up during the Anteaters' 76-69 nonconference loss at Pepperdine on Saturday.
But more pivotal was the lack of someone to knock down perimeter shots for the visitors (6-5), who finished just five for 29 from three-point range (17.2%) to waste a spirited comeback against the Waves (5-8).
UCI, which had converted 23 of 43 three-point tries its previous two games (53.5%), missed its first 14 three-point attempts to allow Pepperdine to seize a 38-23 lead with 2:45 left in the opening half.
But the 'Eaters ended the half on a 10-0 run, including a pair of three-pointers by junior reserve guard Derrick Strings to climb back into the game and claim the momentum.
"I thought we had real good energy at halftime," said Turner, whose team continued its upswing when play resumed.
The second of two straight three-pointers by senior point guard Patrick Rembert pulled the visitors within 50-49. And when Daman Starring netted a pair of foul shots with 14:01 left, UCI took a 51-50 advantage, its first lead since 6-5.
Senior Darren Moore, who led the 'Eaters with 16 points, scored on a swooping drive to continue the run and when freshman Chris McNealy sank two free throws to cap a 9-0 UCI spurt, the visitors led, 55-50, with 11:29 remaining.
But UCI made only three field goals the next 11-plus minutes, until McNealy netted a meaningless three-pointer to beat the buzzer.
UCI finished 19 of 61 from the field (a season-low 31.1%) and also fell short in the rebounding (45 to 44) and the turnover departments (committing 14, three more than the Waves).
After McNealy's tip-in knotted the score at 64 with 4:03 left, UCI went not only cold, but scoreless for nearly four minutes.
"I was disappointed in my team because we missed a lot of shots, and it seemed like it affected our level of play," Turner said. "We closed the half well, but before that, it seemed like we didn't have that extra burst that allows you to make the difference-making plays. That's disappointing, because I believe to this point, we'd had that in every game."
Rembert finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double. He also led UCI with four assists. Moore had seven rebounds, three assists and two steals, and was five for 10 from the field, the only Anteater who shot at least 50%.
But Moore and Daman Starring both missed all four of their three-point attempts, and Mike Wilder and McNealy were a combined one for six from beyond the arc.
UCI also was plagued by foul trouble as forwards Eric Wise and Pavol Losonsky, as well as Wilder, fouled out. Wise, who had missed six of the previous seven games with a hip injury, was one for seven from the field and was demonstratively frustrated most of his 17 minutes.
Turner said Wise also displayed some layoff-induced rust.
The Waves were led by Keion Bell, who came in ranked 10th in the nation in scoring, and Mychel Thompson.
Bell was three of 12 from the field, but converted 11 of 12 foul shots to collect 19 points, four below his average.
Thompson, whose three-pointer with 3:08 left broke a 64-64 tie and put the hosts up for good, had 18 points. Both Bell and Thompson had seven rebounds.
Pepperdine 76, UC Irvine 69
UCI — Losonsky 8, Wise 6, Moore 16, Rembert 10, Starring 8, Strings 8, McNealy 8, Wilder 5.
3-pt. goals — Rembert 2, Strings 2, McNealy 1.
Fouled out — Wise, Losonsky, Wilder.
Technicals — None.
Pep — Thompson 18, Clardy 5, Darby 4, Bell 19, Lowery 8, Jackson 14, Dupre 8.
3-pt. goals — Thompson 3, Bell 2. Lowery 1, Jackson 1.
Fouled out — None.
Technicals — None.
Halftime — Pepperdine, 38-33.