Men's Basketball Finishes Strong in 59-50 Season-Opening Win
Nov. 12, 2011
Caleb Willis scored a career-high 18 points to lead the Pepperdine men's basketball team to a 59-50 victory over Pomona-Pitzer in the season opener for both teams on Saturday night at Firestone Fieldhouse.
The win was the first for new Pepperdine head coach Marty Wilson.
"The win was great," he said. "It was obviously stressful. We had a good start and then they settled in. It was a battle, but I thought our guys showed practice and poise."
Willis sank four of five three-pointers, including one at the halftime buzzer that put Pepperdine ahead 26-25. His fourth and final one gave the Waves their first double-digit lead of the night at 48-38 with 3:12 to play.
"Caleb was good on both ends of the floor," Wilson said. "He played within himself and stuck to the game plan. He shot his threes in rhythm and played solid defensively."
Willis had seven early points and senior guard Dane Suttle Jr. (Los Angeles, Calif./Summit College Prep) sank two three-pointers as the Waves built an early 17-10 lead.
But it turned out that it wouldn't be easy to put away the Division III Sagehens. Pomona-Pitzer used a 15-2 run to lead by as many as six in the first half at 25-19. Although the Waves led for the majority of the second half, the Sagehens were able to take a 36-34 lead with 8:40 to play.
That's when Pepperdine took over for good, as senior forward Taylor Darby (San Marcos, Calif./Mission Hills HS) scored the first five points of a 9-0 run to put the Waves ahead 43-36 with 5:19 to play. The lead would extend to 13 points in the final minute.
Darby finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Freshman forward Ramon Eaton (Sacramento, Calif./Sheldon HS) had a productive first game with six points and eight rebounds, including two second-half putbacks. Senior center Corbin Moore (Cypress, Calif./Los Alamitos HS) grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Waves overcame a difficult shooting night, as they were at 34.6% for the game. But they also held Pomona-Pitzer to just 38.2% from the field.
Pepperdine had big advantages on the boards (42-29) and at the free throw line, where the Waves were 17-for-21 to just 0-for-1 for the Sagehens.
Pomona-Pitzer was led by reserves Greg Wright (12 points) and Po Grant (11 points).
The Waves next visit Arizona State on Tuesday (Nov. 15) at 5:30 p.m. PT/6:30 p.m. MT. Fans can listen to Al Epstein's broadcast and join an interactive live game blog at www.pepperdinesports.com. FOXSportsArizona.com will also have a live webcast.