Men's Hoops Hosts Saint Mary's on FSN West
UPCOMING Â The regular season comes to an end at home for the Pepperdine men’s basketball team, which hosts Saint Mary’s and San Francisco this week. Thursday’s game against the Gaels will be shown on FSN West. It may be a long shot, but with two victories and some help, the Waves could finish in fourth place in the West Coast Conference and earn a first-round bye at the upcoming WCC Tournament. Picked to finish eighth, Pepperdine can end up no worse than in sixth place. Kenpom.com rates the Waves as having the eighth least-experienced team in the country, and freshmen and sophomores are combining for more than 83% of the points.
GAME #29 Â Thursday (Feb. 26) at Firestone Fieldhouse: Pepperdine (8-20, 5-7, tied for fifth place) vs. Saint Mary’s (22-5, 8-4, third place) at 7:30 p.m.
GAME #30 Â Saturday (Feb. 28) at Firestone Fieldhouse: Pepperdine vs. San Francisco (10-17, 2-10, seventh place) at 2 p.m. Pepperdine’s three seniors will be honored prior to the game. Pepperdine’s top-ranked men’s volleyball team plays later in the evening, with a match against UC Santa Barbara at 7 p.m.
ON THE WEB Â Subscribers to "Wave Casts" can catch all Pepperdine men’s basketball games on the internet at www.pepperdinesports.com. Veteran play-by-play man Al Epstein, now in his 24th season with the Waves, is behind the microphone. Non-televised home games will have live audio and video, while road games and home TV games will be audio only. Go to the Pepperdine Athletics website and look for the WaveCasts link. An annual pass costs $69.95 and monthly subscriptions are also available. Live statistics will be available for all home matches free of charge, and links are provided to the home team’s website when the Waves are on the road.
ON TELEVISION Â The Pepperdine-Saint Mary’s game will be televised live by FSN West. Paul Sunderland and Sean Farnham will call the game.
TICKETS Â Men’s basketball single-game tickets cost $15 (lower reserved), $12 (upper reserved), $10 (adult general admission) or $5 (children general admission). Call (866) WAVE-TIX to purchase tickets.
PROMOTIONS Â Gray Pepperdine T-shirts will be given to the first 100 students at Thursday’s basketball game ... Pepperdine’s Delta Delta Delta sorority will be soliciting funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital on Thursday ... Pepperdine mini-pennants will be given to the first 300 fans on Saturday.
SAINT MARY’S Â Pepperdine is 68-51 all-time against Saint Mary’s, including a loss in Moraga in January. The Gaels have won 10 of the last 11 meetings. The lone Pepperdine win in that stretch was in Moraga in 2007. The last home win came in 2004. Tom Asbury went 14-1 against Saint Mary’s in his first go-round as Pepperdine’s head coach. Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett and director of operations Mark Campbell are former Pepperdine assistants.
LAST TIME VS. SAINT MARY’S Â Back on Jan. 17 ... A bad start doomed Pepperdine, and it only got worse from there in a 96-46 loss at Saint Mary’s. Keion Bell (20 points) and Mychel Thompson (11 points) scored 31 of Pepperdine’s 46 points, but the rest of the squad shot 5-for-31. The Waves fell behind 16-1 and 28-3 before a 12-0 run cut the lead to 28-15. The Gaels made 15 three-pointers and had a 50.8% to 32.8% shooting edge.
SAN FRANCISCO Â Pepperdine is 46-64 all-time against San Francisco. The Waves’ win at USF in January ended a six-game losing streak in the series. The last Pepperdine home victory came in 2005. Tom Asbury went 13-3 against the Dons in his first stint as head coach. USF junior forward Blake Wallace played for the Waves as a freshman.
LAST TIME VS. SAN FRANCISCO Â Back on Jan. 29 ... Keion Bell scored a career-high 32 points on 13-for-14 shooting to lead Pepperdine to its first road victory of the season and a 69-67 win at San Francisco. The Waves led nearly the entire contest. Bell hit his first nine shots of the game and sank all four of his three-pointers. Pepperdine built a 16-3 lead early and was ahead 31-30 at halftime. The Dons took a couple of one-point leads midway through the second half, but Bell’s three-point play with 12:33 to go put the Waves ahead to stay at 47-45. Although USF cut into Pepperdine’s lead at the end, the Dons never had a chance to tie the game or take the lead. Ryan Holmes played his best game since returning from a knee injury, getting nine points and five assists in 23 minutes.
LAST GAME Â Keion Bell pushed his streak of scoring in double-figures to 10 games and recorded his fourth double-double of the season, but the visiting Pepperdine men’s basketball team lost at then-#17 Gonzaga, 92-58, on Saturday (Feb. 21). The Bulldogs won their 16th straight in the series and clinched their ninth consecutive WCC regular-season title. Bell had team highs of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Mike Hornbuckle also reached double-figures as he sank four three-pointers, good for 12 points. Pepperdine took its only lead at 2-0 but the Bulldogs scored the next 10 points and led 48-25 at halftime. The Waves were outshot 51.5% to 27.6%.
KEION BELL Â A strong candidate for WCC Freshman of the Year honors, Keion Bell has proven himself as a rising star in the conference. He is averaging team bests of 12.8 points overall (13th in the WCC and third among conference freshmen) and 15.8 points in conference play (sixth in the WCC, second among freshmen). He has scored in double-figures in 11 of 12 conference games, and has reached double-figures in 10 straight games (17.1 ppg in that time). He nearly set or tied two school records in the win at San Francisco on Jan. 29. His 32 points were two shy of the Pepperdine freshman record and his 13-for-14 shooting was one field goal made short of the single-game record for field-goal percentage. Though he stands just 6-foot-3, Bell has four double-doubles in conference play, and his 6.7 rebounds per conference game leads the team and is ninth in the WCC (second among freshmen).
RYAN HOLMES Â There’s a correlation between Pepperdine’s rapid improvement in recent weeks and the return to form by senior point guard Ryan Holmes. He missed 12 non-conference games with a knee sprain, and the Waves missed his steady play and leadership by going 2-10 without him in the lineup. Even as he tried to return from the injury, Holmes only collected a total of two points, three rebounds and three assists in his first five games back on the court. But in Pepperdine’s last four victories, Holmes averaged 12.0 points and 4.8 assists.
GOOD NEWS Â The return of Tom Asbury and his staff and the immediate impact they have made has led to some notable successes that haven’t been seen here in a while ... Pepperdine is assured of its most conference wins since at least 2005, when the team had six victories ... The last time the Waves were at .500 or better at the 10-game mark of WCC play was 2004 ... Pepperdine’s three-game winning streak was its first in conference play since February 2004 ... With home wins over Santa Clara and San Diego, Pepperdine had its first two-game weekend sweep in WCC action since January 2005.
OTHER SEASON NOTABLES Â The win over Cal State Monterey Bay gave the Waves their first victory in a season opener since 2001-02 ... Veteran broadcaster Al Epstein called his 700th consecutive Pepperdine men’s basketball broadcast vs. Pacific on Dec. 13 ... The game at Cal State Northridge on Dec. 18 was the 2,000th in program history ... The Waves beat Loyola Marymount in Firestone Fieldhouse for the 11th consecutive time ... Pepperdine won its conference opener (vs. LMU) for the first time since 2005 ... The season sweep of LMU was Pepperdine’s third in a row, and the Waves have now won 22 of the last 24 meetings ... The Waves ended a nine-game losing streak to San Diego and a six-game streak to San Francisco.
REBOUNDING Â An area that needed to improve, and has, is rebounding. Though the Waves have a rebound margin of -1.0 for the season, that’s better than the -4.4 and -12.3 of the previous two seasons. Over 12 conference games, the Waves have either outrebounded or equalled the opponent six times. Pepperdine is #2 in the WCC in offensive rebounds (12.68 per game).
CLOSE GAMES Â Pepperdine has improved to 6-5 in games decided by nine or fewer points (4-2 in games decided by five or fewer points).
COMEBACKS Â Three of Pepperdine’s victories have come after rallying from double-digit deficits. The Waves trailed by 11 points in the first half vs. Coppin State, by 15 points early in the second half vs. Santa Clara (as well as by eight points with four minutes remaining) and by 11 points in the first half vs. San Diego.
ROTATION Â Of the 12 players that saw action at Gonzaga, nine were freshmen or sophomores and seven weren’t on the roster last year. Pepperdine has been starting three freshmen, a sophomore and a senior lately. Prior to that, the Waves had started four freshmen and one sophomore for nine straight games. The Waves have played five freshmen on the court at one time on an occasional basis.
FRESHMAN SCORING Â Last year, freshmen scored 63.6% of Pepperdine’s points. It’s virtually assured that the new group of freshmen will lead the way in 2008-09 as well. Right now they account for 57.5% of the scoring, compared to 25.9% by the sophomores and 16.6% by the seniors. The two games where freshmen contributed the most were at Hawaii and vs. Portland (76%). The freshmen have been the highest-scoring class in all but two games.
STAT LEADERS Â In the WCC, Keion Bell is fourth in steals (1.61), 11th in free throw percentage (.725) and 13th in scoring (12.8) ... Taylor Darby is ninth in rebounding (6.4) ... Andy Shannon is 11th in blocked shots (0.84) ... Dane Suttle Jr. is 13th in three-point field goal percentage (.367) ... Ryan Holmes is 15th in assists (2.19) ... Mychel Thompson is 15th in blocked shots (0.57).
PLAYER OF THE WEEK Â Keion Bell became Pepperdine’s first WCC Player of the Week in about two years on Feb. 16. In home victories over Santa Clara and San Diego, he averaged 16.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.5 steals. He had 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals against Santa Clara. As the Waves rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit, his two free throws gave Pepperdine the lead for good with 1:56 left. He then collected his third double-double of the season with game highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds against San Diego, as well as five steals and four assists. Bell scored 12 of Pepperdine’s final 15 points of the game as the Waves held off the Toreros. The five steals were the most by a Pepperdine player this season. Bell is Pepperdine’s first WCC Player of the Week honoree since Chase Griffin won the award in February 2007. He’s the first Pepperdine freshman to win the award since Shaun Davis in December 2003.
ROSTER Â The Waves have just five players that saw action last season. Only four of them were on the roster at season’s end, and because of injuries, only two of them played in the 2007-08 season finale at the WCC Tournament. The five returners accounted for 40.2% of last year’s scoring (950/2,365), 32.0% of the rebounding (357/1,117), 59.6% of the assists (239/401), 16.4% of the blocked shots (21/128) and 57.9% of the steals (183/316). To replenish the roster, the Waves added 10 newcomers. Two are sophomores that are junior college transfers, six are scholarship freshmen and two others are walk-on freshmen. Of the 15 players, 12 are underclassmen. The breakdown is three seniors, zero juniors, four sophomores and eight freshmen.
AGRE OUT Â Sophomore center Denis Agre, in his first season at Pepperdine after transferring from Central Arizona College, became academically ineligible at the start of the semester. He averaged 3.2 points and 3.6 rebounds and started seven of the first 16 games.
RETURNERS Â Three players Â senior Rico Tucker (10.7 ppg last season), sophomore Mychel Thompson (8.1 ppg) and senior Ryan Holmes (6.0 ppg) Â were starters in 2007-08. Senior Mike Hornbuckle (5.5 ppg) saw extended playing time last season and started half of the 32 games. Sophomore Gus Clardy (1.3 ppg), a walk-on, appeared in 16 games last season.
NEWCOMERS Â When Tom Asbury was hired in February 2008, he was given a very late start to the recruiting process. The three recruits that signed letters-of-intent with the previous coaching staff were given their release, and several players transferred following the season. With many holes to fill, Asbury and his staff utilized their contacts, identified the best of the remaining unsigned talent that fit their needs and put together a very impressive group under the circumstances. The Sporting News ranked Pepperdine’s recruiting class #2 in the West Coast Conference.
NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE Â The home schedule should have been much more palatable to Waves fans in 2008-09. A year after playing just three non-conference home games, Pepperdine supporters were treated to eight this time around, including ones against such big-time opponents as Brigham Young and Georgia Tech, and in-state rivals such as Cal State Bakersfield, UC Irvine and Pacific. A few of the road games were notable too, including contests at Pac-10 foes Arizona State and USC. The Waves also took part in the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii right after Christmas.
TELEVISION Â The Waves will appear on television several times once again in 2008-09. Six games will be shown locally (Nov. 21 at Arizona State on FSN Prime Ticket, Jan. 10 vs. Loyola Marymount on ESPNU, Jan. 22 vs. Gonzaga on FSN West, Feb. 14 vs. San Diego on FSN West, Feb. 21 at Gonzaga on ESPNU and Feb. 26 vs. Saint Mary’s on FSN West). A few other games will be televised out of market (Nov. 21 at New Mexico State on FSN Arizona, Dec. 28 vs. Buffalo on KFVE in Hawaii, Jan. 17 at Saint Mary’s on Comcast Sports Net California).
TOM ASBURY Â It was announced on Feb. 19, 2008, that the architect of one of the best stretches in Pepperdine history, Tom Asbury, was returning to Malibu to become the Waves’ head coach again. Asbury was previously at Pepperdine for 15 seasons, the first nine as an assistant coach (1980-88) and then the next six as the head coach (1989-94). He then served as head coach at Kansas State from 1995-2000 and was most recently an assistant coach at Alabama from 2004-07. Asbury went 125-59 (.679) in his first six seasons with the Waves and 210-147 (.588) in his first 12 seasons overall as a head coach. The Waves went to the postseason five times in six years with three NCAA Tournament appearances (1991, ’92, ’94) and two in the NIT (1989, ’93). Pepperdine won three regular-season West Coast Conference titles, finished no worse than second in any of his six seasons and compiled a league record of 66-18 (.786). Pepperdine’s only three WCC Tournament championships came under Asbury.
ASSISTANTS Â Tom Asbury wanted to find assistants with a passion for Pepperdine and an understanding of its mission, so he turned to three former student-athletes. It’s believed that Duke and Pepperdine have the only two college basketball staffs where the assistant coaches are all alums. Associate head coach Marty Wilson (1985-89) and assistant coaches Damin Lopez (1990-94) and Will Kimble (2001-03) played in three different eras, all successful. In the 13 seasons that made up their playing careers, Pepperdine went a combined 261-135 (.659), had 12 winning seasons, won six WCC regular-season titles and three WCC tournament titles, and made six NCAA Tournaments and four NITs.
RECRUITS Â The Waves signed two players to letters-of-intent for 2009-10 during the early-signing period. They are 6-foot-3 point guard Josh Lowery (Phoenix, Ariz./Desert Vista HS) and 6-foot-9 forward/center Tanner Kerry (Sydney, Australia).
WCC PRESEASON POLL Â Thankfully, the coaches got it wrong. Pepperdine is assured of doing better than predicted, as the Waves were picked to finish eighth in the conference’s preseason poll, done by a vote of the coaches. The predicted order of finish went Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, San Diego, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Portland, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.
LAST SEASON Â The midseason resignation of Vance Walberg and several player departures that followed contributed to Pepperdine’s third straight losing season, as the Waves finished 11-21 overall and sixth in the WCC at 4-10. They defeated Portland in the first round of the WCC Tournament before falling to eventual champion San Diego in the quarterfinals.
PEPPERDINE HISTORY Â This is the 71st season of Pepperdine basketball, and the Waves opened 2008-09 with an all-time record of 1,102-887 (.554). Pepperdine has been to the NCAA Tournament 13 times (last in 2002), and has won 12 West Coast Conference regular-season titles (last in 2002) and three WCC Tournament crowns (last in 1994).
BEST IN THE WEST Â Over the 30-season period from the 1978-79 season through the 2007-08 campaign, Pepperdine has proven itself as one of the top Division I programs on the West Coast. Of the 31 schools that currently play Division I basketball in California, Oregon or Washington, the Waves began the 2008-09 season ranking third overall in postseason appearances (16) and fifth in both wins (516) and winning percentage (.575) over the past 30 years.
WCC HALL OF HONOR Â Pepperdine great Doug Christie will be among the first class inducted into the WCC Hall of Honor at the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas in March. Christie was a two-time All-American and WCC Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992. The other seven set to be inducted are Hank Gathers (Loyola Marymount), Frank Burgess (Gonzaga), Clive Charles (Portland), Carroll Williams (Santa Clara), Tom Meschery (Saint Mary’s), Bernie Bickerstaff (San Diego) and Joe Ellis (San Francisco).
WAVES IN THE PROS Â Several former Pepperdine players have gone on to play in the NBA, most notably Dennis Johnson (the 1979 NBA Finals MVP) and Doug Christie (a 15-year NBA veteran who was a mainstay on the All-Defensive Team). This is the 33rd consecutive season where at least one Pepperdine alum has been on an NBA roster. Currently in the NBA is Yakhouba Diawara, now in his third season overall and his first with the Miami Heat. Alex Acker began the season with the Detroit Pistons but has come home after being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Some recent players have been playing in foreign countries, including Brandon Armstrong (Ukraine), Casey Crawford (Mexico), Tashaan Forehan-Kelly (New Zealand), Jelani Gardner (Greece), Kelvin Gibbs (Germany), Chase Griffin (Germany), Dana Jones (Switzerland) and Glen McGowan (Dominican Republic) and Levy Middlebrooks (Mexico). Robert "Hollywood" Turner, formerly a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, is now playing in Germany.
ABOUT PEPPERDINE Â Pepperdine boasts a one-of-a-kind athletic department with unprecedented success for a school of its size. The Waves have won a total of nine NCAA championships in five different men’s sports Â one of just 14 schools to have accomplished this feat. Of the 14, Pepperdine is the only non-BCS school and has by far the smallest enrollment. The majority of Pepperdine’s teams are ranked nationally year after year and several compete for conference and national titles.