Waves Fall Short in WCC Championship
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The Pepperdine women's basketball team played a solid first half against top-seeded Gonzaga in the championship game of the Zappos.com West Coast Conference Tournament, but the favored Bulldogs had a big second half en route to a 76-48 victory on Monday afternoon at the Orleans Arena.
The third-seeded Waves (20-11), which beat rival Loyola Marymount and upset second-seeded Saint Mary's to get to the final, trailed 18th-ranked Gonzaga (27-4) by only eight, 34-26, at halftime. But the Bulldogs outscored the Waves 42-22 in the second half.
"We're disappointed in this game, but I'm definitely really proud of how our kids have played all year long," Pepperdine Coach Julie Rousseau said. "When you have such a young team, and they work as hard as they do, our future is definitely bright. Our goal is to hopefully get into the WNIT and keep playing basketball this season. We feel like we have the record to do it."
Sophomore guard Lauren Bell (San Bruno, Calif./Sacred Heart Cathedral) concluded an outstanding three days by scoring a team-high 16 points and being named to the All-Tournament Team. She averaged a team-best 15.0 points over the three games after entering the tournament with an 8.6 scoring average.
Senior center Miranda Ayim (London, Ontario, Canada/Saunders Secondary) joined Bell on the All-Tournament Team. She scored 10 points today and averaged 12.0 points for the tournament. Sophomore guard Jazmine Jackson (Oakland, Calif./Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep) scored six points and tied her career high with 10 rebounds.
The Waves needed a big shooting performance to upset the Bulldogs, but Gonzaga posted a 47.5%-25.4% advantage from the field. Tournament MVP Courtney Vandersloot had game highs of 19 points and eight assists.
"We played well in the first half," Rousseau said. "We came in with confidence. I don't know if playing an extra game played a part in the second half. You look at the time frame, for 20-plus minutes we played toe to toe. But their subs and bringing new people in hurt us. Gonzaga is a very good team that has played together for a long time. They've got a lot of upperclassmen, we're a young team, and that was the biggest difference. This was their year."
Jackson gave the Waves a 2-0 lead with a pair of free throws, but Gonzaga scored the next 13 points. Pepperdine then responded with five straight points to cut the lead to 13-7. Bell made a steal on defense and went the length of the court for a lay-up. She was fouled and made the ensuing free throw.
Gonzaga's lead grew to 14 points at 28-14 with a little more than seven minutes to play in the first half when the Waves began a comeback. Ayim and sophomore center Alex Jarrell (Shelbyville, Tenn./Shelbyville Central HS) made lay-ups, Bell connected on two free throws and a driving basket, and Ayim scored in the post for a 10-0 run, making it a four-point game at 28-24 with a little more than two minutes left.
The Bulldogs ended up going into halftime with a 34-26 lead.
Sophomore guard Katie Menton (Coarsegold, Calif./Yosemite HS) opened the second half with a three-pointer, cutting the Zags' lead to five, but the Bulldogs scored 16 of the next 18 points to help put the game out of reach as they went ahead 50-31 with 14 1/2 minutes remaining. Gonzaga led by as many as 31 toward the end.
"I thought we came out the first couple of possessions pretty strong, but we made a few lapses in judgment and that's what makes all the difference when you are playing a team like Gonzaga," Ayim said. "We just need to clean those up the following week while we wait for word from the WNIT."
Pepperdine was appearing in its sixth WCC championship game and first since 2006, when Rousseau's squad upset top-seeded Santa Clara to earn the league's bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Waves are now 3-3 in WCC Tournament finals.
With a 20-win season, a third-place regular-season finish in the WCC and this weekend's showing, the Waves could earn a berth in the postseason Women's NIT. The tournament expanded to 64 teams this year and there are 33 at-large bids that will be given out. The field will be announced on Monday, March 15.