Portland was my preseason pick to finish third in the WCC, the Pilots came into Malibu, Calif. on a two game losing streak. Not exactly looking like a team capable of finishing near the top of the conference.
Pepperdine, picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches poll, came into this game half a game behind BYU for third place in the standings. After a two point loss to No. 3 Gonzaga, they really did look like a team that could finish near the top of the WCC.
The Pilots played like they needed this win, leading for most of the game. The Waves only got rolling late, just in time to avoid a costly loss at home.
Portland's front line of Thomas van der Mars and Volodymyr Gerun is one of the tallest and most talented in the west. Facing the nation's best three point percentage defense, and a team without the height down low to bang with the Pilots, it seemed like tonight would be an inside-out attack for Eric Reveno's offense.
Instead, it was the rebirth of Kevin Bailey. The senior guard missed eight games with a foot injury. Today was his fourth game back and the first where he looked completely back in form. His game high 28 points came from an almost unstoppable barrage of floaters, threes and free throws.
More importantly for the Pilots going forward, Bailey looked fully calm and in control on offense. The shots were coming to him.
While Bailey was dominant for the Pilots, Pepperdine used a more balanced offense.
Five Waves finished in double-figures, led by Shawn Olden who had 15. Atif Russell picked up four of his ten points at the free throw line in the final minute. Jeremy Major had 14 points, Jett Raines 13 and Stacy Davis added 11 off the bench. Davis has been playing much better since he started coming off the bench four games ago. Tonight he was held well below his off-the-bench scoring average, but that just allowed his teammates to show Pepperdine isn't a one trick pony.
Portland held the lead for the majority of the game, but the Waves never let Portland get too far ahead.
With 4:23 to play, a Jett Raines dunk tied things up at 52. 50 seconds later he hit a three that gave the Waves the lead. Pepperdine didn't give up the lead from that point forward. Though, as was the case with Portland, the Waves weren't able to pull very far ahead.
Down four with under a minute to play, the Pilots opted to go for the steal rather than send the Waves to the line. Trapped along the sideline by three Pilots, Shawn Olden fell to the ground and rolled out of bounds. Kevin Bailey, making his only mistake of the day, drove into Jett Raines on the next possession. Bailey was called with the charge, effectively forcing the Pilots into the end of game free throw scenario.
Bailey quickly made up for his mistake, drawing a foul on the other end and connecting on both free throws.
Unfortunately for Portland, playing the foul game, Bailey picked up his fifth personal just seconds later. The Pilots weren't able to get points on offense, and the Waves kept hitting just enough of their free throws to stay more than one bucket up on Portland.
Pepperdine improves to 12-6 (5-2) while Portland falls to 11-8 (2-5).