MALIBU — The Waves completed an improbable second half comeback scoring 13 consecutive points in the final three minutes to knock off UC Irvine 77-73, securing their first win of the season in dramatic fashion. The highly anticipated thriller between California’s top mid-majors deserves an early nomination for game of the year.
Pepperdine won their ninth consecutive home opening game and registered a big win against a fellow Mid-Major Madness top 25 team.
The situation looked bleak for the Waves as they trailed the reigning Big West champs 73-64 with under three left in the game. Until that point, the Anteaters had controlled the entire game outside of a late Waves run in the first half.
The Waves did not have an answer for senior guard. Lorenzo Romar’s team was staring at home opening loss and a glaring 0-2 start. UC Irvine senior guard Eyassu Worku scored at will, finishing with a career high 26 points and the Waves were running out of answers to stop him.
Desperate to ignite a late spark, Pepperdine turned to a full court press that caused immediate dysfunction to the UC Irvine offense. Pepperdine would force two turnovers in the next four possessions. After UC Irvine made its final points made on two free throws, Kessler Edwards hits three-point basket in the corner- then he goes on to steal the inbound pass then gives the ball to a trailing Ross who hits a big three point basket to make it a three point game.
The following possession, the other Edwards brother, Kameron Edwards forced a turnover-then when on to convert a floater to make it a one-point game. On the next Pepperdine possession, Kameron Edwards hit a three-point shot to give Pepperdine the lead with less than 10 seconds on the clock.
When Romar called for the press he knew his team was going to be able to do it despite very little practice.
“We actually hadn’t worked on it a lot, but we did it a lot last year and we had a lot of experienced guys on the floor,” Romar said. “So they just picked up where they left off and were able to execute.”
Kameron Edwards lead the Waves with 21 points and 10 rebounds while his brother Kessler Edwards added 15 points. Overall, the Waves had four players score in double figures, as star guard Colbey Ross and Skylar Chavez each scored 13.
The Waves offense has looked very explosive to begin the season. Pepperdine has multiple scoring options on the floor and they are one of the best teams in transition. Pepperdine did a good job sharing the ball throughout the game, as 18 of their 24 baskets came off of assists.
Pepperdine gave up 87 points in their opener against Cal, and their defensive woes carried over into the first half against Irvine. The Anteaters hit 12 of their first 18 shots in the first half and jumped out to a double-digit lead. Romar had to make major defensive adjustments. Romar shared the improvements he saw in his defense during the second half
“They were hurting us on their ball screens and they were penetrating,” Romar said. “Our guys did a better job of keeping them in front of us in the second half. If they were able to drive to the basket like they did in the first half, we wouldn’t have come out on top.”
Pepperdine’s ability to get stops on the defensive end will be a direct correlation to their success. We know this Pepperdine team will be able to get score buckets, but their defense will determine how far they will go this season. Pepperdine’s home opening win against an NCAA tournament team is a major milestone for the program. There is definitely a buzz surrounding this Waves team, last night the Waves student section was full and they were more involved in the game.
Look for Pepperdine to build on this win when they travel 15 minutes down to rode to play Cal State Northridge on Tuesday.