MALIBU, CALIF. — After two consecutive losses where it blew double-digit leads to top-30 teams, Pepperdine took care of business at home against Cal on Wednesday. The Waves hosted a Pac-12 opponent for the first time in 12 years, and took advantage of the rare opportunity, never trailing en route to a 74-62 win. Kessler Edwards led the way with 26 points and Wooden Award watch list player Colbey Ross nearly had a double-double, scoring nine points and adding 11 assists. The Waves built a 19-point lead and were able to show their dominance in front of a national stage on CBS Sports Network, proving that they are legit contender in the WCC.
Pepperdine is going to be a player in the WCC. Beat Cal tonight for its first Pac-12 win since 2012. And what a campus!— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 10, 2020
1, The Waves are most dangerous when Colbey Ross is a facilitator
Pepperdine’s leading scorer is one of the top point guards in college basketball. Ross’s most memorable performance came when he scored 43 points in a double overtime loss in last year’s WCC Tournament third-round game against Saint Mary’s. While Ross is a fantastic and natural scorer, the skill that makes him a legitimate NBA prospect is his ability to see the floor and provide open looks for his teammates. Ross had nine first-half assists and Pepperdine had 44 first-half points on Wednesday.
The Waves shot an astounding 12-26 from three against Cal. Coach Lorenzo Romar has surrounded Ross with a roster stocked with capable shooters, and the Waves need to utilize everyone. Ross shot just 4-12 from the field but was still able to make a big impact on the game. Ross isn’t the typical star mid-major ball hog; he is a cerebral minded player who can break down a defense and make the right plays for the team. When he is able to make passes and get everyone involved, the Waves are DANGEROUS.
“I trust everyone on the court and I know they are going to knock shots down at a high level,” he said after the game. “There are a lot of times teams will double me or make it hard for me to good looks, teams are going to that and we have talented guys who can step up.”
2. Another Ball in the family
We have another Ball playing college basketball in Los Angeles. Andre Ball, the cousin of Lonzo Ball, is entering his third year on the Pepperdine roster. Ball has been the forgotten cousin of the Ball family, once Lavar made the notorious decision to move LaMelo and LiAngelo to Lithuania to pursue a professional basketball career. However, Andre is forging his own path at Pepperdine without the media circus. After a promising freshmen year, Ball had a devastating injury in the WCC tournament that forced him to medically redshirt last season. Ball has been slowly worked in the lineup the past couple of games. Last night’s game was his breakout, scoring 12 points in 28 minutes, shooting 5-8 from the field and 2-3 from three-point range. Romar checked Ball into the game before the first timeout, and he quickly made an impact in the game.
“Andre was tremendous,” Romar said. “Long-term, he is a difference maker, he gives us tremendous size and athleticism. He can cover and can put fires out defensively, he helps on the offensive glass, and he can shoot. He is versatile weapon for our team.”
Ball has the potential to be the difference-maker that elevates the Waves to the next level. Standing at 6’7, Ball has the ability to be the versatile ball stopper and rebounder the Waves desperately need. He can be used as a slasher, but can also space out the floor as a shooter. In fact, All-NBA player Kevin Durant had a lot of great things to say about Ball when he was in high school, saying Andre also had a build to become an NBA player.
3. This could be the team that breaks the Waves’ tournament drought
The Waves have not made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002. This is the team that has potential to break that barrier. Will they challenge Gonzaga? Probably not. However, they are more than capable of achieving second place in the conference, which has traditionally been good enough to get teams in the at-large discussion. Pepperdine has the best player in the conference that doesn’t play in Spokane. It has a versatile No. 2 scorer in Kessler Edwards, and upcoming stars in Sedrick Altman and Ball. Romar has done a tremendous job building a talented roster in his third year.
“This is year three, we are over moral victories,” Romar said. “Games against Pac-12 teams, Gonzaga, and BYU, we have to win these games.”
However, his teams need to learn how to finish. Pepperdine will look back on the missed opportunities against UCLA and San Diego State, where they fully outplayed two Top 25-caliber teams, but did not leave the floor with a win in ether of them.
Pepperdine is good enough to play itself onto the bubble, with two opportunities to play Gonzaga, BYU, and Saint Mary’s. The Waves just have to finish.