GAME NOTES: The final West Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinal contest will feature the fifth-seeded Pepperdine Waves taking on the fourth-seeded Saint Mary's Gaels at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The winner of the game will advance to the semifinal round of the WCC Tournament to face the winner of Santa Clara and Gonzaga.
Pepperdine tripped and stumbled its way into the postseason after losing five of its last six games of the regular season. The Waves fell to Santa Clara, 86-78, last Saturday in their most recent outing, and ended the year with an 8-10 conference mark.
Saint Mary's started the year out on a strong note, winning the first nine games of the season before falling three straight times in non-conference play. The Gaels won two of their last three games of the season, falling 75-47 to Gonzaga last Saturday in their last contest. Saint Mary's finished with an 11-7 record in the league.
Pepperdine holds a slim 68-62 lead in the all-time series with Saint Mary's. The Gaels swept the season series by beating the Waves back on Jan. 23 and in overtime at Pepperdine on Feb. 8.
Santa Clara took a huge lead over Pepperdine last Saturday as the team's broke for the half, 47-31. The Waves made a huge second-half comeback attempt, and outscored the Broncos, 47-39, in the period, but couldn't erase the entire Santa Clara lead. Stacy Davis paced the Waves in the contest with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Malte Kramer chipped in 13, Malcolm Brooks contributed 12 and Brendan Lane scored 11. Pepperdine shot 44.6 percent from the floor in the loss.
Davis had a spectacular season for the Waves, and likely saved the team from a worse fate in conference play, especially when Lane went down earlier in the year with an injury. Davis led the team with 15.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg (fifth-best in conference), and had 19 blocked shots. Lane chipped in 13.2 ppg with 7.4 rpg and a team-best 71 blocked shots. In fact, Lane almost single-handedly gave Pepperdine the conference lead at 4.4 blocked shots per contest. Brooks contributed 10.3 ppg to the mix. The Waves scored 71.2 ppg in 30 games played, but gave up 72.2 ppg to their opponents.
Saint Mary's completely fell apart the second the opening tip went up against Gonzaga last Saturday. The Gaels fell behind the Bulldogs at the end of the first half, 42-22, then dropped even further behind in the second half with the 'Zags increasing their lead by another eight. Stephen Holt was the only Gaels player to score in double figures, netting 10 points. He did so by hitting 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, and missing all six of his field goal attempts. Brad Waldow chipped in nine points on 3-of-8 shooting in the loss.
Saint Mary's is the most recent conference title winner other than Gonzaga (2012), but the Gaels didn't do so well against the Bulldogs after being swept by Gonzaga this year. Though the team's offense didn't blow anyone away this season (72.4 ppg - seventh in the WCC), Saint Mary's found success on the defensive end, allowing just 65.5 ppg to opponents. Waldow paced the team in scoring with 15.7 ppg (seventh in the conference) and in rebounding at 7.7 rpg, with Holt not far behind in the offensive category at 15 ppg. James Walker III (9.5 ppg), Beau Levesque (9.5 ppg) and Kerry Carter (9.4 ppg) were all steady contributors to the St. Mary's offense.
Saint Mary's got demolished by Gonzaga a week ago, but there's no doubt the Gaels have forgotten about that now. Pepperdine has solid producers in Davis and Lane, but is lacking strong guard play. The Gaels' strong scoring defense likely won't have much of an issue slowing down Pepperdine's offense.
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