Most teams would be elated. Top of their conference, a league title virtually sealed up, one win away from their fifth consecutive 20-win season.
Not Pepperdine’s women’s basketball team. It wants more than that. “Win, win, win,” assistant coach Derek Wynn said. “That’s all we want to do this weekend.” Unfortunately, San Diego and Santa Clara aren’t just going to hand over the championship if the Waves show up to the two teams’ respective gyms tonight and Saturday night.
The lady Waves are still not completely healthy just as they are not completely finished with their goal of a WCC championship and a bid into the NCAA Tournament. They have been playing most games with only eight players due to a wide variety of injuries throughout the lineup. In order for them to lock up the regular-season championship, they will need to defeat either San Diego or Santa Clara away from Malibu, and both the Toreros and Broncos are looking for revenge. The Waves handed both schools 10-point losses in the third week of conference at home but playing outside the ‘Stone is a different story.
“Any game that we play at Santa Clara, on Senior Night, with a share of the WCC championship on the line, is going to be tough,” assistant coach Jodi Sackville said. “It won’t be anti-climactic at all, even if we win Thursday night at San Diego.”
Pepperdine needs two wins this weekend to improve its position in the polls and to make the NCAA take notice of the fact that it has dominated the opposition in the WCC despite playing with a depleted bench nearly the entire season. With a little extra boost, the Waves could possibly improve their seed should they reach the NCAA Tournament in March.
The Waves’ last home games were solid tune-ups for the WCC tournament as the Waves broke the century scoring mark for the first time in a WCC game against Portland, 100-77. Junior guard Damaris Hinojosa led five Waves in scoring with 26 points as she only missed three shots all night on a 9 of 12 shooting performance from the field. Senior center Nadja Morgan was 11 of 13 from the field for 25 points. She also pulled down 11 rebounds in the win. Senior forward Sarah Richen added 14 points and a team-high five assists.
Saturday night was Senior Night as the Waves paid tribute to seniors Morgan and Richen, who were playing their final game in front of a Firestone Fieldhouse crowd. The two then proved why they have been carrying the team to victory all year as they combined for 33 points and 16 rebounds in the 73-66 victory. Gonzaga dropped to 2-10 in the WCC following the loss and, barring any changes in the standings this coming week, will probably be the team the Waves see in the first round of the WCC tournament.
The Waves suffered another second game shooting disaster from the free-throw line as they have consistently shot worse from the line in the second game of every weekend for the last few weeks. This weekend, they were 17 of 19 on Friday against Portland, but dropped to 19 of 28 against the Zags. A display uncharacteristic of the Waves’ ability.
Both the Toreros and Broncos are muddling through losing streaks right now. San Diego has lost eight of its last nine contests while Santa Clara will be looking to break up its two-game losing streak that it picked up in its trip to the Bay Area. Both games can be heard live on the Internet at http:gowaves.pepperdine.edu.
Santa Clara is second in the WCC in scoring offense, averaging 75.9 points per game, just ahead of Pepperdine’s 74.4 points per game. However, the Broncos are last in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 73.8 points per game. Pepperdine leads the conference with a stifling 67.5 points per game.
The games this weekend will set the tone for next weekend’s WCC tournament at USD. The Waves would like to be the top-ranked team coming into it. As long as they don’t let up, they’d also like to be the top-ranked team leaving it, too.
February 21, 2002