Pepperdine Men’s Basketball team huddles in a timeout versus Rice University on Nov. 7 at Firestone Fieldhouse. The team scored the most points recorded in a season opener in 40 years, with 39 points, according to Pepperdine Athletics. Photos by Colton Rubsamen
Rice University junior guard Jake Lieppert scored a 3-pointer to put the Owls up by five with the score at 22-17.
Two possessions later, the game was quickly tied up at 22 per team thanks to a layup from first-year forward Jevon Porter.
The Waves would go on to break the century mark for the first time since the 2018-19 season with a 106-67 victory over Rice in their season opener Nov. 7 at Firestone Fieldhouse.
Last season, sophomore guard Houston Mallette said the team did not respond to adversity well, but that was a main talking point the team has been trying to handle.
“Our job is just go out there, compete, go out there and just have fun,” Mallette said. “We executed our game plan and then offense, we just shared the ball, which we haven’t really done to that level before.”
Sophomore forward Maxwell Lewis notched a career-high 29-point performance, while shooting 12-for-15 from the floor and a shot five-for-seven from 3-point range.
Mallette finished with 22 points of his own and an efficient night — going 8-for-14 from the floor and four-for-seven from 3-point range.
The game was mellow to start but picked up steam later in the first half.
After the first media timeout, the Waves had an early 9-7 lead.
Mallette scored a deep 3-pointer, which gave the Waves an early 15-12 lead. The defensive intensity also picked up, as the Waves did not allow a basket from the Owls in a little over three minutes.
“You can only guard at the level you play at,” Mallette said. “When we go out there, when we want to win a game, we have to defend.”
The Waves found success with sophomore center Carson Basham in the low post, and his hook shot extended the Waves’ early lead 17-13.
“It’s mostly sharing the ball and trusting each other when we go out there and play together,” Mallette said. “That’s the result of us playing together.”
The Owls retaliated with back-to-back 3-pointers from junior guard Travis Evee, but Lewis responded with one of his five 3-pointers on the left wing.
Mallette would convert on a mid-range jump shot after getting some freedom from Basham’s screen, and Lewis would execute a fade-away shot in transition, forcing the Owls to call a time-out to stop the bleeding with the score at 26-22.
“I think we responded well,” Mallette said. “We stuck to our principles. We defended, we rebounded, we did all the little stuff. We went out there and we got the win.”
The Waves only allowed one tie in the first half, as they were able to break away from the Owls. Basham ran the floor in transition and was rewarded with a layup. Three-pointers from Mallette and Lewis extended the Waves’ lead to 46-38 at the end of the first half.
The Waves started the second half with an offensive rebound and put-back by Porter. The 6’11” freshman forward responded from outside the paint, showing his range with one of two 3-pointers he knocked down in this half.
Lewis, who was injured for most of the 2021-22 season, had the hot hand and scored a 3-pointer. Lewis scored on another layup thanks to the defensive effort of sophomore guard Mike Mitchell Jr. This put the Waves up by 16 points.
The Waves got comfortable in the mid-range and in the paint, and the Owls could not keep up. Three-pointers from both Porter and Lewis along with lay-ups from Lewis and senior forward Jan Zidek put the Waves up 66-48.
Mitchell Jr. added to the fuel with a jumper and showed why he was ranked number two in assists in the WCC last season. He dished out his fifth of eight assists of the night on another steal and pass in transition to redshirt sophomore forward Boubacar Coulibaly.
The Owls continued to struggle in stopping the Waves, who dominated the rest of the game with scoring from all levels of the court.
After a couple more lay-ups by Coulibaly and Lewis as well as a 3-pointer and two made free throws by Mallette, the Waves had a 31 point lead 86-55.
Lewis continued his hot shooting by making two back-to-back jumpers both on turnovers. The 6-foot-7 forward from Las Vegas, NV. shot 100% from the field — going seven for seven in all 17 of his second half points that included three 3-pointers.
“I just want to show the world that I can score and I can do whatever it takes to help my team,” Lewis said.
In the 2021-22 season, All-WCC team players Mallette and Mitchell Jr., took the bulk of the scoring.
Based on the performance tonight, Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said the Waves have a few different options as to who will be the leading scorer in each game.
“We’re gonna go with the hot man and whoever that is, that’s who we’ll go with,” Romar said. “We try to play offensively and allow everyone to touch the basketball— that way, you stay in a good rhythm.”
Romar said the team’s approach to the next game is crucial to how well they do in the remainder of the season.
“Last year, there were a lot of lessons,” Romar said. “Our first lesson that we have to learn this time is how to handle success.”
Next up for the Waves is Vanguard on Nov. 15.
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