Game One was between the Indiana State Sycamores and the Pepperdine Waves. The Sycamores were only up two points at the first stoppage of play, but it was all Indiana State in the first half afterwards. Indiana State shot 17-for-28 (60.8%) from the floor while Pepperdine had nearly as many turnovers (10) as made shots (14). The Sycamores stole the ball five times en route to a hot-shooting first half.
While Indiana State was the story of the first half, there were some strong individual performances in the first half as well. Pepperdine guard Houston Mallette started a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor, including one made three-pointer for seven early points. He would finish the half with 13 points on 6-12 shooting (1-2 3PT). Fellow junior guard Isaiah Swope had the exact same start as Mallette for Indiana State and would finish with 17 in the first half (7-11 shooting, 2-5 3PT, 1-2 FT).
Pepperdine turned the page in the second half. After never leading in the first half, the Waves scored 51 points, but their comeback effort fell short as the Sycamores would hold on to win 90-82. Mallette led the charge for the Wave and would finish with a game high 31 points (12-20 shooting, 5-6 from 3, 2-2 from the free-throw line) and five rebounds. Mallette would hit a couple of deep threes to keep Pepperdine within striking distance. Hybrid guard/forward Michael Ajayi recorded 25 points of his own, including eight rebounds, five assists and two steals, leaving it all out on the floor.
Indiana State got timely buckets and clutch free throws from sophomore center Robbie Avila (18 points, 4-5 shooting, 1-2 from 3, 9-12 from the charity stripe) and Swope to close out Pepperdine. The Sycamores finished the game shooting 59.2% from the floor, 43.5% from distance and shot 15-for-19 at the line. Indiana State improved to 4-1, while Pepperdine dropped to 3-4.
Game Two saw the New Mexico Lobos take on the Rice Owls. They say basketball is a game of runs, but that’s pretty much what the first half was. New Mexico jumped out to an early 12-4 lead and continued to outplay Rice, building a 21-10 lead. Rice would respond with an 12-5 run of their own to cut the deficit to five. The Lobos would then go on a 13-2 run to regain a double-digit lead before the Owls flew past them with a 15-6 run to close the half. The Lobos responded with a 44-17 run in the second half to cruise past the Owls 90-56.
The two teams’ first half stats were fairly even – both had only made three 3-pointers, Rice had three more made free throws and New Mexico had the rebounding edge 19-15 (five offensive to Rice’s 4). The difference was the shooting from the floor – New Mexico made 52.8% (19-36) of their shots, while Rice made just 39.3% (11-28).
New Mexico also got contributions from every starter in the first half of play, with freshman forward JT Toppin leading the way with 11 points on 5-7 shooting, four rebounds, one steal and three blocks. Guards Donovan Dent and Jamal Mashburn Jr. combined for 17 points, with Mashburn getting four of his nine from the free-throw line and Dent also dishing out seven assists.
Rice senior guard Travis Evee picked up where he left off yesterday, dropping 11 points in the first half on 4-7 shooting with one three-pointer and a pair of free throws. Sophomore guard Mekhi Mason chipped in with seven points, but no other Owl had more than five points in the first half. Evee would finish with 15, while Mason had 17. Rice is now 1-4.
In the second half the Lobos took full control, quickly building another double-digit lead and not letting go of it. Freshman guard Tru Washington had a strong game off the bench, going 5-7 (1-2 for 3, 3-3 at the line) from the floor for 14 points and six rebounds. Four starters finished in double figures as New Mexico moved to 4-1.
In the last game of the night the UC Irvine Anteaters defeated the Toledo Rockets 77-71. The first half was closely contested until the last 2:55, when UC Irvine went on an 8-2 run to have a 39-32 halftime lead. Freshman guard Derin Saran was the Western Carolina Player of the Year last season and showed why in the first half, doing a little bit of everything – scoring 13 (4-5, 5-6 FT) to go with two rebounds, one assist and one steal.
Junior guards Ra’Heim Moss and Dante Maddox Jr. combined for 18 points in the first half, but no other Rocket had more than four points.
Last season Toledo’s defense was ranked 295th nationally and is the only roster in D1 this season comprised solely of juniors (5) and freshmen (six). The lack of defense and inexperience both showed as Toledo had costly turnovers and gave UC Irvine several uncontested shots and late closeouts.
For UC Irvine, their halftime lead ballooned quickly, but the Rockets did go on an 11-2 run late in the second half to cut the lead to three with 26.3 left and fell short.
The Anteaters got double-digit contributions from redshirt junior forward Devin Tillis (25), redshirt senior guard Justin Hohn (11) and Saran (15). UC Irvine improves to 5-1, while Toledo drops to 3-2.
The final three games of the Ball Dawgs Classic will be played on Friday, starting with Toledo versus Indiana State. Rice versus UC Irvine will follow, and Pepperdine versus New Mexico will close out the tournament on the men’s side.