Malibu, CA – The Loyola Marymount Lions came into Thursday night’s matchup against the Pepperdine Waves, following an 88-71 loss to BYU. First year Head Coach Stan Johnson has had to deal with numerous injuries and postponements this season and his Lions’ squad were without their second leading scorer in Dameane Douglas for the remainder of the season. The Pepperdine Waves went into their PCH Cup rivalry game with LMU, coming off a 66-61 loss against St. Mary’s. The Waves looked to bring Colbey Ross and fellow seniors a victory on Senior night but were denied as LMU defeated Pepperdine 81-74.
The Lions started off the first half playing with high energy and confidence. Their 2-3 zone created tough shot attempts for Pepperdine, as the Waves only scored six points in the game’s first eight minutes. The length and defensive versatility of Keli Leaupepe and Ivan Alipiev, along with the presence of 7’3” C Mattias Markusson were key factors in that zone. They bottled down Pepperdine’s star forward Kessler Edwards with only four first half points. LMU complemented their great effort on defense with production on the offensive end, when they fed Markusson (15 points, 6 rebounds) down low on the block, leading to six quick points for the big man. The Waves then answered and moved the ball better against the zone as Ross hit two of his three 3-pointers in the half, cutting LMU’s lead to five at 27-22. Pepperdine stuck with the Lions towards the end of the half and eventually tied up the game at 31 with a baseline 3 from Jan Zidek.
The remaining four minutes of the first half were dictated by the hustle and second chance opportunities by LMU’s Leaupepe who led the team with 17 points and eight rebounds. The Australian forward grabbed three offensive boards in the half and the Lions had nine offensive rebounds to end the half. The half ended with a runner down the lane from guard Joe Quintana which gave his team the 40-35 advantage at the break. Pepperdine shot 62.5 percent from 3 (5-of-8) in the half, but their inability to keep LMU off the glass and their 22 points in the paint led to their deficit at halftime.
LMU played the same physical defense to start the second half, but Leaupepe had to sit early after picking up his third personal foul. The Lions then gained some separation after a steal led to a breakaway dunk from Jalin Anderson, followed by Markusson flashing down the lane for the two-hand jam, giving LMU their biggest lead of the game (48-37) at the 17:00 mark. Reigning WCC player of the week, Eli Scott, found some open space to finally operate and finished with a strong left-handed finish at the rim after being double-teamed by the Waves for most of the first half.
The Lions seemed to find their rhythm on both ends of the court in the middle of the half, but Ross found some driving angles and gave the Waves some life. They brought the deficit down to nine points as they applied full court pressure on LMU. However, the Lions remained poised and answered with a timely pick n pop 3-pointer from Leaupepe and then with a shot clock buzzer shot from Alipiev, resulting in a 63-49 lead at the 7:47 mark. The Waves would continue to play hard and come within six points at the 2:09 mark, but the outcome of the game never seemed out of hand as LMU hung on to defeat Pepperdine 81-74. Ross led Pepperdine with a game high 25 points and eight assists in his last game at Firestone Fieldhouse. In addition to Leaupepe and Markusson’s impressive night, the Lions gained solid contributions from Anderson (16 points) and Scott (11 points).
Pepperdine (10-11, 6-6) will play their last regular season game on the road against San Diego. Loyola Marymount (12-7, 7-4) now moves into third place in the WCC standings, surpassing Pepperdine with the win. The Lions will next face Gonzaga on the road. Both teams will look to finish the regular season strong before they head to Las Vegas for the WCC Tournament.