Malibu, CA – The Pepperdine Waves enter Saturday night’s game at Firestone Fieldhouse coming off a key conference win at San Francisco. Lorenzo Romar’s team has had an up and down season to date, but there is optimism for the Waves heading into this matchup as they are 6-4 at home on the year. The Saint Mary’s Gaels are coming off a 3-week pause due to COVID. The Gaels have missed a total of eight games this season, with their last contest a 67-63 win at San Francisco on January 23rd. Saturday night’s match-up between the schools ended up in the win column for Pepperdine as they fought off a 12-0 run from St. Mary’s in the final minutes of the game half to secure a 60-58 win.
Early in the game it was clear that the two opponents had opposite game plans. The Gaels took up most of the shot clock on offensive possessions and it was evident that they were trying to get their feet back into the flow of the game after their pause. St. Mary’s made a concerted effort to feed 6’10” junior Matthias Tass who led the team with 17 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard, Tommy Kuhse who leads the Gaels in scoring (14.3 ppg) was held scoreless until the 5:55 mark when he hit a pair of free throws. Meanwhile, the Waves pushed the tempo on every defensive rebound and looked to run and utilize their superior athleticism in the open court. Pepperdine received a spark from junior guard Jade Smith, who hit two 3-pointers, and later made a transition layup late in the half to give the Waves a 27-19 lead. The half ended with Pepperdine’s star forward Kessler Edwards getting more involved in the game, when he grabbed an offensive rebound off a loose ball and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Waves a 33-24 lead. The shot gave Pepperdine all the momentum and the Waves ended the half shooting 37.5% from 3 (3-of-8), while the Gaels struggled from deep shooting 18.2% (2-of-11).
The start of the second half saw sloppy play from both teams and within the first four minutes there was a total of eight turnovers. St. Mary’s chipped away from their nine-point deficit at the break and came within three points of Pepperdine at the 14:15 mark. From there, Pepperdine’s senior guard Colbey Ross (2nd in the nation with 7.6 assists per game) came up with two of his 10 assists that gave the Waves the boost that they needed. The first assist led to a highlight dunk from Edwards who flashed from the baseline and the second ended in a similar flush from Sedrick Altman. The Waves seemed to be in control and flexed their athleticism over St. Mary’s, having a comfortable double-digit lead from that point on until the Gaels 12-point run, anchored by two old fashioned 3-point plays from Kuhse and Logan Johnson. After an Edwards charge, St. Mary’s went back to the low post and fed Tass for an easy bucket, cutting the deficit to one point at 57-56. After Ross split a pair of FT, Kuhse penetrated to the rim and tied the game up at 58 with 7.3 seconds remaining. However, the tie was short lived as Ross displayed his speed and went coast to coast to draw another foul, where he sank both free throwss, giving the Waves the 60-58 win.
Edwards led Pepperdine with 15 points and the Waves received good play from big man Jan Zidek who led the team with 11 rebounds. Besides Tass, St. Mary’s got help from Johnson (12 points) and Kuhse (11 points).
Pepperdine (10-8, 6-3) will face Santa Clara on the road while St. Mary’s will travel to Spokane to play the No. 1 team in the nation, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Pepperdine and St. Mary’s will match-up for a second time on February 22nd in Moraga.