The Pepperdine basketball team, which has won its only two home games this season but is 5-6 on the road, should be happy to begin 1985 with its first game in Malibu in a month at 7:30 tonight against Northern Arizona at Firestone Fieldhouse.
But this week's opposition, including Fordham at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Firestone, won't be easy, even in friendly Firestone.
The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, who have three returning starters and other experienced help, were 7-3 as the week began and upset Pepperdine in Flagstaff last year, 61-54, in a series that the Waves lead, 8-2.
Fordham has made four straight appearances in the National Invitational Tournament, senior guard Tony McIntosh has twice been named to the All-NIT team and the Rams were 6-3 as the week started.
Defeat and Rebound
Coach Jim Harrick's Waves were beaten last week by Temple, 71-66, as the Owls were on top from start to finish in the opening round of the Cowboy Shootout at Wyoming. Temple went on to win the tournament, defeating Wyoming, 66-60.
But against Baylor in the consolation game, Harrick's team roared back from an 11-point deficit in the second half to upset the Bears, 86-83, and snap a three-game losing streak. The Waves were led by sophomore forward Eric White's 20 points and junior guard Dwayne Polee with 14.
Harrick called the victory over Baylor "a gutsy win for us. When it came down to winning time, we did what was necessary."
He said that the Waves, whose six losses have been by a total of 22 points, "have been in every ballgame this season, and I hope this win can create some momentum for us as we return home and prepare for league." Pepperdine will start play in the West Coast Athletic Conference at Loyola Marymount at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 after non-conference home games against Colorado at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and with Southwest Texas State at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12.
Northern Arizona is coming off a 63-54 win over Illinois Chicago in the consolation game at the KOA Classic and earlier defeated host New Mexico in the Lobo Tournament.
Coach Jay Arnote's Lumberjacks are led by senior guards David Allen, the Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year last season, and Jeff Altman, a three-year starter. Both the 6-4 Allen and 6-2 Altman are scoring in double figures.
The NAU front line consists of 6-5 junior Andy Hurd, the team's leading scorer last year; 6-7 sophomore David Duane, a reserve last year, and 6-7 junior Antwine Murchison, who played for Riverside City College and the University of Idaho.
Besides McIntosh, key players for Fordham Coach Tom Penders are front-liners Don McCormick, a perimeter shooter, and Steve Samuels, the team's best rebounder.
Harrick said the Waves must improve on offensive and defensive rebounding, defense and offensive execution.
"We must rebound to kick up our offense," he said. "We are getting great shots, but we are missing far too many lay-ins and offensive boards. Those are shots that must be converted into baskets."
White is averaging 15.8 points and 9.5 rebounds to lead the Waves in both categories, while Polee is averaging 15.3 points. Freshman forward Levy Middlebrooks is averaging 11.3 points and 6.5 boards and is the most accurate (57%) shooter from the field. Junior guard Jon Korfas is hitting 55% of his shots, averaging 13.2 points, and leads in assists with 66. Pepperdine is shooting 51% from the floor.