The Pepperdine basketball team, counted out of the running before the season in the West Coast Athletic Conference, can count on being the league champion if they defeat the University of San Diego at 7:30 tonight at Firestone Fieldhouse.
Last week the Waves, who will also be at home to Loyola Marymount at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, assured themselves of a tie for first with come-from-behind wins over St. Mary's, 69-64, and second-place Santa Clara, 97-90. The wins gave Pepperdine an 11-0 mark at home, and the Waves have now won nine games in which they trailed at halftime.
Pepperdine is 9-1 in the WCAC and 21-8 overall. Santa Clara, the preseason favorite, is 6-3 and 17-8 and has an outside chance of catching the Waves. But Pepperdine would have to lose its last two and the Broncos would have to win their last three league games.
Santa Clara will finish up at home, playing Portland (2-7, 13-12) on Friday, Gonzaga (4-5, 15-10) on Saturday and St. Mary's (5-4, 13-11) next Thursday.
Waves Are Sizzling
The Waves are hot, having won 15 of their last 17, and a win over San Diego (5-5, 16-9) would give Pepperdine and Coach Jim Harrick their fourth WCAC title in the last five years.
Everyone played well in last week's sweep, but Pepperdine guards Jon Korfas and Dwayne Polee were outstanding.
In the two games, Korfas scored 37 points, had 14 assists and five steals and committed only one turnover. For that performance, he was named the WCAC player of the week. He also hit 13 of 13 free throw attempts to set a school record of 25 in a row, surpassing the mark of 22 shared by Polee and Dwayne Suttle, now with the Kansas City Kings of the NBA.
Polee, leading scorer (16.2-point average) in a Pepperdine attack in which every starter is scoring in double figures, scored a career-high 23 against St. Mary's, including 12 of the Waves' 14 points in the last five minutes. He added 17 points against Santa Clara and held high-scoring Bronco guard Harold Keeling, who scored 18 points in the first half, to just one field goal in the second period.
"Both Jon and Dwayne run the show," Harrick said. "It is obvious they have done a good job."
But they and their teammates still have a job to do tonight against San Diego, the defending WCAC champion, which has won four of its last five, including an upset on the road over Santa Clara.
"We still have to go out and win another game, and I know our kids would like to win two," Harrick said. "San Diego is playing extremely well, and our games with Loyola are always difficult."
The Toreos last week defeated Portland, 61-57, and Gonzaga, 58-43. San Diego is led by senior forward Anthony Reuss, a 58% shooter who is averaging 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds, and 6-11 sophomore center Scott Thompson (11.3 points, 6.7 rebounds).
Loyola (2-8, 10-15) has the seventh-best scorer in NCAA Division I in guard Keith Smith, who is averaging 25.8 points and also is the WCAC's top scorer and assist man.