Last year the Pepperdine basketball team played DePaul in Chicago and the Waves were routed, 90-65. But the beating was like a dose of bad-tasting medicine that gets you well in a hurry.
Pepperdine, which had a 5-1 record in the West Coast Athletic Conference going into last season's game with the Blue Demons, came back, won the remaining six games in league play and captured the WCAC crown.
The Blue Demons embarrassed the Waves again, 70-57, last week in DePaul's Rosemont Horizon, though the score was not indicative of the ease with which DePaul won.
Employing a full-court press and a half-court trap that forced Pepperdine to make 15 turnovers in the first half (23 for the game), the Blue Demons were ahead at the end of the first period, 43-26. In the second half, DePaul took the press off, and the Waves were able to regroup and cut the final margin to 13 points.
League Play Opens
Will a big dose of DePaul bad medicine help Pepperdine go on to another WCAC title? Coach Jim Harrick's Waves (12-3) open league play tonight at Gonzaga (7-6) and continue Saturday night at Portland. Harrick should get an indication with this week's games if the Chicago prescription cured the fever.
Several things about the 1985 scenario were different from this season's. The 1985 Waves team was relatively inexperienced and not expected to contend in the WCAC; one publication picked the Waves to finish last. This year Pepperdine has six seniors, including three starters and a sixth man, and five of them are fifth-year seniors.
And Pepperdine is the defending WCAC champion, which means that all their league foes will be trying their best to shoot down the top gun.
A writer for a Chicago paper said in a pregame story that Pepperdine was no "biggie" on DePaul's schedule, and that turned out to be true. The Waves were out of the game by the end of the half, even though they did a better job after the intermission.
And Pepperdine, perhaps awed by DePaul's home-court record of 84-7 in the Rosemont Horizon, seemed to regard the Blue Demons as biggies, and the Waves fell apart.
Part of the trouble was that Pepperdine, though it finished with a rebounding edge, 45-41, has no real big man on its front line and was unable to get many defensive rebounds. DePaul consistently swept the offensive backboards and, even though shooting poorly (41.3%), was getting second and third shots most of the night. And Pepperdine also shot poorly (38.1%).
Anthony Frederick (6-7, 200) grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds and teammate Eric White (6-8, 200) added eight boards for Pepperdine. Frederick got five of his rebounds in the first half and White none. Pepperdine sophomore Levy Middlebrooks (6-7, 225) had five rebounds in the first period. He finished with only six. Reserve Mike Mounts (6-8, 215), played only six minutes and was held without a rebound in the first half and got just one in the second.
Although statistics may say otherwise, the Wave forwards and centers were simply no match for the Blue Demons up front, particularly when it was still a contest. DePaul simply had more height, bulk and aggressiveness, and those things were supplied by junior Dallas Comegys (6-9, 205), seniors Marty Embry (6-8, 250), Lemone Lampley (6-11, 210) and Kevin Holmes, the 6-8, 225-pounder from Reseda's Cleveland High School.
The Pepperdine front line was out-rebounded by their counterparts, 17-10, in the first half, and most of the 17 were on the DePaul offensive boards and led to baskets. In the end, the Pepperdine front four had the rebound advantage, 28-26, but didn't get the boards where and when they counted the most.
Coach Harrick said after that he had expected DePaul to press but that he didn't think they would be able to use the press "or the half-court trap to bother us like they did. But you ask your team for monstrous things to go into DePaul and win."
After the Waves had routed U.S. International, 129-94, just before they went to Chicago, Harrick said he thought they were ready for DePaul and for conference play. They weren't for the first; will they be for the second?
Harrick thinks so. "You're always going to have valleys and peaks . . . and we played pretty well in the second half. . . . It was just one of the battles in the war."
On the theory that even the worst events can provide valuable learning, did Pepperdine and Harrick learn anything from the lesson that DePaul gave them last week?
"I think so," said Harrick, adding that he expects it may show up "in league or the postseason. I anticipate we're good enough to go to the NCAA (playoffs) or the NIT, and I am looking forward to using our experiences all season long to help us in the future."