Tonight's 98th meeting between the Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine basketball teams at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu is hard to figure. It could be the usual shootout--or a blowout.
Pepperdine, defending West Coast Atlantic Conference champion, leads the series, 53-44. It has also won 15 of the last 17, including two last year that gave the Waves the title and left one of Loyola's best teams in years in second place.
But the Waves, 1-3 in conference play and 6-11 overall, are struggling. The Lions, 2-2 and 10-7, have looked sensational at times, but they also have made other, sometimes lesser, teams look marvelous.
If it's a shoot-out, Loyola looks like the top gun. The Lions are averaging more than 90 points a game and have scored 100 or more in seven games this season.
Pepperdine seems the likelier candidate to be blown out. The Waves have been misfiring, shooting 46.7% for the season to Loyola's 51%, and just 35.8% in their last five games.
The coaches, Loyola's Paul Westhead and Pepperdine's Jim Harrick, seem to subscribe to the shoot-out theory, but neither thinks the other team has a big edge.
Said Westhead: "They're still, in my evaluation, one of the better teams in our conference. Nothing's changed. (Pepperdine is) a cross-town rival--a cross-town rival that can play."
Said Harrick: "I suspect it will be an entertaining, high-scoring ballgame. Loyola likes to run and so do we. So the likely winner will be the team that does the best job defensively."
Loyola's leading scorer, junior forward Mike Yoest, is averaging 22.7 points a game and shooting better than 51% from the field. The other forward, junior Mark Armstrong, is shooting about 55% and averaging 13.5 points and 10.4 rebounds a game.