Pepperdine's basketball team used to shoot for first place--and make it--in a couple of weeks of the West Coast Athletic Conference race. This week it's aiming for fourth.
The Waves, 4-7 and tied for sixth with the University of San Francisco, are two games behind third-place Portland (6-5) and are trying to finish fourth to get the home-court advantage in the opening round of the WCAC tournament on Feb. 28.
Pepperdine, 9-15 overall, will play host to Santa Clara (5-6, 14-11) at 7:30 p.m. Friday and to USF (4-7, 14-10) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Firestone Fieldhouse.
Coach Jim Harrick hopes to sweep the two games. But his Waves will have to use a different broom than the one they had in their bag in road losses to the Dons, 61-54, and to Santa Clara, 76-50. That weekend Pepperdine shot 33.3% from the field, and Wave guards were worse, hitting 11 of 41 for a dismal 26.8%.
"I'm sure our guys remember how badly we were beaten when we played in the Bay Area earlier this year," Harrick said. "So, hopefully, that can motivate us this week in practice.
"We can take a big step toward hosting a first-round game if we can sweep Santa Clara and San Francisco. Winning two home games this weekend will not be an easy task but is certainly possible if we play well."
Last week the Waves played well against Portland, defeating the Pilots, 81-66, for their first road win of the season. But they did not do as well in an 84-70 loss to Gonzaga.
Against Portland, Mike Cumberland and Craig Davis led the way with 18 points apiece. In the Gonzaga game, Eric White and Ed Allen each scored 21.
Davis and Allen were among the guards who shot poorly in January against USF and the Broncos. But the back-court shooting has improved since then.
In fact, Harrick said that his entire team "has been making steady improvements the past few weeks. With a few breaks, we have a good chance at hosting a first-round game."