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Building for Another Wave of Success : Despite Loss in NIT, Pepperdine Basketball Team Has High Hopes for 1993-94 Season


MALIBU — Pepperdine basketball Coach Tom Asbury looked emotionally drained after the Waves' season-ending 71-59 loss to USC in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament Monday night at the Sports Arena.

"I'm a little disappointed with how we played," Asbury said. "We are a lot better than we showed."

Pepperdine (23-8) played one of its worst games of the season. The Waves shot only 35.7% from the field and turned the ball over 16 times.

"I think that we were emotionally ready to play, but somehow we lost control," Pepperdine forward Dana Jones said.

Pepperdine led, 17-11, but was outscored by USC, 25-6, to close out the first half.

The Waves' season came unraveled in the last three weeks.

After winning its third consecutive West Coast Conference title, Pepperdine was upset by Santa Clara in the championship game of the conference tournament.

The loss cost Pepperdine a berth in the NCAA tournament.

The Waves opened NIT play with an impressive win at UC Santa Barbara last week before losing to USC.

Despite its poor showing, Pepperdine impressed USC Coach George Raveling.

"They are a very well-coached basketball team that would compete very well in the Pac-10," Raveling said. "If we could I would like to play them every year at a neutral site."

Pepperdine can only look ahead to next season.

"I think that we had a terrific season under the circumstances," said Asbury, who is 106-48 in five seasons at Pepperdine. "The team had to go through a season with a lot of adversity."

Guard Damin Lopez said that the tournament loss to Santa Clara was a disappointment, but the Waves received some redemption when Santa Clara upset Arizona in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"Everyone looks at the Santa Clara game, but you see what they did to Arizona," said Lopez, a 5-foot-8 junior. "We're really pretty proud with what we've accomplished and we have nothing to be ashamed about."

The Waves return four starters, including Jones, the WCC player of the year.

Jones, a 6-foot-6 forward, led the team in scoring (15.6 points a game) and made 62.2% of his field goal attempts. He also was the Waves' top rebounder and shot blocker.

Jones gave the Trojans problems with his quickness and jumping ability as he scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Another key for Pepperdine will be the return of Lopez, who was among the national leaders in three-point shooting before suffering a broken hand.

He returned for the last third of the season but was not the same player. His scoring average dropped to 14 points.

"Damin really struggled since he broke his hand," Asbury said. "He did not have any big games like he did."

Lopez is already looking ahead.

"I'll just take a couple of weeks off and see how (my hand) heals," he said. "I expect to be 100% for next season."

Against USC, Lopez scored 13 points, all in the second half.

The Trojans physically took Pepperdine out of the game by dominating the inside and shutting down the outside shooting of Lopez and backcourt teammate Bryan Parker.

"They were more physical than most of the teams we play," Lopez said. "That's what separates us from a (Pac-10) team.

"But I think we have the people who can play that way, though, and that's one thing we're going to work on for next season."

Parker will also return. He led the team in assists at 6.6 and averaged 7.1 points.

A big key for Pepperdine will be Derek Noether, a 6-8 junior center. Noether was a first-team WCC selection after averaging 12 points and six rebounds.

The only starter the Waves lose is Byron Jenson. He is expected to be replaced by 6-11 freshman center Gavin Vanderputten.

With Vanderputten inside, Noether may move to power forward and Jones to small forward. Another option may be 6-8 sophomore LeRoi O'Brien, one of the top reserves.

"We have to move onward and upward and forget about the past," Asbury said. "We'll go back to the drawing board for next year. We have most of the guys back and we'll go from there."

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