Nothing comes easily for Pepperdine these days. Even a game against a seemingly overmatched opponent can leave the Waves fighting for their lives.
That was the case Tuesday night when Marist rolled into Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu and threw a scare into their hosts despite falling behind by 14 points in the first eight minutes.
The Red Foxes rallied to take the lead before Pepperdine steadied itself behind Gerald Brown, who scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to help the Waves post a 78-67 victory and avoid embarrassment.
It wasn't the first time Brown, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, has bailed out Pepperdine (7-4) this season.
"He continues to come through for us," Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "When the chips are down, Gerald Brown is going to be there. I thought he played his best game of the year tonight."
He took over when the Waves needed him most Tuesday. After Marist (4-4) took its first lead, 41-39, early in the second half, Brown answered by making a jump shot. His first three-point basket of the night gave the Waves a 58-53 lead with six minutes left.
Then, in a two-minute span, Brown made another three-point basket, came up with a steal that led to a three-point play by center omm'A Givens and set up Givens for a jump shot that put the Waves ahead, 68-58, with 2:52 left.
Givens finished with a career-best 19 points.
Still, Brown agreed it wasn't a shining hour for Pepperdine, which plays at UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night before starting West Coast Conference play next week.
"We've got a lot of work to do," said Brown, who made nine of 14 shots and had three steals. "We had some mental lapses on defense and some turnovers. We wanted to regroup at halftime and come out fighting."
Pepperdine, which passed its victory total of last season when it finished 6-21, shot better than 50% from the field for the third consecutive game (50.9%), but hurt itself by making only 18 of 30 free throws.