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Waves Slowly but Surely Win the Race, 52-48

College basketball: Pepperdine adapts to Long Beach State's deliberate approach and improves to 4-0.

November 22, 1998|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Pepperdine Waves were clearly frustrated. Off to a fast start with victories in their first three games, they had run into a quagmire at the Pyramid on Saturday night. The Long Beach State 49ers, knowing they could not match Pepperdine shot for shot, were playing a slowdown game.

And it was working.

The Waves got out of their rhythm, out of sync and soon out of the lead, falling behind by 12 points late in the first half.

"John Wooden always said, 'Be quick, but not in a hurry,' " said Pepperdine Coach Lorenzo Romar, who honed his coaching skills as an assistant at UCLA, Wooden's school. "For some reason, we were in a hurry."

But after shooting only 37.5% from the field in the first half to Long Beach's 51.9, the Waves adjusted their game to the more deliberate pace, focused on their defensive effort and pulled out a 52-48 victory to move to 4-0 and drop the 49ers to 1-2 in front of a disappointed crowd of 2,736.

Long Beach had a chance to tie the score in the closing seconds. With Pepperdine ahead by two, 49er forward Richie Smalls, enclosed by a sea of arms, put up a shot of about four feet with 2.9 seconds to play that seemed to roll around the rim forever, but ultimately failed to drop in.

Pepperdine's Kelvin Gibbs wound up with the ball, was fouled and made both free throws to put the game out of reach.

"It felt good," Smalls said of his shot. "They fouled me, but life goes on."

Long Beach's Antrone Lee (13 points) and Smalls (12) finished as the game's top scorers. Teammate Mate Milisa had 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Three Waves--Gibbs, Nick Sheppard and Tommie Prince--had 10 points each.

That was fine with Jelani Gardner, who came in averaging 15.3 points, but found the 49er defense keying on him and ended up with seven points.

"I would rather we were 4-0 and I was averaging 10 a game," he said, "then that we were 0-4 and I was averaging 30."

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