Pepperdine's strong showing at the San Juan Shootout sets up an intriguing battle at UCLA on Tuesday.
Although UCLA (6-2) was upset by slow-paced Gonzaga and Colorado State, Pepperdine (8-3) will test the Bruins' athletic skills with up-tempo offense and pressure defense.
The Waves fell to No. 6 Auburn, 87-76, in the final of the San Juan Shootout after breezing to victories over Detroit and Louisiana-Lafayette. The defeat snapped Pepperdine's five-game winning streak.
"I am disappointed we lost the game, but the team really turned some heads during the tournament," Coach Jan van Breda Kolff said.
Key to Pepperdine's fast start is the scoring of three players who entered the season as offensive question marks.
Guard Brandon Armstrong, who was not academically eligible last season, is averaging 15 points. Tommie Prince, a senior forward best known for stifling defense, averages 11. Craig Lewis, a guard who played sparingly last season, has shown a good outside touch and scored 18 against Lafayette.
But all three were held under double figures against Auburn, but even that had a silver lining. Four other players scored 10 or more points for the Waves, providing the balance van Breda Kolff believes is crucial.
"Our offense offers scoring opportunities for everyone," he said. "We don't want to be too dependent on one or two guys."
Especially encouraging is the emergence of forward Kelvin Gibbs, an All-West Coast Conference pick last season and a team leader. Gibbs scored 17 against Auburn and along with Prince was named to the all-tournament team at San Juan.
"We competed hard, and playing tough opponents will better prepare us for league play," van Breda Kolff said.
Not to mention UCLA.
Home cooking will be a welcome change for the Pepperdine women's team, which found a recent three-game losing streak hard to swallow.
Touted as a contender for the NCAA tournament, the Waves have stumbled to a 3-5 start. Six games have been on the road.
"We've been on the road a lot playing a difficult schedule and we are looking forward to playing in front of our fans," Coach Mark Trakh said.
Pepperdine hosts its next four games. Trakh will be seeking his 100th victory against Rhode Island (0-8) on Tuesday.