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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Armstrong, Waves Swamp Fullerton

November 29, 2000|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The game carried the look of a mismatch before it began: West Coast Conference preseason favorite Pepperdine against Cal State Fullerton, a team that won only eight games last season.

Then Brandon Armstrong connected for a three-point shot just seconds after the opening tipoff, and Pepperdine quickly turned it into exactly that.

The Waves built a 17-point lead 12 minutes into the first half and went on to an 82-61 nonconference victory Tuesday night in front of 1,053 at Titan Gym.

The Titans' Ike Harmon, suspended for the team's first two games because of an undisclosed violation of team policy, made his first appearance of the season in Fullerton's home opener, but played only six minutes and scored two points.

It was the third consecutive victory over a Big West Conference team for Pepperdine (3-1), which earlier defeated UC Santa Barbara and Pacific. The victory also gave the Waves a 13-3 record in its past 16 games against Big West opponents in three-plus seasons. Fullerton fell to 0-3.

Armstrong scored 17 points to lead the Waves, with 15 coming in the first half. Pepperdine had four other players in double figures. David Lalazarian had 16 points and Craig Lewis 13. Micah McKinney and Kelvin Gibbs each had 11.

Guard Kevin Richardson and reserve forward Babacar Camara each had 14 points for the Titans.

Harmon's first appearance came with 12 minutes 40 seconds left and Pepperdine leading, 63-38.

"Before the game I wasn't supposed to play, but I begged Coach," Harmon said. "I wanted to get my feet wet. That was about the right amount for my first time back. I was excited to be back on the court."

Titan Coach Donny Daniels said he wasn't expecting much from Harmon's first outing because of his layoff. Harmon, the Titans' leading scorer and rebounder the past two season, has been sidelined since Oct. 17, first with a foot injury and then with the suspension.

"He's had only about five practices with us, so he can't know the offense in that short of time," Daniels said. "He was lost on offense. It's going to take two or three weeks for him to get going again. But I'm excited to have him back."

The Titans never were much of a challenge for Pepperdine. The Waves made 53.1% of their shots in the first half and led, 44-26, at halftime. Pepperdine made seven of 15 three-point shots while Fullerton was one of eight.

Pepperdine shot 50.9% for the game to 48.7% for Fullerton, but the Waves made 10 of 15 three-pointers to two of 15 for the Titans. Armstrong made six of eight shots from the field in the first half, including three of four three-pointers.

"That's a Top 25 team," Daniels said. "They can go inside or outside and score points. I'm glad we didn't get beat by 40. But we did some nice things defensively, and I thought we handled their press well. We're learning. We improved in the second half."

Pepperdine Coach Jan van Breda Kolff said he expects Fullerton to be much stronger by the start of conference play in January.

"They'll get better and better," he said. "I was impressed with Richardson. When Harmon gets going and (Brandon) Campbell is back, they'll upgrade the team's athleticism."

Campbell is sidelined for at least three more weeks with a knee injury.

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