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What We Think - Forecasting Week Seven of WCC Play

Feb. 4, 2015

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WHAT WE THINK - PREVIEWING WEEK SEVEN OF WCC PLAY

By John Crumpacker, WCC Columnist | @CrumpackerOnWCC  |  Crumpacker Archives

Just because Marty Wilson started his fourth different lineup in the last four games on Saturday at SAINT MARY’S does not mean the PEPPERDINE coach is a mad scientist in a white lab coat fiddling with bubbling beakers of who-knows-what.

Wilson knows what’s what. And he wore a tasteful suit of a sea-green shade on the occasion of his team’s 67-62 upset of the Gaels at McKeon Pavilion. The win completed a sweep for Pep after it took care of business at PACIFIC on Thursday.

It’s the second road sweep of the WCC season for the Waves, who earlier won at BYU and SAN DIEGO. On the flip-flop side, Pepperdine also lost a pair, at SAN FRANCISCO and SANTA CLARA, the week before.

“It’s tough (winning on the road),” Wilson said. “It’s always been tough. It’s been tough for us against Saint Mary’s, home and on the road. Considering what Randy (Bennett) has built here over the last 10 years or so, for us to get close, we’ve come a long way to come here and beat them on the road.’’

To accomplish that, Wilson got a dandy of a team game from his guys, with three players not named Stacy Davis each going for 11 points. Davis had a dime-size double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“It’s hard to go to someone’s house and win two games, let alone one,” Davis said. “I think we can play with anyone in the conference. We can compete with anyone in the conference. It showed today.’’

Wilson has been tinkering with his lineup for motivational reasons. Although Davis is his best player, he kept him out of the starting lineup for six games before starting the junior forward against Saint Mary’s. As well, the coach held point guard Jeremy Major out of the lineup for the first time this season on Saturday.

“Part of it is I brought Stacy back in. A.J. John had been starting for him,’’ Wilson said. “That was to get Stacy’s attention to stay a leader, for him to give the effort we expect out of everyone. He responded.”

He also elaborated.

“I got kicked out of practice once for talking back to the coaches,’’ Davis said. “That was my fault. I was frustrated. I take full responsibility for it. It was before the BYU game. We won, I had something like 23 points (he had something exactly like 23 points) and eight rebounds and he (Wilson) said, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ Now he’s brought me back (to the starting lineup). Everything is fine.”

Wilson also wanted a little more out of Major, his sophomore point guard, so he held him out of the lineup at Saint Mary’s as well, although Major did play 19 minutes and contributed 7 points and 4 assists in 19 minutes.

“Today was more about Jeremy,’’ Wilson said. “He had started every game (previously). We need his energy, his quickness. He hadn’t done that the last couple games.’’

Major came through in the tense final seconds when he scored on a driving layup with 18 seconds left to put the Waves up and in control at 66-62.

“That’s probably the biggest play he’s made his entire time here,’’ Wilson said. “He has a knack for the ball, being in the right place at the right time.’’

The road sweep improved Pepperdine’s conference mark to 7-4 and 14-8 overall and forced other teams around the WCC to be wary of a team that swept two separate road trips.

Asked what this could mean for his team, Wilson said, “Hopefully, two things: Confidence, No. 1 and respect No. 2. More and more people are quietly talking about our team. We had to earn respect. It’s not going to be given. Our guys have bought in. They’ll listen a little bit more now. Their ears are wide open.”

What We Think of the week ahead in the WCC is:

  1. BYU at Pepperdine on Thursday at 8 p.m. is the game with the most meaning, matching as it does a pair of teams with 7-4 conference records. With mighty GONZAGA at 10-0 and Saint Mary’s at 9-2, who wants third place? It’s up for grabs between the Cougars and Waves.
  2. There appears to be no stopping Gonzaga, 22-1 and ranked No. 2 in the country as it steamrolls toward the NCAA Tournament. Coach Mark Few’s Zags are simply too talented and too deep for the rest of the conference to compete with.
  3. That said, Gonzaga’s games this week, at SANTA CLARA on Thursday night and at SAN FRANCISCO on Saturday night, both shown on ESPN2, should draw robust crowds to the Leavey Center and Memorial Gym, respectively, which would be a welcome sight at both schools. 

Long Walks, continued
Jared Brownridge’s most recent walk-and-talk video interview (Long Walks with Jared) featured a leisurely stroll with WCC Commissioner Lynn Holzman on a sunny day on the Santa Clara campus. Though slightly stilted in his delivery, Brownridge usually coaxes something interesting out of his subjects.

Asked about her basketball-playing days at Kansas State, Holzman noted that she was a big scorer in high school (nearly 30 points per game) and expected to do the same in college.

“I’m going to go in and keep shooting. I never met a shot I didn’t like,’’ she told Brownridge, who knows a thing or two about shooting himself with 141 3-point shots taken and 61 made, second most in the conference.

When her coach at K-State informed Holzman that he had a different plan for her, the future Commish said, “I like to say I ended up as the enforcer.’’

The full interview can be found here:  EYEBRONCO: Long Walks with Jared — WCC Commissioner Lynn Holzman

Just wondering...
Is Pepperdine the only team in the country with two players named A.J. on its roster? That would be guard A.J. Lapray and forward A.J. John. Please excuse me for not scouring the rosters of the other 350 NCAA Division I teams before writing this note.

Vegas, baby
A limited number of all-session passes to the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas March 5-10 are now available for sale online at WCCHoopsInVegas.com. All-session passes for the event at the Orleans Arena in the casino of the same name cost $175 for all nine men's games and all nine women's games, 18 games in all. Breaking it down, that's $9.72 per game. Further ticket information is available below:  HERE  or log on to WCChoopsInVegas.com.

John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.