Once again, the score filtered east, through time zones, spreading news that Pepperdine and Colbey could play Ross.
The Waves, already aware of this, stared through the windows of their bus north to the highway late Friday afternoon.
“They were ticked,” said Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar.
That has been checked. Certainly not tickled.
“If you have opportunities like us, you have to break through,” said Romar.
Realistic, Pepperdine’s 107-98 triple overtime loss for UCLA at Viejas Arena on the San Diego state campus portends happy days for both. With UCLA coach Mick Cronin not digging deep into his bench, players like Jaime Jaquez (55 minutes), Tony Campbell (52) and Chris Smith (51) had to reach their cardiovascular limits. They actually played really well after the break, and they had to.
For Pepperdine, Ross also played every minute, broke the school record and continued to take big shots, even though he missed 15 of 25.
Right now, Ross is the most accomplished college player in Southern California, or perhaps the California period. He was the only player in Division I to average over 20 points and seven assists last year, and he is the third leading returning scorer and the best returning assistant.
Ross likes to light it up in spotlight situations. Last year, he dropped 43 points at St. Mary’s, 38 at USC and 29 about Providence. But the waves have also lost all those games.
Last year, they dropped a two-point game against Arizona, in Anaheim, and a five-point game against Gonzaga, and lost to St. Mary’s in double overtime at the West Coast Conference tournament.
“We are at the stage where we are getting better,” said Romar. “But we have to start winning games like that to take the next step. Against UCLA, we just made too many mistakes in situations where we could have extended the lead. ”
Two nights earlier, Kessler Edwards collected 20 points and seven rebounds and Pepperdine defeated UC Irvine 86-72, also in the San Diego State arena. The Waves are putting together a useful rotation with Victor Ohia Obioha, Kene Chukwuka and Jan Zidek so that Edwards can expand his game. He and brother Kameron Edwards were together last year, both from Etiwanda High, Dave Kleckner’s formidable graduating school.
“I think he may have been putting off a bit to his brother last year,” Romar said. “Now he gets out alone.”
And when the errors started to accumulate, Zidek came off the bench for 14 points, got an error on a 3-point shot and made all three tries. He also scored four in second extra time. His father, George, was the regular low-post scorer for the UCLA NCAA Championship Team in 1995, when Romar was one of Jim Harrick’s assistants watching this game on his computer in the Czech Republic.
“Jan likes points,” Romar said, laughing. “He can really score. I think he’s probably ahead of George in his sophomore year. ”
Waves followed six with three minutes to go and with UCLA in possession. They tied it to Jade Smith’s 3-pointer, which was made possible by Darryl Polk’s offensive rebound amid heavy traffic. Polk is 5 feet-9 and 155 lbs.
In the end, the Waves couldn’t withstand 29 mistakes, especially up front, and Edwards was only able to play 33 of the 55 minutes.
“Edwards is called up and Ross is as good as any guard in the country,” Cronin said. “We are quite happy in the dressing room.”
The Bruins were beaten by San Diego State on Wednesday, but then the San Diego State program had been on a different level for a while. What Cronin liked Saturday after halftime was better ball movement and defense, and the Bruins’ willingness to exhaust themselves to win Game 2, which is hoped to be a long season.
The Bruins played both games without Jalen Hill and Johnny Juzang. In a way, they played the first game without Smith. He was in the front on Saturday with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
“That was better than the game in San Diego when I didn’t have one,” said Smith, who finished with 10 points and no rebounds in Wednesday’s foul-ridden performance.
UCLA was slow to recall last season’s song mid-verse, but that’s normal. They won 11 of their last 14, thanks to its type togetherness and effort that can be difficult for eight fallow months.
“Sometimes the plays don’t work when you play against the right teams,” said Smith. You could tell Pepperdine was taking the movie room seriously. We called a play and they called it out and they called our actions very well.
“When we attacked, good things happened. If I had to play 50 minutes, that’s what it took to win. ”
It only took 55 enveloping minutes on Friday to make us long for a season.