Trailing 31-19 at the 6:11 mark of the first half, Coach Paul Westphal changed up his lineup to remarkable effect. Reserve forward/center Jesse Pinegar grabbed five rebounds in those final six minutes, and capped a 16-2 run with a three-pointer that gave the Waves their first lead of the game, 35-33, on the way to the locker room.
Acker scored eight points during that run, and Kingsley Costain sparked the offense with an extra burst of speed and crisp passing, including the assist on Pinegar’s buzzer-beater.
Costain and Russell Hicks got the call to start the second half in place of Chase Griffin and Jarrad Henry, and the move paid off. The run extended to 40-11, giving the Waves (11-5, 1-0 WCC) a 17-point lead midway through the second half. The run seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the spirited Toreros (8-6, 0-1).
Statistically, it was the Waves’ “big three” who dominated. McGowan, who had just three points and two fouls at the half, exploded for a huge second half to finish with 22 points and eight rebounds. Diawara did him one better with 22 points and nine rebounds. Acker added 21 points.
But every Wave saw action, and virtually every Wave contributed.
Costain logged ten points a career-high-tying six assists, and Hicks finished with three points, three rebounds, and two blocks, although his stat line does not portray the impact he had on the game at both ends of the floor.
Brandon Gay led the Toreros with 26 points.
With the win, Pepperdine improved to 6-0 at home, and won its ninth straight home game dating back to last season. It was also the Waves’ third consecutive victory overall since a shocking 72-69 loss to Troy at the Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque ten days earlier.
The Waves conclude their homestand against San Francisco (9-5, 0-1) on Sunday at 2:00pm at Firestone Fieldhouse. The Dons were surprising losers to Loyola Marymount in Westchester in their conference opener Friday night.
The WCC’s premier game of the weekend pits Gonzaga against St. Mary’s in Moraga on Saturday. The Waves can finish the weekend in a first-place tie with the winner of that game if they take care of San Francisco on Sunday.