The Washington State Cougars end an 8-day layoff when they host the Pepperdine Waves on Sunday night at 5 p.m. PST. The game will be the first of three in six days for WSU, all of which are scheduled to be televised on Pac-12 Networks.
This is the third leg in a home-and-home-and-home series for the Cougs and Waves. Pepperdine stunned WSU last season with an overtime victory in Malibu. Washington State topped 90 percent win probability late in the second half and in overtime in that game, but the Waves were able to steal the victory.
Both teams are coming off road wins and finals week. Pepperdine beat UC Irvine back on Dec. 7, while the Cougs took down Idaho the same night.
The Waves do one thing and one thing only well on offense: Shoot. Which, if you could only do one thing well, that would be it.
Pepperdine is 12th nationally in effective field goal percentage, and the Waves excel in the inside and beyond the three-point line. Marty Wilson's squad is hitting 56 percent of its 2s and nearly 40 percent of its 3s. The long-range shooting is of particular concern for WSU, as the Cougs have allowed opponents to shoot 39 percent on 3-pointers.
On defense, Pepperdine has locked down the middle. The Waves rank in the top 100 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage (79th), free throw rate allowed (56th), 2-point percentage (99th) and block percentage). That's done while trying to funnel opponents off of the 3-point line; Pepperdine is just about average in 3-point attempts allowed per field goal attempts allowed.
But Washington State will shoot 3s anyway -- the Cougs are taking a 3-pointer on 47 percent of their field goal attempts. So, Pepperdine's ability to defend the interior may have little impact on WSU's offensive attack.
While Pepperdine rebounds well and limits free throws on the defensive end, the opposite is true offensively. The Waves are in the bottom 100 in offensive rebounding percentage (259th) and just miss that designation in free throw rate (244th).
The rebounding in particular is good news for WSU, which has been very good at limiting opponents on the offensive glass. The Cougs are nabbing just over 73 percent of defensive rebounding opportunities, 34th-best nationally.
And how is Pepperdine so good at defending the inside, but still 281st in adjusted defensive efficiency? The Waves are among the worst in forcing turnovers and getting steals. Pepperdine opponents turn the ball over on just over 12 percent of possessions (348th) and the Waves steal the ball about five percent of the time (346th).
The Cougars have been good overall in taking care of the basketball, but the lack of forced turnovers from Pepperdine should help WSU guard Royce Woolridge, who has given the ball away more while battling a wrist injury.
Players to Watch
Brendan Lane, Pepperdine
Many of the successes on defense for Pepperdine can be attributed to Lane. The 6'9 senior blocks almost nine percent of 2-point attempts while he is on the floor, and snags 22 percent of opponents' misses.
Lane makes an impact on the offensive end as well. He's hitting 63 percent of his 2s and has even stepped out on occasion to hit 3s (4 of 7).
Stacy Davis, Pepperdine
Lane's frontcourt mate is a stereotypical undersized, wide-bodied mid-major big. At 6'6, 245 Davis is a complete offensive threat. He has hit 56 percent of his 2s, 9 of 15 on 3s and shoots 72 free throws for every 100 field goal attempts. That last part is the reason he leads the team in usage.
WSU wins 72-64, with 79 percent confidence.