Two first-year Pepperdine Waves men’s basketball players turned in surprise performances in their squad’s home loss last Saturday.
Waves freshman forward Kendall Munson scored 16 points and sophomore guard Robbie Heath, a transfer, contributed nine as Pepperdine fell to the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, 75-63, on Dec. 19.
Senior guard Colbey Ross, the Waves’ top player, said Munson and Heath’s showings prove that Pepperdine’s roster is deep in talent.
“I’ve seen what they can do in practice,” Ross said. “I know how good they are. From them to come out—Kendall’s first college game and Robbie’s first Division I college game—it gives us hope and lets us know the future of our team is going to be taken care of. It was good to see them on the court doing a good job.”
The defeat was the Waves’ second in three games. Pepperdine entered Wednesday’s game against CSU Bakersfield with a 4-4 record. The squad’s next game is Dec. 31 at home against West Coast Conference opponent BYU. Four of the Waves’ games have been canceled this season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ross led Pepperdine with 20 points against UCSB, but it was Munson and Heath’s play that came up big for the team. Pepperdine entered the game missing two key players—graduate student Kene Chukwuka, a forward, and junior center Victor Ohia Obioha. Additionally, Pepperdine standout forward Kessler Edwards, a junior, and sophomore guard Sedrick Altman left the contest in the second half due to injury.
Pepperdine never led against the Gauchos.
The visiting squad was up 11-2 early in the first half before the Waves went on a mini run to pull to within five points. The run was highlighted by Ross, the top scorer in Pepperdine history, streaking from half court through multiple UC Santa Barbara defenders for a left-hand layup. After Edwards made two foul shots, the Gauchos’ Jaquori McLaughlin splashed a leaning jumper to give his team a 19-12 lead.
Edwards’ streaking layup with seven minutes left in the first half put the Waves within three points.
The Gauchos led, 24-20, after Ross made two free throws for Pepperdine. However, in what was a tough shooting first half, the Waves then missed seven straight shots before Ross hit a three 1:28 left before halftime.
UCSB led, 31-23, at halftime.
Shortly after snagging a rebound and missing a triple, Edwards left the contest after getting hit in the chest a few minutes after halftime. He finished the game with four points and five rebounds.
Munson and Heath, along with Ross, who scored 13 points in the second half, led Pepperdine after Edwards’ exit.
Munson completed a tough layup over a defender after Pepperdine went scoreless for three minutes. However, the Gauchos led, 37-25. A tip-in by forward Andre Ball followed by consecutive jumpers by Altman and Ross cut UCSB’s lead to six points. A few plays later, Munson was fouled on a made layup. He hit the accompanying foul shot before Ball dunked the ball after he received a pass from Ross. UCSB scored again before Munson made another layup.
Ross hit two foul shots before dribbling between his legs and swishing a three. The Gauchos continued to score, and Munson completed another tough layup. Ross splashed another deep three, cutting the opposition’s lead to five points with around eight minutes left in the game.
Heath then nailed two foul shots and then hit a jumper to complete a spin move on the baseline after a UCSB score. Heath then made another two free throws, but Pepperdine was still down four points.
With 4:47 left in the contest, Munson made two foul shots before a Gauchos defender picked off a Ross pass and finished a fast break layup. Heath splashed another two foul shots and Munson scored off a pass from Ross with 1:56 left on the clock.
Munson, who went six-of-seven from the field and had two rebounds, two assists, and one block, hit one of two foul shots seconds later. UCSB led, 71-63, after Ross hit a layup with 43 seconds left. The Gauchos finished the game with four consecutive made fouls shots.
Pepperdine has defeated UC Irvine, Saint Katherine, California and Concordia-Irvine this season. The squad’s other losses have been to UCLA, San Diego State and CSUN. The canceled games were against San Jose State, Fresno State, UNLV and Tarleton.
Ross said even in defeat this squad’s performance shows that players on the team are ready to play when they step on the court.
“It’s the next man up,” he said. “You never know when your number is going to get called, but make sure you’re ready. We have to be mentally and physically tough through injuries.”