Toward the end of last month, Pepperdine Waves men’s basketball player Colbey Ross dropped a career-high in points in a Waves victory.
The sophomore point guard’s 29-point outburst on Jan. 26 included crossover dribbles, splashed three-pointers, layups and a bevy of foul shots. Ross’ performance pushed Pepperdine to an 84-77 win over West Coast Conference foe Saint Mary’s and netted him the conference’s player of the week honor two days later.
Ross is glad he won the award, but noted it wouldn’t have been possible to earn without the aid of his coaches and teammates. The second-year player said he had a clear mind heading into the contest.
“I play better when I’m not thinking too much—simply playing the game and playing to win,” he said.
Pepperdine head coach Lorenzo Romar said Ross was efficient.
“He was making shots,” Romar said of Ross. “He was in attack mode. We tried to find weak links so he could attack them.”
Pepperdine’s leading scorer continued his stellar play last Saturday as Pepperdine ended a two-game losing streak and improved its record to 12-13 overall and 5-6 in the WCC.
Ross had 18 points and 10 assists in Pepperdine’s dramatic 70-67 home win over San Diego. He wasn’t the only player to have a big game for the Waves. Junior forward Kameron Edwards had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and his brother Kessler Edwards, a freshman forward, had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The younger Edwards also scored the game’s biggest basket, a layup with 2.5 seconds left in the contest, to give his team a one-point lead.
Kessler said the score, his first game-winning shot, was everything he imagined it would be.
“We got the win,” he said.
The first-year college player’s layup ended a wild sequence that began when San Diego’s Olin Carter III hit a three-point shot that gave San Diego a 67-64 lead with 19 seconds left in the game. Pepperdine’s Ross was then fouled while attempting a three. Ross hit the first foul shot and missed the second. After a timeout was called, Ross intentionally missed the third free throw, and his teammate Jade’ Smith corralled the missed shot. Smith, a sophomore guard, was then fouled on his own scoring attempt with 7.8 seconds left on the clock. Smith hit the first foul shot, making the score 66-67, but missed the second. However, the guard rebounded the ball and passed it to Ross, who then passed the ball to Kessler Edwards, who scored on the left side of the basket.
San Diego then turned the ball over with 1.6 seconds left. Ross was fouled again when Pepperdine inbounded the ball. He knocked down both the foul shots to cement Pepperdine’s win.
Romar called the ending of the game “hectic” and said it was due to both squads competing at a high level. The coach instructed Ross to miss the third of his three foul shots with seconds left in the game.
Kessler said the Waves executed Romar’s play the correct way.
“Jade crashed the boards; we all crashed the boards on both free throws,” Kessler said.
Ross said the game’s final seconds reminded him of Pepperdine’s one-point victory over Loyola Marymount in January 2018. With seconds left in that contest, Ross missed the second of two foul shots on purpose; the ball was then tipped out to Trae Berhow, who hit a three with a second left to win the game.
Ross said against San Diego, Pepperdine just found a way to win.
“You have got to believe, at the end of the day, even if it doesn’t look like you have a chance to win, you will win,” he said. “That is everyone’s mindset. For everyone to believe? That makes us a better team.”
Ross scored the Waves’ first basket of the game with a driving layup and hit a three-pointer to begin the second half. The rest of his points came via the foul line. Ross hit 14 of 16 free throws. His prolific activity at the foul line mirrored his WCC award-winning performance against Saint Mary’s. In that contest, he went 15 of 16 from the line.
Ross, an 85 percent free throw shooter, said getting to the foul line is one of his strengths.
“If I can get those easy points, it’s going to do nothing but help me,” Ross said, adding that he watches a lot of film of prolific NBA free throw shooters like Lebron James and James Harden in order to pick up moves he could possibly use to get himself fouled by opponents.
Ross had one of the best seasons in Pepperdine history his freshman year. He averaged 14.6 points a game and 5.6 assists and closed the 2017-18 season as a member of the conference’s All-Freshman team.
He has been even better this season, though. Ross is currently averaging more than 18 points and seven assists a game. The Colorado native said his improved play is due to the confidence Romar has in him and the coach constantly telling him to be aggressive on the court.
“I have to improve on taking care of the ball, but he gives me freedom to make plays when I want to and when I need to,” Ross said of his coach. “I feel like that is making me a better player.”
Ross had impressive showings between winning the WCC award and Pepperdine’s downing of San Diego. He posted 14 points, nine assists and three steals in his team’s 83-58 win over Portland and 11 points and three steals in Pepperdine’s 66-59 loss to Pacific. Ross then had 20 points and 10 assists in the Waves’ 79-71 loss to Santa Clara.
Ross is the second Pepperdine player to receive the conference’s player of the week award this season. Smith won the honor on Jan. 7.
The Waves play at San Francisco on Thursday and at Saint Mary’s on Saturday. The team plays at Gonzaga on Feb. 21. Pepperdine’s last two regular season games before the WCC tournament are home games—Feb. 23 against Portland and March 2 against Pacific.
Ross said Pepperdine wants to build momentum for the tournament. He said the team needs to play with great tempo, get fast-break points and play hard defense.
“If we are getting wins and planning our brand of basketball, we are going to be scary team to play,” he said.
Romar said the Waves haven’t reached their potential yet but are getting close.
“There are five games left and I think we have some more in the tank,” he said. “We can get better, but it’s going to be about consistency in these games.”