Up to No. 17, BYU faces Pepperdine to close regular season
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Coming off a high-profile upset and with eight consecutive wins to its credit, No. 17-ranked BYU closes out its regular season Saturday against Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif.
The Cougars (23-7, 12-3 West Coast Conference) earned their highest ranking since the 2010-11 season, coming off a 91-78 defeat of then-No. 2-ranked Gonzaga on Feb. 22.
The win -- BYU's eighth straight -- clinched the No. 2 seed in the WCC Tournament, which begins March 5 in Las Vegas. That second seed gets BYU an automatic bye to the semifinals on March 9.
"It's actually really humbling because it just doesn't work like this a lot, but it worked for this crew," first-year BYU coach Mark Pope said in his postgame press conference after defeating Gonzaga.
"I hope that all 18,000 of us in there and everybody that watched it on TV got to see something they'll never forget, because it's one of those really special moments in sports, and it's not going to be our last," Pope said.
BYU's streak began Jan. 30 against Pepperdine (15-14, 8-7).
The Waves dropped a 63-61 overtime decision at San Francisco on Feb. 22. They head into their Senior Day game seeking to secure the No. 5 seed in the WCC Tournament.
One of the seniors playing his final game at Firestone Fieldhouse, Kameron Edwards, is Pepperdine's second-leading scorer at 16.9 points per game, and leading rebounder with 7.4 per game.
He scored a team-high 20 points in the Waves' 107-80 loss in Provo on Jan. 30.
BYU dominated on the interior that night, however, thanks to Yoeli Childs. He scored 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds and made six assists.
Childs was also key to the win over Gonzaga with 28 points and 10 rebounds. His efforts earned WCC Player of the Week.
The 107 points BYU scored its last time out against Pepperdine mark the Cougars' season high. Conversely, it was the most points Pepperdine has allowed in a season marked with defensive struggles.
The Waves gave up 89 points in their last home game, a 12-point loss to Gonzaga on Feb. 15. Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar told the Pepperdine Graphic following the defeat, "We definitely had mental errors on coverages. As the coach, I've got to do a better job of making sure the guys know what they are. A couple times, it was rotations."
Pepperdine's defense against 3-point shooters this season ranks among the very worst in Division I, at 38.4 percent allowed.
The Waves create turnovers effectively at times, with Colbey Ross and both Kameron and Kessler Edwards averaging a steal or more per game. However, Pepperdine's struggles limiting teams' scoring opportunities place the onus on the Waves' offense.
Ross is an effective scorer at 20.2 points per game, but Pepperdine is in a difficult spot if it has to keep pace with BYU. Led by Childs' 21.2 points per game, BYU has an impressive trio of leading scorers that also includes backcourt mates Jake Toolson (15.5 points per game) and TJ Haws (14.5 points per game).
BYU comes into Saturday's regular-season finale boasting one of the most productive scoring offenses in the nation at 80.6 points per game.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2020