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BYU Takes On Pepperdine For Final Trip To Scenic Malibu

Feb 8, 2023, 10:16 PM | Updated: 11:01 pm

PROVO, Utah – BYU/Pepperdine will be another stop on the final WCC tour. The 16-10, 6-5 in WCC play Cougars have five games remaining in the regular season slate before the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.

Pepperdine looks to ride the wave of excitement

Pepperdine is riding its namesake wave after one of the more improbable victories you’ll find in college basketball.

With 1.3 seconds remaining, Pepperdine’s Jay Yoon missed a free throw down 91-90. On the missed free throw, Portland’s Kristian Sjolund came up with the rebound and swung his elbows at Pepperdine’s Jalen Pitre, who was called for a reach-in foul.

Sjolund was whistled for a technical.

Portland knocked down one of their two foul shots to go up by two. Then Pepperdine’s Houston Mallette missed one of the two free throws from the technical. The good news for Pepperdine was that they maintained possession with 0.6 seconds left.

Jevon Porter knocked down a shot for Pepperdine off an in-bounds pass to give the Waves the improbable victory over Portland.

BYU coach Mark Pope called it “spectacularly unique.”

Big road trip for BYU

Pope’s squad, riding their own wave after a weekend sweep at home over LMU and Pacific, doesn’t want a wild finish to take place on Thursday night. But they know they have to be at their best as they look to build momentum for the league tourney next month.

BYU will look to extend its win streak in a setting that warrants the label of “spectacularly unique.”

Memories of Firestone Fieldhouse

Firestone Fieldhouse is nothing to write home about. But the city in which it is located, Malibu, that’s spectacular. Mark Pope has fond memories from previous trips to the home of the Waves, which is nestled up against the Pacific Ocean.

“We had beat the Zags my first year in our second to last game. Then our last game was at Pepperdine. It was a huge game and I think Jake (Toolson) got ejected with a couple minutes left and he just disappeared,” said Pope. “He found a chair, had taken his jersey off and was sunbathing out in front of Firestone Fieldhouse during the end of the game. I remember Yoeli Childs’ performance in that game because it was a hard-fought game and Yoeli was unbelievable. And, of course, last year, with Alex Barcello just putting on a show of all shows, he was like a video game. Of course, our fans show there really well. It has been a fun place to play.”

Last summer, Pepperdine rolled out a $150 million fundraising project called The Mountain at Mulligan Park. The initiative would include a new basketball arena to replace the old, out-of-date Firestone Fieldhouse. Pope has a tongue-in-cheek idea for how the Waves should structure the arena.

“They’re planning on building a new gym and they have to make it a retractable roof. They have to. I’ve been pushing for this for four years. It’s the exact right place to do it. If they will do this, it will be one of the great sports venues in the world and I’m going to find a way to convince Lorenzo (Romar) to do a home-and-home if they get that retractable roof. That would be incredible.”

Honestly, it’s a great idea. Who wouldn’t want a reason to go to Malibu?

But all kidding aside, BYU has to play well, or the Waves could spring the upset, especially if BYU is looking ahead to Saturday’s final visit to The Kennel against Gonzaga.

BYU/Pepperdine: Take II this season

In the first meeting of the season in Provo on January 14, BYU had the lead for nearly the entire game. But the Waves, with explosive guard Mallette and wing Maxwell Lewis, kept the game within striking distance for 40 minutes.

BYU big man Fousseyni Traore was an area of focus in their two wins last week. The 6-foot-6 center put together a pair of double-doubles just days after being dinged up last week in practice. Traore didn’t participate in the media observation portion of Tuesday’s practice.

Road games have also caused challenges for BYU. The Cougars come into Malibue with a 2-4 record overall in true road games this season. BYU’s Bay Area trip three weeks ago lacked energy and effort. Two things that have been calling cards for this squad.

“It’s defense and rebounding with some glaring exceptions,” Pope said on what he can bank on from his up-and-down BYU team every night. “We’re going to really compete on the glass, on the defensive end, although explosive guards have been precarious at times for us this year which is what we’re walking into in a big way. Our guys are super resilient because our focus is in the right place; they’re going to show up every night ready to take a hit. They can take hits during the game and they can take hits during the season. I’m really confident in that; I’m confident in the character of our locker room.

“There are a lot of times during this season where we could have wasted time being discouraged, but we haven’t. I haven’t felt that ever from this group. These are the things we can count on.”

BYU at Pepperdine

Tip: 8 p.m. (MT)

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch and his BYU basketball coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Takes On Pepperdine For Final Trip To Scenic Malibu