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Malibu, Calif. • Freshman guard Nick Emery wasn't around last year when Pepperdine swept BYU in a pair of college basketball games, but he's already heard the horror stories of how the Waves edged the Cougars 67-61 in Provo and 80-74 a month later at high school-like Firestone Fieldhouse.
"So that is obviously a chip on our shoulder," Emery said. "They are a great team and they are playing really well right now."
Especially in Malibu.
Heading into Saturday's 6 p.m. MST showdown at Firestone, a game that will be televised by BYUtv and on the Time Warner Cable network, Pepperdine is 8-0 at home for the first time since the 1985-86 season. The Waves are 12-7 overall, 5-3 in the West Coast Conference, and routed San Diego 76-58 on Thursday night while the Cougars (14-6, 5-2 WCC) were struggling with Loyola Marymount before rallying in the second half for a 91-80 win.
Coach Dave Rose went primarily with six players in the fast-paced game the starters and freshman Zac Seljaas played all but 12 minutes and worried afterwards that it could take its toll less than 36 hours later.
"We were really active [defensively]. … That's when you can tell the guys are fighting hard and trying to win. We'll see how much we have left on Saturday," Rose said. "The guys left a lot out there."
At least the Cougars don't have to travel far between games, since LMU and Pepperdine are only 19 miles apart. The Waves and Lions, traveling partners, will have to do that next week when they return the games at BYU and San Diego.
Pepperdine's small gym, which seats just 3,104 for basketball and volleyball, figures to be evenly split between BYU and Pepperdine fans. Both teams are playing fairly well, with each having won five of its last six games.
Emery called the Cougars' win over LMU a "confidence booster" and said it was good for the freshmen himself and Seljaas to finally hit some 3-pointers on the road. Both were 4 of 8 from beyond the arc, after both struggled to make shots last week at Gonzaga and Portland.
"We lost a hard one last Saturday [at Portland], and that's the WCC," Emery said. "You can't lose those types of games. But this one is getting us back on track."
Third place is on the line Saturday, and the loser will be in danger of losing contact with league-leader Saint Mary's, which knocked off Gonzaga in Moraga, Calif., on Thursday. The Cougars have historically struggled at Firestone, losing their last two games here by identical 80-74 scores. BYU is just 5-3 against Pepperdine as a WCC member.
All five Pepperdine starters and the top seven scorers are back from last year, although injuries have kept some of those Waves from producing as much as they did in 2014-15.
Still, senior forwards Stacy Davis and Jett Raines and junior guards Jeremy Major, Lamond Murray Jr. and Amadi Udenyi were on the court last year when the Waves swept BYU, and all five are having solid seasons in 2015-16.
Davis, a burly, sure-handed scoring ace who gets to the free-throw line frequently, was 12 for 12 from the stripe in Thursday's win en route to 18 points and 10 rebounds. Davis has nine double-doubles this season, 18th nationally in that category. Murray added 21 points and is the team's leading scorer with a 15.7 average.
BYU coach Dave Rose said Pepperdine is too good to give up a 15-point lead, like LMU did. A better start is essential against the Waves.
Rose stressed teamwork all week after the Cougars had just 10 assists in the loss to Portland, and the Cougars delivered. They assisted on 28 of 32 field goals, and Kyle Collinsworth had a career-high 15 assists in recording his 10th triple-double.
"We had a lot more opportunities to assist and make shots tonight," Rose said. "That's kinda how we've been good for years."
BYU vs. Pepperdine
P At Firestone Fieldhouse, Malibu, Calif.
Tipoff • Saturday, 6 p.m. MST
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and Sirius XM 143
Records • BYU 14-6, 5-2 WCC; Pepperdine 12-7, 5-3 WCC
Series record • BYU leads 9-7
Last meeting • Pepperdine 80, BYU 74 (Feb. 5, 2015)
About the Cougars • They overcame a 15-point deficit in the first half and defeated LMU 91-80 on Thursday night down the road at Gersten Pavilion. … Kyle Collinsworth had a career-high 15 assists en route to his 10th career triple-double, an ongoing NCAA record. He also had 10 points, 13 rebounds, five steals and two blocked shots.
About the Waves • They defeated San Diego 76-58 on Thursday night as Lamond Murray Jr. scored 21 points and Stacy Davis added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Davis was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line. … They are 8-0 at home for the first time since the 1985-86 season. They swept BYU last year, and have won the last two games between the foes at Firestone Fieldhouse by identical 80-74 scores.