Pepperdine beats Portland 70-65 on Senior Night

Senior Taylor Darby scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds and fellow senior Corbin Moore added 10 points and eight rebounds as the Pepperdine University men’s basketball team defeated the University of Portland, 70-65, on Senior Night at Firestone Fieldhouse last Saturday evening.

Freshman point guard Jordan Baker contributed 17 points and junior Joshua Lowery chipped in with 14 to help the Waves effort.

Darby and Moore weren’t about to let their final home game go astray. Playing in front of legendary Pepperdine coach Jim Harrick and Waves basketball greats Dwayne Polee, Geoff Lear, Levy Middlebrooks and a host of others, the two seniors had the final say as they led the Waves to an important win in the West Coast Conference.

“It was Senior Night and we had a lot of energy. It was fun,” Darby said. “Every game I try to play my hardest. I love my teammates and I love my coaches. It’s been great to be a part of this program.”

With Pepperdine trailing 27-26 at the break, Darby and Moore combined for seven points in the first eight minutes of the second half. The Waves broke the game open on a 21-7 spurt that propelled Pepperdine (9-18, 3-12) to the victory in what has been a difficult season.

Darby’s right-hand jump hook in the lane from two feet out tied the game at 31. A few possessions later, Moore connected on a three-point shot from the left wing and Darby followed up with a layup that extended the Waves lead to 47-34 at the 12:06 mark. It was the largest lead of the game for either team.

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After the Pilots cut the lead to seven at 49-42, Darby made two free throws and on the ensuing possession threw down an emphatic dunk off a great pass from Moore to make it 53-42 with 6:50 left in the game.

The monstrous dunk re-energized the crowd and gave the Waves the momentum back.

“We were struggling and I wanted to get the crowd back into it,” Darby said of what might have been his ‘signature moment’ of his four years. “I just tried to get us going again.”

Moments later, Darby tipped in a missed shot to give Pepperdine a 55-45 lead with 6:09 remaining.

Portland (6-21, 3-11) responded by cutting the deficit back to seven only to see Moore rebound his own miss and score on a put-back to push the lead back to nine points at 58-49.

After combining for nine points in the first half, Darby and Moore together scored 18 second-half points as the Waves held off a late rally by the Pilots.

“It was an intense game and everyone was hyped up,” Moore said. “It was my last game here. Playing in front of the crowd and my family one last time was special and something I will never forget.”

By virtue of the win, Pepperdine owns the tiebreaker with Portland to avoid the eight seed versus the nine seed play-in game for the WCC Tournament. As it stands now, Pepperdine is in seventh place in the WCC and would play on the second day of the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas on March 1.

“It was a great win and a very much needed win,” said first-year head coach, Marty Wilson. “We want to stay out of that play-in game. It was a big win but more so for the seniors. You need seniors to make plays and seniors to step up. Taylor (Darby) and Corbin (Moore) did that tonight. We are going to depend upon them in crunch time.”

Pepperdine shot 45.5% for the game and outrebounded Portland, 41-32. They held the Pilots to 39.7% shooting.

With many alumni players in attendance, one coach from the past saw the Waves of the present do something he witnessed first-hand so many times under his leadership-win.

“I thought their defense was outstanding and they got a little bit of offense going,” said Harrick, who won 167 games during his nine-year career at Pepperdine. “When you get a little bit of offense with a little bit of defense you are going to get a win. It was a great win for Marty (Wilson) and his team. They played hard and I am really happy for them.”

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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