The Pepperdine women’s basketball team will play a trio of home games next week.
The Waves three-game home stand comes as they seek to improve on their record, which was 1-3 as of press time.
Pepperdine basketball coach Ryan Weisenberg said the Waves’ mix of eight returning players and seven freshmen expect to have a great season.
“The returning players have great personalities and the seven newcomers have great personalities,” he said. “Team chemistry is very, very good. We are trying to get everyone on the same page offensively and defensively and, once that happens, the sky is the limit.”
The third-year Pepperdine coach said coaching the squad is no headache.
“These kids genuinely like each other, which is a coach’s dream,” Weisenberg said. “There are no egos. They are a really good blend of great individuals that have come together as a team.”
Pepperdine hosts UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 29, Cal Poly on Dec. 2 and Denver on Dec. 5. The home games will kick off four days after Pepperdine plays in the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, Alaska, on Nov. 24-25.
The Waves notched two exhibition wins before the regular season. Pepperdine beat Bristol 91-43 on Oct. 31 and Bethesda Christian 110-72 on Nov. 6. In the victory over Bethesda, freshman guard Erica Ogwumike registered a triple double — 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Pepperdine dropped the season’s first two games during a Nov. 13-15 trip to New York State — a 63-53 loss to Army and a 64-49 loss to Albany.
Weisenberg said the Waves could have easily given up against the talented Army team, who were predicted to win their conference and qualify for the NCAA tournament. The coach said Pepperdine didn’t quit, though.
“We did a really good job of staying in the game,” Weisenberg said. “We had a couple of opportunities to tie the game late. We just got [out-played physically], but, ultimately, we were right there. I saw the freshmen, the returning players fight all the way till the last minute.”
The Waves grabbed their first win of the season on Nov. 20. Pepperdine beat the Cal State Fullerton Titans 81-75 at home.
Erica and senior wing-player Keitra Wallace had double-doubles in the contest. Erica had 28 points and 10 rebounds, while Wallace had 14 points and 13 boards. Junior guard Allie Green put up 10 points for Pepperdine.
Pepperdine was up by as much as 12 points in the fourth quarter, but the Titans cut the lead to three points with just over one minute to play before Erica hit two foul shots and Wallace hit a three-pointer to cement the victory.
Weisenberg said the win was great.
“It shows them that they can win and maintain a lead against a really tough team,” he said. “In the third and fourth quarters, they really established themselves.”
Erica said the team was focused heading into the contest.
“We knew this was a winnable game,” she said. “Four quarters is a lot of time, so we definitely tried to take it quarter by quarter and execute on every single possession.”
Last season, Pepperdine finished with an 8-22 record, including a record of 3-15 in the West Coast Conference.
Pepperdine’s returning players include Wallace, Green, sophomore center Devin Stanback, sophomore guard Kim Jacobs, junior forward Krista Pettepier and Erica’s older sister, sophomore forward Olivia Ogwumike.
The returnees have been joined by the freshmen this season, as well as new assistant coaches Josh Pace, Lacey Burns and Darron Larsen.
Olivia is leading the squad in scoring and rebounding this season with an average of 15 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. Erica is averaging nine points per contest and a trio of Waves — Green, Wallace and freshman guard Paige Fecske — is averaging eight points per game.
Weisenberg said that since his squad is composed of mostly underclassmen, being inexperienced will be Pepperdine’s biggest challenge this season.
“We are extremely talented,” he said. “I am really excited about the talent on this team, I am really excited about the work ethic. Now it’s about getting that experience for the 10 underclassmen.”
The coach said the Waves will be difficult to beat when conference play begins in late December.
“That is what we are really excited about,” said Weisenberg. “This is a good group to have for such a young team. They are just hungry.”