Pepperdine drops 92 on BYU to net 2nd conference win

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PROVO — It took 35 days of West Coast Conference play for Pepperdine to secure its first win.

Five days later, the Waves doubled it.

Jevon Porter poured in 30 points and 10 rebounds to lead four players in double figures as Pepperdine netted just its second league win over the year with a 92-80 victory Thursday night over BYU at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu, California.

Houston Mallete added 22 points, and Mike Mitchell Jr. had 13 points, 11 assists and four boards for Pepperdine (9-17, 2-10 WCC), which got 14 points from Jan Zidek.

Lorenzo Romar's team is young, and the Waves struggled with youth for the first half of league play. But head coach Mark Pope called Pepperdine the best 1-10 team on the west coast before Thursday's game; and on Thursday night, the Waves looked like more than a one-win program.

"On nights when they make shots, they are really dangerous," Pope told BYU Radio. "Not unlike in the Marriott Center, they put 50 on us in the second half; we just had a better night offensively to hold on (at home)."

Fousseyni Traore had 19 points and six rebounds to lead BYU (16-11, 6-6 WCC), and Gideon George supplied 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Dallin Hall scored 12 points for the Cougars, who held Maxwell Lewis to just 5 points on 2-of-5 shooting while shooting 48% from the field.

But Pepperdine shot 57% as a team, and Porter paced a 10-2 run in the final five minutes to help the Waves pull away for good.

The Waves went on a 24-6 run bridging the two halves, and led by as much as 51-42 on Lewis' dunk two minutes into the second half. Pepperdine shot close to 60% from the field for much of the second half, and knocked down shots even when they may not have been intentional.

Take, for example, Mallette's 3-pointer with nine minutes to go. The fast break lob setup swished the bottom of the net to push the Waves' lead to 65-58 in a way that caught most of the gym off guard — including his teammates.

"This Pepperdine team is really young but really good," Pope said. "We know that they're super capable scoring the ball, and we could not find answers on the defensive end."

BYU did plenty right in its final trip to Malibu as members of the West Coast Conference, forcing 17 turnovers and getting 29 points from its bench and 42 in the paint.

In a series that BYU leads 21-10 but is just 7-7 all-time against the Waves on the beachside campus, the Cougars could only do so much against a Pepperdine squad that assisted on 21-of-32 made baskets and connected on 11 3-pointers.

One week after an 89-61 home win over Loyola Marymount — the same LMU squad led by Taylorsville High alum Stan Johnson that handed No. 15 Saint Mary's its first loss in conference play in overtime — the Cougars couldn't hit the right buttons on the road next to the Pacific Ocean.

The Lions are the first WCC team not named BYU to hand Gonzaga and Saint Mary's a loss in the same season since San Diego in 2014.

Winning on the road is hard. Winning in Malibu has been a downright struggle for the Cougars, who dropped to 21-11 all-time against Pepperdine but 7-8 at Firestone Fieldhouse.

The Cougars are 2-5 in true road games in 2022-23, with road trips left at Gonzaga and Saint Mary's. Any chance at picking up a rare road win will be the ultimate struggle of the season.

"I think it's just an understanding of mentality," Pope said. "It comes with experience. Right now, we're having a really tough time winning outside of our building; and unfortunately, that comes with painful experiences. We have a lot of young guys who need to know what it takes to win on the road. Right now, we're getting punched in the face, embarrassed a little bit … and sometimes that's the way you learn."

BYU tips against the 16th-ranked Zags at 8 p.m. MST Saturday on ESPN2.

"The good things about our guys is they are growers," Pope added. "They'll learn lessons down the road … but learning is hard."

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