Gonzaga has played 14 WCC games and only three have been closer than 11 points. Two of those have been against Pepperdine, the latest a plodding 56-48 GU win Saturday.
--Twenty-seven games into the season and Gonzaga has yet to have what I would call a “stinker.” The Zags have had numerous rugged halves (twice, in separate games vs. Pepperdine, one vs. Southeastern Louisiana, one vs. Portland, one vs. Santa Clara, etc.) but nearly all of those were followed or preceded by a quality half.
It wasn’t quite the same last night, though Gonzaga’s first 10 minutes of the second half was solid at both ends. That was good enough to bolt from a 30-30 halftime tie into a 50-37 lead. Then came a 4-minute dry spell for both teams and another 4:35 drought to the finish line for GU after a Domantas Sabonis’ layup.
It probably sounded a few alarm bells in Zagland but that overlooks another contributing factor: Pepperdine played well, particularly in the first half. The Waves defended and rebounded well most of the night. And the Waves, with mobile big Jett Raines, sturdy but undersized ‘4’ Stacy Davis and a bigger, capable scorer in wing Lamond Murray Jr. off the bench, match up fairly well with the Zags.
“They play with confidence and they don’t back down at all,” guard Kevin Pangos said. “Even on the road they were hitting shots. Credit to them for hanging tough.”
GU did a much better job on Raines, who was 3 of 9 and finished with 6 points. He had 22 points in Malibu. The Waves started a bigger lineup and used Davis at the ‘3’, which put Wesley initially in charge of defending the 6-6, 235-pounder. Sabonis, Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Wiltjer all took turns on Davis.
The Zags didn’t shut down Davis but they can live with the final results. Davis was 4 of 4 in the first half. He finished with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and four boards. He averages 15.8 and 7.7.
The 6-foot-5 Murray had 11 points, but missed all four of his second-half field goal attempts. Murray, who averages 6.3 points, scored 12 versus Gonzaga in Malibu.
--We’ve addressed Josh Perkins’ situation several times here so we’ll do it one last time from Mark Few’s perspective.
Perkins has been sidelined since late November with a dislocated and fractured jaw. With just four regular-season games remaining, it seems unlikely Perkins will return this season.
“He’s not cleared for contact,” Few said. “We have to wait and see. There’s no need to make an edict. He can shoot, he can pass and he can dry run the offense.”
--Last night's win was the 113th for four-year seniors Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. Gonzaga is 113-18 in those four seasons, eclipsing the 112 wins by last year's seniors (Dower, Stockton). Pangos has played in all 131 career games to this point, Bell 124.
STATS OF NOTE
--Bell's shooting slump has reached three games. In that span, he’s 1 of 17 FG, 0 of 10 on 3s, 6 of 8 at the FT line, 8 total points.
--Fouls in the first half: Pepperdine 6, Gonzaga 1. Free throws in the first half, Pepperdine 0, Gonzaga 10.
--Fouls in the second half: Pepperdine 4, Gonzaga 9. Free throws in the second half, Pepperdine 7, Gonzaga 2.
--GU’s 41.7% shooting was its third lowest of the season (Arizona 39.7%, Portland 40.7%).
--Zags from 3 minus Pangos’ 4 of 6: 1 of 12.
--Wonder what the odds are that Gonzaga’s 1 missed free throw in 12 attempts would be by Pangos?
--Gonzaga never led in the first half.
--Pepperdine had a 19-10 edge in bench points. Sabonis scored all 10 of Gonzaga’s bench points.
Few: “Kevin was aggressive. He was hunting his shot instead of deferring. We had a bunch of other looks from 3 from capable shooters that we just didn’t make.”
Karnowski: "They were shooting mid-range shots, that's what we wanted them to shoot but not all were contested. That’s why we were tied at half, but we did a good job in the second half."
Few: “That was a tough one. It was probably one of the lowest possession games we’ve played all year. I thought Pepperdine did a great job controlling tempo and they were the tougher team the first 20 minutes, then we buckled down after halftime, got our defense going and moved the ball better in the second half, I thought that was the key right there.”