Made it home for the Super Bowl and got my homework done on the plane -- just didn't have a chance to post it until now with a quick connection in Portland.
You know the routine. The links: S-R game story and another from A.P. Elsewhere, BYU and LMU stayed right on GU's heels. Free throws proved costly for Portland in a home loss to BYU, and Loyola Marymount staged a huge comeback to beat San Francisco.
Read on for my day-after Pepperdine post.
--We’ll begin with the biggest difference-makers in Saturday’s game.
Guy Landry Edi was fairly quiet in the first half, making a 3-pointer, but missing his only other shot attempt as well as his only free throw attempt. He heated up at an opportune time, scoring the final six points in a 10-0 spurt that allowed Gonzaga to stretch a two-point lead to 12. A couple minutes later, Edi drained a 3 from the corner to keep Gonzaga in front by 12.
“He had a nice cut on an out-of-bounds play, he stroked a 3,” head coach Mark Few said. “He was solid.”
Edi was just 10 of 25 (40%) at the free-throw line entering the game. He missed two of his first three attempts, but made a pair in the midst of Gonzaga’s decisive run.
“That was a team effort,” Edi said. “We knew we could get anything on offense, but the problem was getting stops on defense. Once we got together and got some stops, the shots were there.”
--As mentioned in the game story (link above), Kevin Pangos had his highest scoring game since Dec. 28 (19 vs. Portland). The freshman guard, coming off a shaky performance Thursday, delivered 15 points, four rebounds, two steals and an assist. He didn’t have a turnover in 33 minutes. He had four vs. BYU.
“I didn’t think the game too much, I just played,” Pangos said. That sounds very similar to past comments from the analytical Elias Harris, who is at his best when he essentially just lines up and plays.
Pangos, like Edi, hit a critical 3 that ended GU’s 3½-minute second-half dry spell. Pepperdine had scored 12 straight points during that span.
“We were patient on offense, the shot clock was winding down and anytime that happens I want to try to make a play,” Pangos said. “I saw my guy drop back and I let it fly. I had confidence in my shot.”
Pangos also drew the starting defensive assignment on Pepperdine’s Jordan Baker, who was averaging 12.5 points in WCC games. Gary Bell Jr. typically has been asked to guard the opponent’s top perimeter threat.
“We were switching screens so it was more of perimeters matching perimeters,” Few said.
Baker finished with nine points, six assists and six turnovers. He was 3 of 11 from the field.
--Sacre also bounced back from a so-so showing at BYU (I had to rewrite my description of Sacre’s play because his 11 points and 5 rebounds were almost in line with his season averages of 11.6 points and 6.6 rebounds). He put foul pressure on Pepperdine’s front line, cashed in by making 9 of 10 free throws and finished with 15 points and seven boards.
“That’s a great win for us,” Sacre said. “We put a lot of emotion and passion into (BYU) and didn’t win. We responded great, we responded like champs. We need to keep working. The sky is the limit for us.”
With just three field goals Sacre wasn’t able to finish too often, but he was able to draw fouls.
“He was getting touches deeper and he did a nice job on the glass,” Few said. “For the most part, ‘E’ (Elias) was pretty active in there.”
--Gonzaga torched Pepperdine’s man-to-man defense early, jumping in front 17-5 as all five starters scored in the first 3:30. The Waves found success with a 2-3 zone, which enticed GU into missing five straight 3s at one point. GU began to solve the zone later in the half, getting the ball inside again, hitting a couple of putbacks and making several trips to the free-throw line.
Zone-breaker Mathis Mönninghoff hit a 3 from the corner and added an acrobatic one-handed tip-in of a Harris’ miss.
Pepperdine, which has struggled offensively most of the season, made 9 of its first 10 shots in the second half. GU went to a zone defense, something it has rarely used this season. It worked, for the most part, as Pepperdine went cold from the perimeter.
“They took advantage of a couple of defensive miscues, but they also stepped up and made some shots,” Few said. “They were flying around and were the more aggressive team for about 10 minutes. Then we were able to get our feet back on the ground and I thought we were the most aggressive team down the stretch.”
The Waves went nearly 5 minutes between field goals as Gonzaga extended a 50-48 lead to 60-48.
“It did slow them a little bit and it helped us,” Sacre said. “That’s what’s good about our team, we’re versatile. We can go man or zone, depending on the situation.”
--For a while, it looked like Gonzaga might get some help elsewhere as BYU and LMU were trailing in the second half of their respective games. The Cougars rallied to overtake Portland and LMU, down 19 at one point, edged San Francisco. Saint Mary’s is 11-0, GU is 8-2, followed by BYU and LMU at 8-3.
Gonzaga entertains Saint Mary’s on Thursday and LMU on Saturday so there should be a pretty clear conference picture by late Saturday night. The top two teams receive double byes into the WCC Tournament semifinals.
STATS OF NOTE
--Gonzaga’s 44 field-goal attempts equaled its low for the season (44 vs. Michigan State). The Zags had 61 attempts (13 offensive rebounds) vs. Pepperdine last month.
--The Bulldogs were plus-8 in turnovers (14)-vs.-assists (6), tying the Arizona game (also 14 and 6) for their second best effort of the season. GU was plus-9 (18-9) against Western Michigan.
--Elias Harris had a quiet weekend, but he was far more effective against Pepperdine than BYU. Harris had nine points, four rebounds, three assists and no turnovers Saturday. He was held to seven points, six rebounds and committed four turnovers vs. BYU. To his credit, Harris didn’t force things inside. On one play early on, he noticed he was being guarded by a smaller defender and motioned for the ball. After receiving the pass, Pepperdine immediately double-teamed him and Harris zipped a pass to Edi for an open 3.
--GU made 75 percent of its free throws (21 of 28), its fifth straight game hitting at least 70%.
--Pepperdine, with 12 offensive rebounds, won the boards 33-30.
--Edi reached double figures (13 points) for just the second time in his 14 games.
--Taylor Darby, Pepperdine’s leading scorer at 12.1 points per game, didn’t make his first field goal until 4 minutes remained. He finished with six points.
FEW, on Pangos: “Kevin got us going early and I thought he made good decisions pretty much all night.”
EDI, on bouncing back from BYU: “It was tough to lose that game at BYU but we knew the season wasn’t over. We had to come in and show Gonzaga swagger. Like coach (Few) told us, we wanted to come in and play hard and show how we play, the way Gonzaga really is. We came out and played really hard.”
FEW, on GU’s zone: “We’ve been working on the zone and it was good to be able to pull it out and use it there.”
FEW, on the upcoming week against Saint Mary’s on Thursday and Loyola Marymount on Saturday: “Those are really big. They’ll definitely have some league ramifications and they’re at home.”
FEW, on GU’s quick start: “Guys that we wanted to shoot stepped up with confidence and made shots and we finished around the basket. And we played pretty good defense in the first half.”