Now that was the Pepperdine club I was expecting to see in Malibu last month. Instead, Gonzaga’s defense shut down the Waves and rolled to a 70-53 win that wasn’t pretty for either team offensively.
In last night’s rematch, both teams were dialed in offensively but the Bulldogs had more firepower and won 83-68. Pepperdine, much like Portland, is making big strides under third-year coach Marty Wilson and has a solid nucleus of underclassmen.
Gonzaga, meanwhile, got a win and some help from Pacific, which knocked BYU out of second place. BYU (9-5 WCC) faces Saint Mary’s (9-4) on Saturday. A BYU win coupled with a GU victory over LMU would assure the Bulldogs of at least a co-WCC title.
FYI: The ice storm that postponed Duke-N.C. earlier this week will have an impact on the start time of GU-BYU next Thursday. Duke-N.C. has been rescheduled for that night on ESPN, which means the Bulldogs-Cougars will tip off at 8 PST instead of 6.
—The Bulldogs had multiple options offensively. Drew Barham and Angel Nunez had nice first halves. Kevin Pangos and David Stockton were productive throughout. Gary Bell Jr. and Przemek Karnowski were much more assertive in the second half.
Coach Mark Few said he “challenged (Karnowski) a little bit at half.” Few has also been after Bell to hunt more shots and pursue more rebounds. Both responded.
“I thought (Karnowski) was very good, getting deep post touches and delivering,” Few said. “I think he’s the best defender in the conference and he’s getting really good to where we don’t have to double with him in there protecting the rim. And he is the one guy we have on our team that can rebound in traffic.”
Bell had a rough outing at Memphis and scored just two points vs. Portland, but he responded with two 3s, 11 points and seven boards.
Bell and Kyle Dranginis were important on the glass as GU, despite three shaky minutes to open the second half when Pepperdine grabbed six offensive boards, won the category 36-29 and had a 9-7 edge in second-chance points.
After addressing the media, Few returned to the locker room to complement Bell in front of his teammates on his seven rebounds.
“Dranginis came in and really helped us there,” Few said. “Kyle made play after play, not only securing rebounds but tipping them and someone else tracked them down.”
—Pangos’ recent shooting slump has been well documented, but the junior guard put together a quality stat line last night with 18 points, 4 of 10 3s, four assists and two steals. He didn’t have a turnover in 34 minutes.
Pangos said earlier in the week he’s making progress with his right big toe (turf toe) and several days between games appeared to help the healing process with his sprained left ankle. He hit three 3s in the first 8 minutes on designed inbounds plays.
—Stockton, too, has bounced back from a tough stretch offensively. In his last three games, he’s made 10 of 16 FGs, 5 of 8 3s and 14 of 18 FTs. He has 14 assists and three turnovers in that stretch.
—The Waves were a handful offensively. Forwards Brendan Lane and Stacy Davis and wing Nikolas Skouen scored inside and outside. The guards, particularly freshman Jeremy Major, were more effective than they were in the first meeting.
“They also hit a lot of face-up 17-footers,” Few said. “You don’t see that very often. You either see 3s, layups or post-up, but they hit a lot of semi-contested 17-footers. We got through screens better, challenged shooters and protected the rim better in the second half.”
STATS OF NOTE
—Not sure it's a stat, but surprising to see that the Kennel Club wasn't able to fill about 150 seats for the second-to-last home game.
—Gonzaga has won 26 straight in the series.
—Stockton would have equaled his career high of 21 points, but officials ruled his 3-pointer came after the shot clock had expired. Replays showed otherwise, but the play wasn’t reviewed. The TV broadcast showed assistant coach Brian Michaelson immediately pointing to the scorer’s table, asking for a review.
—Davis/Lane played well, but their combined 26 points and 11 rebounds was still below their averages of 29 points and 15.5 rebounds.
—Barham had made 53.7 percent of his 3-point attempts in WCC play. His 29 3s leads the team in conference (Pangos has 28).
—Stockton and Pangos both have 106 assists this season.
Karnowski on rebounding: “Everyone helped, guards came down and helped us grab rebounds.”
Stockton on dealing with the Memphis loss: “We were hungry after that game. We saw what we could do in that game and we didn’t even play that well.”
Karnowski on Pepperdine: “Their bigs can shoot, their bigs can score, guards can drive. I think they’re a pretty good team. … Not many teams fight like that” at the MAC.
Bell on the senior most likely to tear up on Senior Night: “I think 'Stocks' for some reason.”