There really isn’t much question that a sizable gulf exists between the top teams and the bottom teams in the West Coast Conference.
Gonzaga offered 40 more minutes of evidence Saturday night, romping past outmanned Pepperdine 101-59 in front of another packed house of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. It was Gonzaga’s most lopsided win of the season and its highest point total.
It looked a lot like Gonzaga’s 92-57 thrashing of the Waves last month in Malibu.
“They’re so deep, so physical, thick, tall and long,” Pepperdine interim coach Eric Bridgeland said. “That’s a bad combination for our group.”
Gonzaga (18-6, 7-1) rejoined Saint Mary’s (20-3, 7-1) at the top of the conference standings. San Diego (13-11, 6-1) plays at San Francisco on Monday. The Bulldogs, who face Loyola Marymount on Monday, are 5-0 against the bottom four teams (USF, LMU, Portland and Pepperdine) with a 29.2-point average margin of victory.
Nevertheless, the Zags came out motivated against the last-place Waves, who had as many as four freshmen on the court. Gonzaga bolted in front by double digits in the first 7-plus minutes.
“Our coaches remind us of that (GU is one of three one-loss WCC teams) every day,” said senior forward Abdullahi Kuso, who had seven points, six rebounds and a couple of more floor burns from his relentless pursuit of every board and loose ball. “We just have to keep playing the same way and going hard every day.”
That’s never been a problem for Kuso, who went airborne for a first-half loose ball and was rewarded for a tie-up with the possession arrow in GU’s favor. In the second half, he saved a ball by the end line and hurled it near midcourt, where Jeremy Pargo took it in stride for a dunk.
“He shows you how you’re supposed to play the game,” senior forward David Pendergraft said.
Several Zags filled the stat sheet. Pargo (13 points, 12 assists) had his second double-double of the season and third of his career. Micah Downs ended a two-game scoreless streak with 18 points in 16 minutes. Austin Daye had 17 points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes. Gonzaga outrebounded the smaller Waves 60-26.
“We tried to zone it up early and keep the ball outside,” Bridgeland said. “But even their guards, Pargo, are men. We’re not men, but we can do a better job on the glass. We’re not 34 rebounds worse than them. We thought we had made some strides there, but a good team can make you look bad.”
Gonzaga changed its starting lineup for the first time in 10 games. Rob Sacre started at center in place of the struggling Josh Heytvelt, who contributed nine points in 12 minutes.
“The previous couple games I didn’t play very well and Rob and Kuso deserve that spot right now more than I do,” Heytvelt said. “They came out and did what they do. Hopefully, I can earn that spot back sometime this year.”
Pendergraft scored 12 points and helped shut down Pepperdine’s top two scorers, Malcolm Thomas and Tyrone Shelley. Thomas came in averaging 13.8 points and making 55.3 percent of his shots, but he didn’t score until 17:39 remained in the game. Shelley, averaging 15.4 points, scored 13 on 4-of-19 shooting.
Gonzaga led 47-28 at half and scored the first eight points of the second half. The Bulldogs led 72-35 after Downs’ dunk off a Pargo pass with 13 minutes left. Downs made 7 of 9 shots en route to his highest point total in two months.
“We’ve been reinforcing that he’s been helping us and playing well, but it always helps when you drop in a couple,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said of Downs.
GU 101, Pepperdine 59
Percentages: FG .311, FT .480. 3-Point Goals: 9-27, .333 (Reed 4-9, Thompson 2-4, Tucker 1-2, Hornbuckle 1-4, Shelley 1-6, Holmes 0-1, Carr 0-1). Team Rebounds: 7. Blocked Shots: 2 (Thomas 2). Turnovers: 16 (Tucker 6, Thomas 5, Shelley 2, Thompson, Hornbuckle, Reed). Steals: 11 (Shelley 2, Tucker 2, Hornbuckle 2, Reed 2, Thomas, Tucker, Holmes). Technical Fouls: Team.
Percentages: FG .541, FT .650. 3-Point Goals: 8-25, .320 (Pendergraft 2-2, Daye 2-3, Downs 2-4, Pargo 1-1, Gray 1-6, Sorenson 0-2, Brown 0-2, Bouldin 0-5). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 6 (Sacre 2, Daye 2, Bouldin, Downs). Turnovers: 17 (Daye 4, Pargo 3, Downs 3, Foster 2, Sacre, Bouldin, Gray, Gurganious, Heytvelt). Steals: 13 (Bouldin 4, Pargo 3, Kuso 3, Pendergraft 2, Gray). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime—Gonzaga 47, Pepperdine 28. A—6,000.