January 13, 2011 in Sports

Gonzaga cruises past Pepperdine

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jed Conklin photo

Gonzaga’s Steven Gray puts up a three-point basket against Pepperdine.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Gonzaga’s Big Three put up their biggest numbers of the season.

Steven Gray, Robert Sacre and Elias Harris combined for 62 points as the Bulldogs handled Pepperdine 92-75 in front of 6,000 Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Gonzaga (12-5, 2-0 West Coast Conference) made a season-best 62.5 percent of its shots en route to its eighth straight victory.

Most of the heavy lifting was done in the first half when the Bulldogs dashed in front by 21. The trio scored 38 points as Gonzaga settled for a 46-30 lead at the break.

It was more of the same in the final 20 minutes as Harris heated up with six field goals, including a couple of dunks.

“When we’re all rolling, it makes the job a lot easier for all of us,” said Sacre, who had a career-high 24 points after making 8 of 8 field goals and 8 of 8 free throws. “But I’m not really too worried about it because if one guy can’t bring their game, the guys off the bench come in and play well. That’s the best thing about this team.”

One of the three has led the team in scoring in all but two games (Washington State and Lafayette). They average nearly 40 points per game, but they haven’t always been in sync at the same time, partly because Gray and Harris have battled injuries for portions of the season. They had 53 points against San Diego State (Gray scored 35) and 53 against Notre Dame.

Against the Waves (7-13, 1-2), the Big Three made 22 of 29 shots, 8 of 11 3-pointers and 10 of 10 free throws. They added 15 assists, including nine by Gray, tying his career high.

Gray, who has already dealt with toe and back issues, appeared to tweak his knee when he landed awkwardly early in the first half. He left the game but returned about three minutes later with his left knee wrapped. Within two minutes, Gray buried two 3-pointers and made a steal.

“It was a little painful initially,” Gray said, “but once I got it wrapped up it was fine.”

Sacre, who only played 21 minutes because he picked up two fouls in the first half, showed a variety of moves, finishing with his right and left hand, as well as draining a 17-foot jumper.

“I’ve been coming in, trying to get some shots up before shootaround,” Sacre said. “I haven’t put the left in much because I haven’t fine-tuned it yet. It still needs some work.”

The Bulldogs were efficient against Pepperdine’s man and zone defenses.

“We kind of knew if we didn’t take quick ones things would open up,” Gray said.

Pepperdine made just 41.7 percent of its first-half shots and committed nine turnovers. Guard Keion Bell, who scored 37 points at the Kennel last season, finished with nine points, three assists and four turnovers. Bell missed the previous three games with an ankle injury.

“He’s a tough guard,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We tried to get in the gaps, tried to kind of guard him as a team because he gets a lot of freedom and dribbles (to create).”

The Waves trimmed Gonzaga’s lead to 13 in the second half, but GU responded with six unanswered points, four by Kelly Olynyk. The Zags led by as many as 26 before Pepperdine finished with a 13-4 run.

“We’re making simple plays,” Few said. “We only had 12 turnovers and that’s good in a high-possession game. We’re making the extra pass and checking inside usually before we hoist one up.”

The Bulldogs entertain Loyola Marymount on Saturday.


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