MALIBU, Calif. – Just when you thought Gonzaga was cruising toward a feel-good bounce-back win, Pepperdine started making every shot it attempted.
And just when you thought the eighth-place Waves might actually pull off an improbable rally, Gonzaga steadied itself with key contributions from Kevin Pangos and Guy Landry Edi and finished off a 72-60 West Coast Conference men’s basketball victory Saturday in front of 2,120 at Firestone Fieldhouse.
The 24th-ranked Bulldogs, who will likely drop out of the AP poll after Thursday’s disappointing 83-73 loss to BYU, watched a 15-point lead dwindle to two before answering with a 10-0 run to put away the Waves (8-15, 2-10). Second-place Gonzaga (18-4, 8-2) stayed in front of BYU, a winner over Portland, and Loyola Marymount, which rallied past San Francisco. The Cougars and Lions are 8-3.
“After a tough one the other night you want the guys to bounce back on the road and for stretches of that game we played pretty good basketball,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. “That stretch in the second half we didn’t play so good, but we were able to get the right guys in there and find the right plays to get a good road win.”
Pangos had 15 points – his highest-scoring game in five weeks. Edi scored 13 points, six in the decisive second-half run. Robert Sacre made 9 of 10 free throws en route to 15 points. He had a team-high seven rebounds.
Pangos, who was 3 of 20 on 3-pointers in the previous five games, made 3 of 6 from distance, including a trey with 11:50 left that ended a 12-0 Waves’ run.
“I felt like I was just playing basketball and I just got back into the rhythm of things,” the freshman guard said. “I didn’t think the game too much, I just played.”
Gonzaga took command early, jumping in front 15-5 on an Edi 3-pointer on a kick-out pass from Elias Harris. Mathis Mönninghoff came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer and a rebound tip-in as the Zags extended their lead to 15 late in the half.
The Waves made nearly everything – open or contested – at the outset of the second half, but they didn’t make up any ground until Corbin Moore, Nikolas Skouen and Josh Lowery combined to bury four 3-pointers in a 3-minute span. Pepperdine hit nine of its first 10 shots and closed within 47-44.
Gonzaga went to a zone defense and Pepperdine misfired on three straight 3s and turned the ball over twice. Sam Dower’s field goal in the lane and Pangos’ runner started Gonzaga’s 10-0 spurt. Edi, who has struggled at the free-throw line, made a pair of foul shots, lost his defender for a layup on an inbounds play and added another layup on Pangos’ lob pass.
“That (free-throw shooting) is an area that I really need to improve,” Edi said. “Elias told me don’t think about it, just sing. I said, ‘This is winning time, I have to knock these down.’”
Edi added a 3-pointer to boost GU’s lead to 65-53 with 2:30 remaining and the Bulldogs made 5 of 6 free throws to close it out.
The Waves made just 6 of their last 18 field-goal attempts. Moore, however, didn’t cool off, nailing 3 of 4 3s to finish with 17 points. Taylor Darby, who averages a team-high 12.1 points, and freshman guard Jordan Baker, averaging 12.5 points in conference games, combined for just 15 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
“We haven’t played (zone defense) much this year, but we just had to slow them down,” Few said. “They were kind of riddling us.”
Gonzaga, after committing 19 turnovers in Thursday’s loss, equaled its season-low with six. The Bulldogs had 14 assists, four by Gary Bell Jr. and three by Harris. Gonzaga made 50 percent of its field-goal attempts and enjoyed a 15-point edge at the free-throw line.
“Good on them for bringing it back close,” Sacre said, “but I’m happy with my team and how responded at the end.”
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