The final margin was roughly the same, but the second Gonzaga-Pepperdine game looked nothing like the first.
The Bulldogs, who beat the Waves primarily with defense last month, had one of their most efficient offensive performances and mixed in a few key stretches of defense in the second half en route to an 83-68 victory Thursday in front of a subdued crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Pepperdine’s bigs, a non-factor last month in Malibu, were solid and the guards had decent numbers, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Zags, who made 52.5 percent of their shots and buried 10 3-pointers.
“A very workmanlike performance,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “They’re tough to guard when they start making shots like that at all five spots. We withstood some pretty good offensive runs by them. I thought we played solid defense in the second half and drove down their percentages.”
Guards David Stockton and Kevin Pangos combined for six 3-pointers, 36 points, nine assists, five steals and just one turnover in 68 minutes. Przemek Karnowski sparked a 9-0 second-half spurt with seven points and an assist as the Bulldogs built a comfortable lead.
Gary Bell Jr. added 11 points and seven rebounds, a statistical category Gonzaga won 36-29.
“We got killed on the glass at Memphis and in the Portland game,” Bell said. “We had to hit first and get on the glass. Coach Few has been getting in his shots, ‘You only had two rebounds,’ so I had to get on the glass.”
Gonzaga (22-4, 12-1 WCC) used three 3-pointers, one by Drew Barham and two by Pangos, to go on top 21-13. The Zags led by as many as 11, but Pepperdine, behind 52-percent shooting, trailed 42-34 at half.
The Waves (14-12, 7-7) pulled within 59-55 on forward Stacy Davis’ three-point play. Karnowski scored on a nice pass from Gerard Coleman, then added two jump hooks and fed Sam Dower Jr. for a layup to extend GU’s lead to 72-57.
Karnowski finished with 17 points – second only to his season-high 19 points at West Virginia – seven rebounds, a career-high four assists and two blocks.
“It didn’t go well in the first half,” he said. “I just tried to play harder. I was getting doubled, David hits 3, Sam gets buckets, Kevin did a good job. I think that’s how it’s supposed to work.”
Pepperdine’s Davis and Brendan Lane, the top scoring pair of bigs in the WCC, had just 19 points on 7-of-21 shooting against GU last month. The duo made 12 of 20 shots, several from 15-16 feet, and combined for 26 points in the rematch.
Nikolas Skouen had 12 of Pepperdine’s 33 bench points – Davis doesn’t start, but enters in the first few minutes of each half – and wing Malcolm Brooks added 11 points.
The Waves, though, had lulls at the start of the second half and during the Karnowski-fueled run. They made 47 percent from the field, but dropped to 41.4 percent in the second half. Their 13 turnovers led to 15 Gonzaga points.
Stockton got started early, scoring in transition after an errant Waves’ 3-point attempt. Less than a minute later after Skouen’s 3-pointer, Stockton beat the defense down the floor for a layup. He scored seven straight points to slow a Pepperdine rally in the second half.
“I tried to take the lanes given to me and tried to get us going in transition,” Stockton said. “If they don’t stop me I’m going to try to go all the way to the rim. When they stop me, I can pass it out.”
Gonzaga will try to close out an unbeaten home season when Loyola Marymount visits Saturday on Senior Night.