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Gonzaga trying to preserve unbeaten home, West Coast Conference records

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 20, 2019, 7:40 p.m.

Gonzaga has a ton left to play for, but only two home games remain on its schedule.

The second-ranked Zags (25-2, 12-0 West Coast Conference) are in the mix for an NCAA Tournament top seed, which generally comes with the benefit of staying fairly close to Spokane and more favorable matchups.

The Zags are also chasing unbeaten McCarthey Athletic Center and WCC seasons. The closest things to a sure thing are Gonzaga winning at home, and usually by a wide margin.

Gonzaga is 15-0 with an average score of 91.9-58.1 this season at home. The Zags have won 93.1 percent of their games there since the 6,000-seat building opened in 2004.

Pepperdine, which has a 2-10 road record and is winless in Spokane since 1998, wouldn’t seem to be a candidate to dramatically change those figures, but the Waves have been in close games throughout WCC play. Their eight conference losses are by three, three, 11, four, seven, eight, 12 and seven points.

Under the new WCC scheduling format, the Waves and Zags stage their only regular-season meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday . Gonzaga entertains BYU on Saturday for Senior Night.

The Zags have four unbeaten conference campaigns in head coach Mark Few’s 20 seasons. The most recent was a 16-0 mark in 2013. The previous three were 14-game schedules.

Gonzaga is coming off wins over Loyola Marymount (73-60) and San Diego (79-67), two of its tightest and lowest-scoring games of the conference season.

Both opponents slowed the pace. LMU limited GU to a season-low 50 shot attempts. Gonzaga had 55 field-goal attempts against San Diego. Still, the Zags made 69 percent from the field in the second half against USD and 63.6 percent vs. LMU.

Forwards Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke combined for 75 points in last week’s road wins.

“Rui, when he’s clicking, is a sight to see, and BC is an enforcer down there and he gets to his shot pretty easy,” said wing Zach Norvell Jr., who has scored in double figures in 24 of 27 games.

Pepperdine typically plays at a faster pace. The Waves average 76.2 points and they’re tied with Saint Mary’s for the top spot in 3-point percentage (37.6).

The Waves (12-15, 5-8 WCC) have doubled last year’s win total in Lorenzo Romar’s second stint as head coach.

Point guard Colbey Ross averages 18.8 points and 7.3 assists. The 6-foot-1 sophomore might be asked to do more with junior forward Kameron Edwards sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury. Edwards, who has battled injuries the past three seasons, averages 16.9 points and 7.3 rebounds.

Senior Eric Cooper Jr. (11.3 points) has hit 69 3-pointers and his 42.3 percent accuracy leads the conference. Freshman forward Kessler Edwards, Kameron’s younger brother, contributes 10 points and 5.4 boards.

Romar’s staff includes former Washington State head coach Ken Bone, who was a special assistant at Gonzaga in 2017, and graduate manager Connor Griffin, a former Zag walk-on who went on to play football at Washington. Griffin joined the Romar-coached UW basketball team as a practice player in 2017 and finished his career at NAIA Vanguard.

Gonzaga coordinator of analytics Riccardo Fois is a former Waves player and graduate manager.

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) shoots against the St. Mary's Gaelsduring the first half of a college basketball game on Saturday, February 9, 2019, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) shoots against the St. Mary's Gaelsduring the first half of a college basketball game on Saturday, February 9, 2019, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

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