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Analysis: Josh Perkins collects assists record, Gonzaga snags WCC title with rout over Waves

UPDATED: Thu., Feb. 21, 2019

Gonzaga forward Jeremy Jones  pours cups of water on Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins  after Perkins broke the all-time assist record during the second against Pepperdine on Thursday  in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Jeremy Jones pours cups of water on Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins after Perkins broke the all-time assist record during the second against Pepperdine on Thursday in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The points, assists record and another West Coast Conference title essentially came in rapid-fire fashion.

Second-ranked Gonzaga had one of its patented offensive explosions, scoring on nine consecutive possessions late in the first half to spark a 92-64 blowout over Pepperdine in front of 6,000 Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Senior point guard Josh Perkins had assists on six straight trips down the floor – the first four to Zach Norvell Jr. – to join Matt Santangelo at No. 1 on the program’s all-time list with 668.

Perkins moved to the top alone with a lob pass to Brandon Clarke for a layup with 8:55 remaining to put Gonzaga ahead 73-56.

“What a great accomplishment when you think about all the phenomenal guards that have been through this place, obviously going back to probably the greatest point guard (John Stockton) to ever play,” coach Mark Few said. “He’s in the midst of a heck of a senior year.”

The Zags’ 17th straight victory clinched a share of their seventh consecutive WCC title and 18th in the last 19 years. It became an outright championship about 15 minutes after the final buzzer when San Francisco rallied past BYU in Provo.

“We have lots of goals,” said Clarke, who posted his ninth double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds to go with five more blocked shots. “That (WCC title) was definitely one of them. To see that checked off is pretty cool, but we have goals much bigger than that.”

Their immediate goal becomes Senior Night against visiting BYU on Saturday.

The Zags settled in on offense with a 14-4 run to open up a 29-15 lead. The Waves (12-16, 5-9 WCC) closed within 29-20 before the Zags took off again.

Norvell, who had 17 first-half points, scored 10 in a row with a floater in the lane, a 3-pointer, another floater on the baseline and another 3, all off Perkins’ passes. Rui Hachimura, who had 21 points in the opening half, added a putback, a dunk, an assist and a corner 3-pointer.

“Rui and Zach,” said Clarke, when asked how Gonzaga built a 53-33 halftime lead. “Those two showed why they’re so good at the offensive end in the first half.”

Gonzaga (26-2, 13-0) pushed the margin to 33 with 14:41 remaining, but the Zags lost their focus, allowing Pepperdine to cut the lead to 71-56.

Perkins’ 669th career assist got the Zags back in rhythm. Their lead reached 30 with 3:16 left on Jeremy Jones’ 3-pointer.

“The pace was at the style we like,” Few said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can score. I thought we outscored them in the first half. There was a stretch there where we actually played good ‘D’ and got a little separation. The first part of the second half we played very good defensively.”

Gonzaga had 15 assists by halftime and finished with 22. The Zags shot 62.7 percent while limiting Pepperdine to 38.2.

Hachimura and Clarke overpowered a smaller Waves frontcourt that was missing 6-foot-8 junior forward Kameron Edwards (foot injury). Pepperdine’s tallest starter was 6-8 Kessler Edwards, Kameron’s younger brother. He weighs just 190 pounds and was matched up against Clarke while Darnell Dunn, 6-6 and 205, defended Hachimura.

Clarke finished 8 of 10 from the floor. Hachimura made 10 of 13 shots. Norvell worked inside and out, hitting 8 of 14 attempts and knocking down four 3-pointers. He added four assists and four steals.

“That guy (Norvell) is a microwave,” Perkins said. “When he gets hot you have to find him, because it comes in flurries.”

The lone statistic of concern was the Waves’ 15 offensive boards. The Zags still held a 14-11 edge in second-chance points, but yielding offensive rebounds has been an issue in their two losses and a few of their closest conference games.

Pepperdine absorbed its worst loss of the season, nearly doubling an 82-67 setback against Oregon State in December. The Waves have dropped 36 in a row to Gonzaga.

Dunn scored a team-high 16 points. Colbey Ross was just 4 of 12 from the field, but finished with 12 points and eight assists.

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