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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

TV Take: Gonzaga fends off pesky Pepperdine with one of GU’s own calling the action on ESPN2

Jan. 4, 2020 Updated Sat., Jan. 4, 2020 at 10:27 p.m.

When Gonzaga fans turn on ESPN2 to watch their Zags play, they expect to get a different perspective from the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader.

Maybe Bill Walton. Or Jay Bilas. Or even the Davenport’s biggest booster, Sean Farnham.

So imagine the surprise Saturday night when they tuned in during the Zags’ second consecutive West Coast Conference challenge and heard … Dan Dickau.

Yep, one of their own, an analyst they hear often on the local broadcasts, joining one of ESPN’s best play-by-play voices, Dave Flemming. A happy coincidence in a game Gonzaga didn’t put away until a late run – and a huge last-second block by Killian Tillie – led to a 75-70 win over visiting Pepperdine?

What they saw …

• Sure, if just to see the coat and tie combination Dickau pulled out for the national audience.

More important, his institutional knowledge is unmatched.

An example of that came early, following an air-balled 3-pointer from Sedrick Altman, a 31% shooter from long range.

“Gonzaga defensively is a work in progress this year,” Dickau noted. “But what they do so well is they make your nonscoring threats try to beat you.”

Not your usual parachute-in comment.

• Though the Waves (7-9 overall, 0-2 WCC) were a nearly 23-point underdog, it didn’t seem that way throughout the night. Part of the problem was the Zags’ struggles from beyond the arc (5 of 18) and at the free-throw line (they finished 14 of 21).

And on the other end, the top-ranked Bulldogs (16-1, 2-0), who have won 38 consecutive times against the Waves, seemed befuddled by Pepperdine’s ball-screen offense, built to get Colbey Ross open looks.

What we saw …

• The near upset began in the opening half. This one, unlike Thursday’s night’s struggle, came in Spokane. How did it happen?

Part of it was the Zags’ nine turnovers – four of them coming on offensive foul calls, three by Greg Nixon.

Nixon has probably spent more time in Spokane than any major college official who doesn’t live in the area. Not only does he draw many Gonzaga home games, he also has been a staple at referee clinics in the area the past few years.

Familiarity, however, may breed some contempt. At least his third first-half charge call earned some from Mark Few, who did a bit of a moonwalk to show how he felt the Pepperdine defender was backing up before the collision. Actually, replays showed Jan Zidek moved to the side to initiate the contact.

• Another factor, as it was all night, was the play of Ross, the key matchup for the Zags’ defense.

The 6-foot-1 guard scored 11 points in the first 5 minutes of the game, taking advantage of the Zags’ penchant for switching ball screens. Over the next few minutes, as Gonzaga built what became a nine-point lead, the GU bigs didn’t switch as often, with Ryan Woolridge fighting through to stay with Ross.

The last few minutes, however, as Pepperdine rallied to tie at intermission, Ross took advantage of the bigs again and scored twice.

“Anytime he gets a switch, his eyes light up and he attacks Gonzaga’s bigs,” Dickau said coming out of halftime. “He’s creative and he’s been very effective in that.”

Ross finished with a triple-double: a game-high 24 points, 10 assists and 10 turnovers.

He had a chance to tie the game in the final 20 seconds, but his 3-point attempt was blocked by Tillie and Admon Gilder made two free throws to ice it.

The key matchup …

Not only did Ross lead the Pepperdine offense, the player guarding him for the most part, Woolridge, struggled on the offensive end.

The senior, who came in averaging almost 11 points a game, didn’t score.

His offensive struggles may have played a part in his not playing for nearly all of the final 10 minutes of the second half.

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