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Gonzaga Basketball

Top-ranked Gonzaga heads into Pepperdine visit with impressive streaks on the line

Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (2) goes to basket under pressure from Pepperdine forwards Kameron Edwards, left, and Kessler Edwards during a Feb. 2020 game.  (Associated Press)

Gonzaga has multiple winning streaks going, including a 45-gamer at home, the longest active streak in the nation, and 39 in a row over Pepperdine, including 22 straight in Spokane.

The top-ranked Bulldogs are 94-0 against West Coast Conference teams not named Saint Mary’s or BYU since February 2014.

Those streaks have encountered numerous challenges over the years, but Pepperdine gave the Zags their toughest test last season at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Gonzaga outlasted the 23-point underdogs 75-70 as 6-foot-10 forward Killian Tillie blocked a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Waves standout Colbey Ross in the closing seconds.

The Zags won the rematch 89-77 in Malibu, California, after being tied with 16 minutes remaining.

Pepperdine, including Ross and all-conference sidekick Kessler Edwards, is back at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday night. Tip time has been moved to 6 p.m. on ESPN.

The Waves are bigger underdogs (27 points) and face a bigger challenge this time around. The Zags finished 31-2 and were one of the favorites when the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current Zags (12-0, 3-0 WCC) are the first team in 30 years to score at least 85 points in its first 12 games. They have a 51.8% chance of going unbeaten in the regular season, according to KenPom.

Pepperdine’s task is tougher coming off a three-week gap between games due to COVID-19 protocols – and the Waves weren’t exactly playing well before the pause. Pepperdine, picked fourth in the WCC preseason poll, dropped three of its past four, including a 28-point home loss to Cal State Bakersfield on Dec. 23.

Pepperdine (4-5) and Pacific (3-1) haven’t played a conference game. The Waves returned to practice earlier this week.

The Zags will likely hear reminders about last year’s game and the importance of being dialed in at the outset. They’ve made fast starts a habit and their average lead at half at home is nearly 21 points.

In 12 games (480 minutes), GU has trailed for just 27 minutes, 14 seconds. The Zags trailed West Virginia for 23:14 before winning 87-82, the only contest they haven’t won by double figures.

Ross, a 6-1 senior, is Pepperdine’s all-time leader in scoring (1,934 points) and assists (712). He shares fifth on the WCC’s all-time assists list with former Zag Josh Perkins. Edwards, a 6-8 junior, averages 17.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

Pepperdine had a promising start with narrow losses to UCLA and San Diego State and a home win over Cal. The Waves had issues at both ends of the floor in their past four games. They had their two worst shooting efforts – 33.3% and 38.6% – in their last two games while making just 19.4% from deep.

Edwards was limited to 12 points in the two losses and had no rebounds in 34 minutes against Cal State Bakersfield, which won the glass by 23.