No. 13 Gonzaga outlasts Pepperdine 97-88 in offensive shootout
Feb. 18, 2023 Updated Sat., Feb. 18, 2023 at 8:41 p.m.
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Anton Watson (22) dunks the ball against the Pepperdine Waves during the second half of a college basketball game on Saturday, Feb 18, 2023, at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu, Calif. Gonzaga won the game 97-88. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)Buy a print of this photo
MALIBU, Calif. – Gonzaga’s break from tense, typically high-scoring battles decided in the closing minutes lasted all of one game.
Last-place Pepperdine nearly matched the Zags shot for shot, but like many GU opponents this season, the Waves couldn’t slow down the nation’s highest-scoring offense, especially with the game on the line.
No. 13 Gonzaga rode the scoring of Drew Timme and Julian Strawther throughout, and Rasir Bolton delivered timely buckets in a 97-88 West Coast Conference victory Saturday at Firestone Fieldhouse.
“That’s all it was,” responded coach Mark Few when asked if the Zags had simply outscored the home team. “We were able to play great offense, a little better offense than they played.
“I talked ad nauseum about how talented they are and how dangerous they are, and they showed it. Sometimes it takes toughness on offense, too.”
Timme, Strawther and Bolton showed plenty of that after the Waves (9-19, 2-12 WCC) trimmed Gonzaga’s lead to 78-77 with 3 minutes, 50 seconds remaining.
Bolton scored 10 of his 12 points in the final 3:23, including two big 3-pointers, the first bumping GU’s lead to 81-77.
Strawther torched the Waves with 19 first-half points and rediscovered his scoring touch with seven points in the closing 2:48.
He hit a pair of floaters, the latter stretching Gonzaga’s lead to 92-84 with 43 seconds remaining. He finished with 28 points.
“Really, these guys wanted me to step up at the end,” said Strawther, who has scored 82 points in the past three games. “They knew I had a quiet second half, a couple plays had my emotions going here or there, but they kept me level-headed.
“Rasir, especially, let me know he needed me to make a couple of big plays down the stretch, and ‘Ras’ made some as well.”
The Zags needed every one of those plays with their defense unable to string together stops against Pepperdine, which also scored 88 points in the first meeting. The issue for the Waves has been defense. They’ve given up at least 80 points in 13 of 14 conference games.
“That’s exactly what we were trying to avoid, because we knew they’re a very talented team and have a lot of tough shot-makers,” Strawther said. “The main thing we were trying to avoid was getting into a track meet with them, so a little disappointed in that, but just glad we gritted it out.”
Timme scored 22 of his game-high 34 points in the second half. His final field goal at the 5:30 mark gave the Zags a 78-70 advantage.
He scored Gonzaga’s first six baskets of the second half and later added three putbacks on missed shots by Hunter Sallis.
“Julian got it going in the first half and they got really aggressive toward him, as they should because he was hot, so it really opened up the game for me,” said Timme, who passed Bill Cartwright into eighth on the WCC’s all-time scoring list. “Kind of a nice little one-two punch.”
Gonzaga (23-5, 12-2 WCC) outlasted the Waves for its 45th consecutive win in the series, two nights after crushing Loyola Marymount 108-65.
“No, those never go away,” Timme said of Gonzaga’s penchant for close contests. “And Pepperdine is a super talented team. The record might not reflect it, but they’re a good team.
“If you don’t come in locked in on defense, they’ve shown they can score with anybody. We expect it every game out, especially with the target on our back.”
The Zags trailed for most of the first half, but they closed with a 10-2 spurt to take a 50-42 lead.
Pepperdine’s Jan Zidek was called for a Flagrant 1 foul, leading to a pair of Timme free throws. GU retained possession and Malachi Smith hit a long 3-pointer.
Smith fed Sallis for a dunk, and Timme drew a charging foul on Maxwell Lewis that erased Jalen Pitre’s ensuing dunk.
Strawther connected on a deep 3 while being fouled with 3 seconds remaining. He missed the free throw, a rare misfire in his red-hot first half, but the Zags had an eight-point edge, their biggest of the half.
The Waves rallied in the second half behind Lewis, Houston Mallette and Jevon Porter. The trio combined for 62 points, equaling Timme’s and Strawther’s production.
“They’re a totally different offensive team than Loyola Marymount,” Few said. “They have five guys out there that can really score. They’re a handful.”
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