Pepperdine has been the surprise team in the WCC this season. The Waves were picked to finish dead last in the preseason coaches poll yet they found themselves looking to take sole possession of first place tonight. Unfortunately for Marty Wilson's squad, they had to take down a Gonzaga team coming off an embarrassing, nationally televised, loss at Portland last week.
Gonzaga was out to prove they're still the top dog in the conference. The Zags achieved their goal, it just took them a little bit to get going.
Stacy Davis and Amadi Udenyi came to play and pushed the Waves out to an early five point lead. While those two were making shots, the rest of the team was crashing the boards and forcing turnovers. Gonzaga was turning the ball over on nearly one of every three possessions over the first ten minutes.
With 9:59 remaining in the first, Przemek Karnowski hit two free throws to tie the game at 18. From that point forward, Gonzaga's offense would come alive, as would the defense. The Zags closed out the half, essentially half of the half, on a 23-3 run.
Pepperdine averages over 72 points per game. Over the final ten minutes of the first half they scored just three.
The key to the Zags' comeback was Drew Barham. Coming off the bench he scored 8 points on 3-9 shooting (2-5 from three) with 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Most importantly, Barham led the way in hustle, a stat not shown in the box score. Barham took a charge and forced a jump ball that helped bring the Waves, and their momentum, to a grinding halt.
The second half continued much as the first. The Zags extended their run to 25-3 over the course of eleven-plus minutes spanning the break.
A 26 point Gonzaga lead, the largest of the game, came with 5:05 left to play. At that point, deep bench reserves like Ryan Edwards (9 minutes) were seeing the floor.
Pepperdine shot just 31% from the floor. Only two Waves connected on more than two field goals, Stacy Davis (5-13) and reserve Jett Raines (3-5). The Waves have shown the ability to beat teams inside and out. Tonight, they weren't able to do either.
Gonzaga beat Pepperdine in the paint 38-20. The Waves weren't able to make up the difference from behind the arc, as they made just four threes on sixteen attempts. That poor shooting came even with Gary Bell Jr., Gonzaga's best perimeter defender, in a tie on the bench.
Gonzaga now sits alone atop the conference at 5-1. Pepperdine, now 4-3, still has a legitimate chance at a top-half finish if they don't have to play a better, angrier team again.
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