What we thought we knew about these two teams after the non-conference slate meant nothing in the face of history tonight, as Pepperdine got blown out by Gonzaga for its 30th straight defeat in the series.
This was mostly due to Gonzaga not looking at all like the Gonzaga we've seen this season. Against one of the nation's best three point defenses the Zags lit it up from range, connecting on 16 three pointers. In a season that saw the bigs relied on to carry the team to victory, it was the guards who came out and scored the first 11 points. After repeated second half collapses Gonzaga managed to play 40 minutes of quality basketball.
Nobody saw that coming. At least, not all three weaknesses taken care of at once. Especially against a darkhorse like Pepperdine.
Domantas Sabonis, starting his seventh straight game in place of the injured Przemek Karnowski, was named WCC player of the week earlier today. His efficient 23 point, eight rebound and six assist night puts him in the early lead for next week's award as well.
For the Waves it was Jeremy Major who stepped up. The junior guard scored 21 points on 7-11 shooting and was relentless at attacking the basket.
Gonzaga blitzed Pepperdine out of the gate. Much like in the Waves loss to UCLA the vaunted three point defense failed early. The first nine points for Gonzaga came from long range, first from Josh Perkins (17 points), then Eric McClellan (15 points), and then Byran Alberts (six points).
At one point in the first half seven of the eight Zags to see the floor had connected from deep (7-foot-1 reserve center Ryan Edwards, unsurprisingly, did not attempt a three). At that same point the Zags were seven of eight from long range.
Pepperdine's defense just could not contain Gonzaga. Ten minutes into the game the Zags led 37-9.
Things started to get a bit back to normal for this year after that. Instead of a second half collapse it was a second half of the first half collapse for Gonzaga. The Waves defensive adjustments saw double teams collapse on Sabonis, at one point he was even quintuple teamed, and the guards clamp down on shooters.
Gonzaga had gone 15 of 18 from the field when they led 37-9. The Zags then missed seven straight and finished the half having shot 18 of 34.
At the half the Waves had closed the gap to just 16 points.
It seemed like the Waves' turnaround would continue into the second, as they forced the Gonzaga backcourt into a turnover on the first possession of the half. Unfortunately, Lamond Murray Jr was hurt diving for the loose ball on that play and did not return to the game.
Gonzaga's defense, however, did hold. An underrated aspect of Mark Few's teams over the past few years, the Zags have become much more well rounded than the finesse, efficient offensive units of old. The Waves were forced to settle for bad shots and, aside from Jeremy Major, failed to find a creative spark.
The Zags lead grew to as much as 29 points in the final two minutes of the game.
Next up for now 9-3 Gonzaga is a visit from Loyola Marymount on Wednesday. Also Wednesday, the now 7-5 Pepperdine Waves make a trip to Portland to face the Pilots.