After such an intense game against Oklahoma State on New Years Eve, there were two ways I was expecting tonight to go for the Zags. One way, which I was hoping for, was that the Bulldogs would come out and carry over that enthusiasm and run the Waves out of their own gym. The second is what happened: the Zags put forth a very sloppy effort but still did enough to win. While this game will certainly not be remembered in Zag lore, it is a win and the Bulldogs can move on. Leading the way for Mark Few's squad tonight were some familiar faces: Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk. The dominant big men combined for 34 points on the evening and went 13-15 from the charity stripe as the Zags walk away with a 78-62 victory.
You could basically tell how this one was going to play out in the first two minutes. Gonzaga really struggled to put anything productive together early on as Pepperdine did a nice job enforcing their will on GU. At halftime, the Zags walked into the locker room with just a four point lead and the only reason for that was due to the energetic play of Mike Hart and David Stockton. The two walk-ons for Gonzaga made some nice plays to secure a lead for the Bulldogs and Elias Harris chipped in early as well.
The second half started similarly slowly but the Bulldogs size and depth really began to wear down the Waves. Kelly Olynyk did what Kelly Olynyk does in the second half as he scored 14 of his 16 points in the second twenty minutes. A big key in the second half and throughout the game was Gonzaga's ability to get to the free throw line and convert. The Zags got to the line 29 times tonight and connected on 25 attempts. In comparison, Pepperdine only go to the line 16 times on their home court. While Pepperdine won't be confused for a hostile environment, it is great to see Gonzaga continue to improve at the line.
Next up for Gonzaga is a stiff test against the Santa Clara Bulldogs. Kerry Keating will have his team well prepared for the Zags who are smack in the middle of a very difficult stretch. While tonight may be an indicator that a letdown is coming, it might serve as a wake up call for Gonzaga that such an effort simply won't cut it, even in the WCC. Hopefully, it is the latter.